Starkville, MS – Ben Howland got his No. 22 Mississippi State Bulldogs back on track against No. 16 Auburn, following a blowout loss against Kentucky, defeating Bruce Pearl’s Tigers 92-84. State got out to an early lead before Auburn came back to make it a two-point deficit at halftime, with State leading 47-45. The Tigers actually took the lead, going ahead by seven early in the second half, 55-48. A four minute streak without a made field goal for Auburn during the final seven minutes secured the win for the Bulldogs. Auburn suffered its third straight loss without Center Austin Wiley.
Mississippi State was led by 6-4 guard Quinndary Weatherspoon’s 27 points. Weatherspoon did damage both from the perimeter (4-5 3PT) and on drives to the basket (2-4 from 2, 11-11 FT). He twice found success on baseline cuts to the right corner, followed by catch and shoot threes, as well as a third catch and shoot three from the same location. Auburn tried multiple defenders, but each of these attempts was uncontested. Mississippi State’s first eight field goals included seven made three pointers.
Bulldogs 6-1 point guard Lamar Peters had a double-double with 16 points and 10 assists. Auburn tried multiple on ball defenders, notably Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, but could not stop his drives into the paint. Auburn rotated help defenders, freeing up multiple Bulldog big men for point blank layups and dunks. Peters also made a variety of threes (4-10 3PT) including a step back and a catch and shoot from the corner. Abdul Ado was the primary beneficiary of the Auburn help defense, hitting 2-of-2 from the field and reaching the free throw line ten times (4-10 FT), scoring eight points and placing Auburn’s big men in foul trouble early for the third straight game. Freshman 6-10 forward Reggie Perry added 10 points and 11 rebounds (4 offensive) off the bench for State, finding easy baskets at the rim due to Auburn’s help defense and getting to the line (4-6 FT).
Auburn, losers of three straight and five of their last nine, was led by 6-3 senior guard Bryce Brown with 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 2-of-4 from three. He was also a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe and added three steals. He drove to lane more often than usual, which was a theme for Auburn on the day. 6-8 Chuma Okeke added 16 points including 3-of-5 shooting from distance, all of the catch and shoot variety on assists from point guard Jared Harper. The 5-11 Harper added 15 points and seven assists. Harper made three NBA range pull-up three pointers (3-5 3PT). Five of Harper’s seven assists were to Okeke. Auburn suffered from turnover issues through the entire game with 19. Harper turned the ball over six times and Brown had four. Many of the turnovers were of the unforced variety, with passes made to empty spots and simply losing control of dribbles.
Mississippi State (15-4, 3-3) travels a short way to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama on Tuesday. Auburn (13-6, 2-4) returns home to begin a three-game homestand with Missouri on Wednesday.