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Mississippi State basketball falls at No. 11 Auburn 68-53 despite efforts by Hubbard and Smith

Mississippi State basketball
Photo courtesy of Mississippi State Athletics

The Mississippi State men’s basketball team was unable to amass a clean sweep against No. 11 Auburn this season, falling 78-63 on the road Saturday afternoon.

Despite a solid outing from freshman standout Josh Hubbard and All-SEC center Tolu Smith, the Bulldogs (19-10, 8-8 SEC) did not find enough production from the rest of the team to keep up with the Tigers (22-7, 11-5 SEC) in Neville Arena.

In a battle against one of the most dynamic programs in the conference, Chris Jans was only able to get 26 total points from players not named Hubbard or Smith, setting up Bruce Pearl’s squad for a double-digit victory in front of a rambunctious crowd.

The Tigers, feeding off of its fans, stepped on the gas early and capitalized on an inept offensive showing by the Bulldogs by posting a 22-8 lead with 9:31 left before the midway break. Mississippi State’s struggle to put points on the board continued allowed Auburn to build on its lead.

A triple by Tiger guard Tre Donaldson gave Auburn a 19-point lead with just under four minutes before halftime. The Bulldogs found a little boost and went on a 10-5 run to make the score look a little more competitive, but a Chaney Johnson triple in the winding seconds of the half put Auburn up 39-22 at the intermission.

Mississippi State was able to cut into its deficit early in the second half due to a trio of threes — two from Hubbard and one from Shakeel Moore. Auburn big Johnni Broome countered the Bulldog run with a rare triple that would typically give the Tigers momentum, but Mississippi State continued to eat into its opponent’s lead. Another big three from Hubbard put the Bulldogs in contention, trailing 50-43 with 12:21 left to play.

Unfortunately for Mississippi State, that was as close as the team would get to catching up to its conference counterpart on the scoreboard. A stint of consistent scoring by a multitude of Tigers then ensued. While Mississippi State ended up scoring more points than Auburn in the second half, it was not enough to make up for the hole the team dug itself in during the first 20 minutes.

Auburn outscored Mississippi State by eight after the Bulldogs brought the contest back into arms reach, leaving no room for an upset to take place in their home arena where they have only lost once this season.

The efforts of Hubbard, in yet another double-digit scoring outing in a big game, and Smith were valiant as the two accounted for nearly 60% of their team’s total points. Hubbard put 23 on the board and Smith recorded a double-double consisting of 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Pearl’s group scored by committee, which was the most notable difference between the two teams in the weekend showdown. Broome, battling with Smith down low, led the Tigers with 17 points and Denver Jones followed with 15 points.

As for Mississippi State’s NCAA Tournament aspirations, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Bulldogs sitting comfortably in the big dance discussions — most recently as a No. 8 seed. Mississippi State will have an opportunity to add to its resume on Wednesday at Texas A&M. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. central.

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