GAME 17: Saturday, January 14th, 2023
Neville Arena - Auburn, AL
Time: 7:30 pm CST/8:30 pm EST
Network: SEC Network, Auburn Radio Network
Betting Odds: Auburn -7.5, Over/Under 128.5 via Draft Kings Sportsbook
(Odds/lines subject to change. Visit DraftKings for more information.)
Alright, don’t we all feel a little bit better than we did before the Arkansas game last week!
Before last Saturday night, Auburn had lost on the road to Georgia and did not look good in the process. The Tigers were flustered, and never recovered on the way to a loss in Athens. Then, you get a little boost playing at home and Bruce Pearl gets the Jungle to cobble together the energy needed to avenge last season’s loss to Arkansas. Solid!
Then, Auburn has to go play on the road, which has been a veritable house of horrors not only for the Tigers, but for nearly every team in the league this season. Some of the most surprising outcomes have been because somebody just had an off night away from home. Either way, Auburn now needed to show that it could have the same success away from Neville Arena, and they would have to do it in a place where they’ve typically struggled, against a coach who knows what Bruce wants to do.
Auburn went into Oxford and played Ole Miss tight throughout the first half, trailing 35-34 at the break, and then went on to shoot a blistering 61% in the second half on the way to an easy victory. The Tigers cruised with the trio of Wendell Green, Johni Broome, and Allen Flanigan coming up big and showing that they can be a foundational group for this team. We even see big performances in spots from backups, with Dylan Cardwell hammering home two exclamation dunks, Yohan Traore providing offense during a key first half run, and LOCKDOWN LIOR BERMAN giving us eight great minutes off the bench.
Now, Auburn’s fourth in the SEC behind Alabama and Tennessee (4-0), and Texas A&M (3-0), and they’re improving each time out. Furthermore, tonight’s an opportunity to get better with what we like to think is the easier portion of the conference schedule as Mississippi State comes to the Plains.
The middle-bottom of the SEC is frankly a big mess, and the Bulldogs are right in the thick of that grouping. MSU is 1-3 on the year, along with Arkansas, LSU, and Kentucky (HA!). They were one one of the last remaining undefeated teams before falling to Drake in their final non-con game of the season, and then they began SEC play with a thud.
MSU is a defense-first team, and that’s putting it lightly. Under first-year coach Chris Jans, the Bulldogs are only allowing 58 points per game, but scoring just 65 points per contest as well. They’ll do a few things well — steals, offensive rebounding, rebounding in general — but they’re just not going to put the ball in the basket with any regularity.
Tolu Smith is the guy in the middle that makes a lot of things happen for them, and you might remember last year when he went for 22 and 12 against Auburn in Starkville as the Tigers clinched the SEC. He’s back again, more experienced than ever as a redshirt senior, and he posts 13.6/7.6 for the Bulldogs in 2023.
Helping him out is D.J. Jeffries, A 6’7 forward who gobbles up 6.2 boards per game along with a near-double-digit scoring output. The two guys in the backcourt — Dashawn Davis and Eric Reed — both came from different schools and are new this season to Starkville. Davis came from Oregon State, and he’ll run the show averaging 7.7 ppg and 3.1 apg at the point, while Reed adds another 6 points per game. Davis is the only true three-point threat on this team, shooting 44% from downtown, but he only takes a couple of shots per game from behind the line.
Mississippi State is reeling right now after the first portion of their conference slate, and they need something to help them get a little confidence heading into the middle portion of the schedule. I don’t think it happens tonight. After two straight wins, Auburn is starting to settle in a bit more and get comfortable with certain guys in the lineup. The Tigers come back home after winning on the road at Ole Miss and should have a frothy Jungle supporting them tonight with nothing else going on.
Tolu Smith vs Johni Broome should be an interesting battle as Broome has a few more moves than Walker Kessler did last year, but I think it’s the rest of the lineup that takes care of business. Broome did a great job defensively against Colin Castleton, and he should neutralize Smith tonight to a similar degree. If Allen Flanigan keeps his tear going, this could be an easy victory.
Auburn 80, Mississippi State 67