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Mississippi State Sees Bad Habits Return in 80-75 Loss At Auburn

Mississippi State came to the Auburn Arena riding high on a five game winning streak, but a sloppy first half dug too big a hole for a furious second half comeback to overcome, and the Bulldogs left the court losers in a 80-75 decision to the Tigers. Mississippi State’s seven man rotation was really a three man show, but big games from Quinndary Weatherspoon, Tyson Carter, and Reggie Perry weren’t enough to overcome 18 Bulldog turnovers and a hot shooting Auburn team that hit 13 of their 30 shots from behind the three point line. Mississippi State may have already locked its place up in the NCAA Tournament, but on Saturday, they looked like the team in early January that we weren’t sure would turn things around.

BATTLE OF THE BOARDS MEANT NOTHING

State would push that advantage to an incredible +20, including a +13 margin on the offensive boards. I must admit, I don’t know if I have ever seen a team dominate rebounding in this way and still lose the game. Auburn was missing their star post player Austin Wiley, and State was able to take advantage by scooping up nearly every Tiger miss. What the Bulldogs weren’t able to do was turn their advantage on the boards to an advantage on the scoreboard, and the next stat is probably the reason why.

GIVE IT AWAY NOW

MSU would give the ball away 8 more times in the second half, and Auburn would convert those extra opportunities into 20 points. Be it by traveling, a bad pass, or a misplayed handle, State simply could not hold onto to the basketball in this game, and ultimately, it cost them the win more than anything else. MSU has only averaged right at 13 turnovers per game prior to today, the extra five lost possessions made a huge difference.

WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED?

So much of this game reminded me of the early part of the conference schedule, when MSU was struggling to find its way. State’s shooting was off for so much of the game, and then when the Bulldogs went on their run, the deficit was too large to overcome. After playing so well during that five game winning streak, it was disappointing to see that regression. That said, I don’t think you can take too much from this game, a game played on the road in one of the most hostile environments in the SEC, against a team that was desperate for some sort of signature win to what’s been a disappointing campaign. State showed the fire in the second half, and nearly got all the way. The most important thing for MSU in the coming weeks is this, if they are only going to play seven men, all seven have to make a positive contribution. In a game like today’s, Abdul Ado isn’t as useful, as Auburn declined to attack the rim and played on the perimeter. Lamar Peters has not had the kind of year most expected, and today, he was more liability than positive. Aric Holman’s inconsistent play has been a problem since conference play began, State needs him to shake off this funk as the postseason begins. When everybody is playing according to their role, Mississippi State can play and beat almost anyone in the country. When things go bad like they did today, they have to work too hard to undo their mistakes to have a chance to win.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Tennessee had been looking vulnerable in the past few weeks, but on Saturday, they looked like the Volunteers that shot to the top of the polls in January, dominating Kentucky and putting themselves into position to win the outright SEC Championship. Mississippi State will need to play a near perfect game to have a chance in Knoxville, as Tennessee has the kind of team that can go athlete for athlete with the Bulldogs, but also have the skill to punish any mistakes. State will be the underdogs on Tuesday, we’ll see if they can find a way to put together what would be the best win of the year.

Photo courtesy of Mississippi State athletics

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