Bulldogs see another lead blown in loss

MSU's Quinndary Weatherspoon, left, looks for opening in Aujburn defense.
Staff Writer

It was the same story, just a different day and location for Mississippi State on Saturday.

One week after the Bulldogs blew a 13-point lead in a loss at Ole Miss, MSU again let a 13-point advantage slip through its fingers at the Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday as No. 22 Auburn came from behind to topple State 76-68.

MSU led 35-24 at halftime and had Auburn, who extended its nation-best winning streak to 14 games, on the ropes, then it all came crashing down for the Bulldogs.

“That’s a tough loss, especially considering how well we played in the first half,” Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland said. “That was our best half of basketball of the year against an obviously-talented team. We had an 11-point lead at halftime, then to watch that dissipate was tough.”

Like in Oxford seven days before, MSU was feeling good about itself in the early going on Saturday. State (13-4, 1-3) limited Auburn (16-1, 3-0) to just 26.7 percent shooting in the first half as the Bulldogs pulled away. MSU extended its lead to 13 in the early going of the second half.

That’s when things turned around for Auburn. The Tigers, led by Bryce Brown who finished with a game-high 23 points, got hot offensively. Brown made three second-half 3-point field goals and Auburn shot 60 percent (6-of-10) from beyond the arc after halftime to push the Tigers to victory.

“Mississippi State played terrific in the first half,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “They frustrated us. We got completely out of sorts. The did a terrific job of scouting. Everything I tried to do, they had. Our guys got rattled, but we stayed in range and at halftime we regrouped.

“Our guys then made plays. That’s what you have to do is just make plays.”

Mississippi State couldn’t keep up with the Auburn surge. The Tigers took a 52-51 lead with 10 minutes left and never trailed again.

Five Mississippi State players scored in double figures, led by Quinndary Weatherspoon’s 14 points, and Abdul Ado had has second-straight game with a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) but the Tigers were too much.

Much of that had to do with Brown, who made all three of his second-half 3-pointers in a three minute stretch to give the Tigers life.

“He took over offensively,” Pearl said of Brown. “He was feeling it. He is really explosive.”

Behind Brown, Auburn built its lead to as many as 11 points. Mississippi State did make a late charge, getting back within two with under 3 minutes to go, but the Tigers used a 9-3 run down the stretch to close out the game.

It helped Auburn remain the only Southeastern Conference team to be undefeated in league play. Meanwhile, MSU has now dropped three SEC games in a row since opening conference play with a win over Arkansas.
State will try and get back on the winning track on Tuesday when it hosts Vanderbilt at 6 p.m.

“(Saturday) was a very tough loss and in this league it stings,” Howland said. “We have to bounce back and get ready for another very skilled and well-shooting Vanderbilt team. We have to learn from (the Auburn loss), evaluate it, study the film and get back to what we do.”