GAME NOTES: The Mississippi State Bulldogs will wrap up a two-game homestand at Humphrey Coliseum on Wednesday night when they play host to the Auburn Tigers in an SEC clash.
Since opening the season an impressive 8-3 in non-conference action, Auburn has hit the skids in the SEC with four consecutive losses. The Tigers most recently dropped a 68-61 home decision against nationally ranked Florida on Saturday and will now head back out on the road, where they've gone winless in three tries.
Mississippi State has had moderate success in league action, going 2-2 in the SEC while having alternated wins with losses in each of its past seven games. The Bulldogs enjoyed an 81-72 overtime victory over Texas A&M on Saturday to improve to 12-5 overall and 10-1 at Humphrey Coliseum.
In regard to the all-time series, Auburn holds a 72-66 advantage over Mississippi State, although the Bulldogs have taken 12 of the past 13 matchups in Starkville.
The Tigers held tight with the mighty Gators in their most recent contest and even brought their deficit to just one with under two minutes to play on a Tahj Shamsid-Deen jumper, but those would be their final points of the game as they suffered the seven-point setback. They were outshot from the field, 53.8 percent to 43.5 percent, and lost the rebounding battle, 31-23. Chris Denson finished with 21 points on 8-of-18 from the field, KT Harrell put up 18 points and Allen Payne tallied 11 points and six rebounds.
On the season, Auburn boasts a solid scoring attack, as it shoots 45.3 percent from the field for 73.6 ppg, but its scoring defense (70.7 ppg) ranks second- worst in the SEC. Denson is the league's most prolific scorer, netting 19.5 ppg on 49 percent from the field, and that average would be even higher had he not struggled so much from 3-point range (.222) and the free-throw line (.600). Harrell (18.9 ppg) is the conference's third-best scorer and is much better than Denson from beyond the arc (.422) and the line (.840).
After trailing by as many as 10 points in the second half to Texas A&M, Mississippi State climbed back to tie the game at 67 in the final minute of regulation on a Gavin Ware layup and used an 8-0 run in overtime to pull away. Although it shot just 3-of-10 from 3-point range on the afternoon, it made 52.7 percent of its shots overall and held an advantage on the glass (38-33) and at the free-throw line (20-14). Craig Sword (23 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Ware (22 points, 10 rebounds) both shined in the victory, while Colin Borchert and Fred Thomas netted 14 and 13 points, respectively.
The Bulldogs outshoot their opponents from the field this season, 45.5 percent to 43.4 percent, for a +2.4 scoring margin. They also boast an impressive +2.3 turnover margin, but they have glaring weaknesses from 3-point range (.291) and the foul line (.653). Sword (15.0 ppg) and Ware (11.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg) are both high-efficiency scorers, with each making greater than 53 percent of his field-goal tries. Borchert (10.2 ppg), Roquez Johnson (9.4 ppg) and Thomas (8.1 ppg) are also integral pieces of the puzzle.
Mississippi State has been outstanding on its home floor, and against the floundering Tigers, it shouldn't have much trouble continuing that trend.
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