No. 22 Tigers Use Strong Second Half to Beat Bulldogs on the Road
STARKVILLE, Miss. – The 22nd-ranked Auburn basketball team scored 52 points in the second half to defeat Mississippi State, 76-68. The Tigers (16-1, 4-0 SEC) hold the nation’s longest active winning streak at 14 games.
“Mississippi State played terrific in the first half and frustrated us completely out of sorts,” head coach Bruce Pearl said. “We only made eight baskets. They had a terrific scout. Everything I was trying to do, they had. Our guys got a little rattled. We didn’t look like a team that won 13 or 14 in a row, but we were still within range.
“At halftime, we regrouped. We were pretty accountable. I think it was really important that we came out and played really well early and cut it to the deficit pretty early and made it a contest. I thought our guys made plays, and to me you have to make plays.”
Bryce Brown led the way with 23 points, including 5 of 8 from downtown. Desean Murray contributed 14 points and nine rebounds, while Mustapha Heron racked up 14 points and five boards.
Jared Harper rounded out the Auburn contingent in double figures with 12 points and also tallied four assists.
The Tigers shot 78 percent from the foul line and burying 25 of 32 free throws, paced by seven each from Harper and Murray.
Auburn fell behind early and was not able to get it going in the first half after shooting 8 of 30 from the floor. Mississippi State (13-4, 1-3) controlled the game heading into the locker room, 35-24.
Following the break, the Tigers kept chipping away at the margin and eventually got it down to two behind a 15-4 run at 41-39 with 14:37 remaining.
Auburn regained the lead following a pair of free throws by Murray at 52-51 with 10 min. left to go.
A jumper from Chuma Okeke at the 6:04 mark gave the Tigers their biggest lead of the afternoon with the score favoring the road team, 65-54.
Auburn iced the game away with four free throws and jumpers from Brown, Harper and Heron to snap Mississippi State’s 12-game winning streak at home this season.
The Tigers stay on the road for a league game at Alabama, Jan. 17. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. CT on the Auburn Sports Network and SEC Network.