Feb. 9, 2008
AUBURN - A 10-0 start to the first half gave Mississippi State a lead it would never lose as the Bulldogs (16-7, 7-2 SEC) cruised to an 83-64 win over Auburn (12-10, 2-7 SEC) Saturday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.
"We had a tough one today, we shot so poorly that we never really had a chance," said head coach Jeff Lebo. "We can play better. They got a good start on us and we were never really able to come back."
Auburn shot 23-of-68 from the field for 34 percent, compared to a 52 percent effort from Mississippi State on 25-of-48 shooting. The Bulldogs also found their stroke from 3-point land, knocking back 10-of-23 attempts for 44 percent. Auburn was 24 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, hitting six on 25 attempts.
"We just played tough and executed out game plan as well as we possibly could," said Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury. "We had a great run early on which I believe set a tone for the whole game."
Rasheem Barrett led the Tigers with 18 points and six rebounds, followed by Frank Tolbert and his 17 points. Quantez Robertson also reached doubles figures as he scored a season-high 16 points in the loss.
Jamont Gordon earned his third double-double of the season as he led Mississippi State with 24 points and 13 rebounds, coming two assists shy of a triple-double as he finished the game with eight. Charles Rhodes followed with his seventh double-double of the season as he added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
"Jamont Gordon was terrific, he just dominates for their team," said Lebo. "When he starts making threes, you cannot guard him - no one can."
Ben Hansbrough rounded out the Bulldog leaders with 20 points, including 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range.
The Bulldogs started off hot, rattling off 10 points in the first 96 seconds of the game, putting Auburn in a hole early that it would never recover from.
Rhodes and Hansbrough led the Bulldogs in the first half with 13 points each. Tolbert tried to keep Auburn in the game with 11 points, but struggled along with the rest of his team from the field as the Tigers shot 29 percent in the first half.
"They got up 10-0 and we could not execute," said Robertson. "We could not get the rebounds and we fouled and it is hard to come back from that. We could not get our shots in, so they came up with the win."
Down 15 points to start the second half, Auburn was able to slowly chip away at the MSU lead, cutting it to 10 with 11:33 left in the game.
Mississippi State battled back on the strength of 18 second-half points from Gordon to build its lead to as many as 23. Tolbert and Barrett each scored in the last 1:18 for Auburn off of MSU turnovers to cut the lead to 19 and an 83-64 final score.
The Bulldogs made their presence known on the boards, out-rebounding Auburn by a 46-27 margin. The game marked the 14th in a row that Auburn has not out-rebounded Mississippi State.
One bright spot for the Tigers came in their defense as Auburn tallied 13 steals, forcing 24 MSU turnovers. The Tigers went on to score 34 of their 64 points off turnovers. Tolbert led the Auburn defensive effort with six steals and two blocks in the game.
Combined with the 24 turnovers by Kentucky in Wednesday night's game, Auburn has now forced 48 turnovers in its last two outings.
Auburn returns to action at 4 p.m., on Saturday, Feb. 16 at Ole Miss (16-5, 3-5 SEC). The Rebels lost Saturday night at Arkansas, 75-69. The next home game for the Tigers will be Feb. 24 against in-state rival Alabama.