Cinmeon Bowers drives to the lane
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Bruce Pearl said he was happy enough that his team didn't give up Wednesday night.
"Proud of the way the kids bounced back. Proud of the way they competed."
But a late comeback wasn't enough to erase most everything that happened to Auburn before the final few minutes in Auburn Arena. Mississippi State beat the Tigers 78-71 after building an 18-point second-half lead that the Tigers cut to 2 with two minutes remaining.
Another painful note: Auburn guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen, who had been playing with a hurt shoulder, dislocated his other shoulder in the second half, Pearl said.
Auburn's Cinmeon Bowers recorded his 12th double-double of the season, but the Tigers still lost for just the second time in 10 home games. Auburn fell to 10-8 overall and 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference. Mississippi State improved to 9-9 overall and 2-3 in the league.
Bowers had 16 points and 17 rebounds. KT Harrell led the Tigers with 22 points.
It was Harrell's 3-pointer with 2:03 left that had Auburn with a basket.
"I thought we had a chance," Harrell said. "I never think that while we are playing that we are just going to lose. I always think we have a chance whenever I step on the floor, whenever we step on the floor."
Once upon a time, Auburn led State 7-0. The Bulldogs overtook Auburn before the Tigers scored again, and then things really turned tough for the Tigers in the first half. Auburn scored just one field goal in the final 8:18 of the first half, and scored just one point in the final 7:49.
"Too many empty possessions in the first half. We didn't take care of the basketball," Pearl said.
"We were sloppy in our half-court execution.
"It was a really, really disappointing performance."
Auburn's uneven first half allowed State to lead 31-22 at the half.
The Bulldogs stretched it to 42-27 three minutes into the second half. Auburn cut an 18-point lead in half to make it 52-43 with under 12 minutes to play, then staged a big comeback in the final minutes that fell short.
I.J. Ready led four Bulldogs in double-figures with 18 points.
Auburn will try to rebound at Alabama on Saturday night. Pearl said the Tigers won't let the loss to State bother them in Tuscaloosa.
"That won't be an issue for us," he said. "We can't lose sight in who we are and what we have to do to compete."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine