Slow Start Plagues Barber's Tigers

The Auburn men's basketball team is still looking for its first SEC win this season after falling on the road Sunday vs. Mississippi State.

Starkville, Ala.--Hot-shooting Mississippi State jumped to an early 19-3 lead and coasted to an 85-66 SEC men's basketball victory over Auburn on Sunday.

Five Bulldogs scored in double figures led by 21 points from 6-7 senior guard Ravern Johnson. Renardo Sidney scored 15 points for the Bulldogs, who improved to 10-7 overall and 2-1 in the SEC.

Coach Rick Stansbury's team hit 61.2 percent of its field goals for the game while Tony Barbee's Tigers hit just 36.9 percent from the field.

Auburn fell to 7-10 overall and 0-3 in the SEC. Sophomore guard Earnest Ross led the Tigers in scoring with 15 points and added six rebounds plus four steals, but he made just 5-17 shots and 2-9 threes.

Three other Auburn players scored in double figures. Kenny Gabriel finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, freshman guard Chris Denson scored a season-best 12 points and Josh Wallace added 10 points, five assists and three steals.

The Tigers played much better in the second half going to a full-court pressure defense and cut the lead to 53-41 with just under 13 minutes to play, but didn't have enough offensive firepower to complete a big comeback on the road.

Auburn outscored Mississippi State 22-11 following turnovers, which was the best thing the Tigers did on Sunday at Humphrey Coliseum.

Barbee said, "Again offensively we were just stagnant to start the game. Maybe we just have to be more aggressive defensively in terms of pressing and stretching our defense out.

"I don't want to play that way because we don't have the depth to do it, but maybe if we do it will make us more aggressive offensively," the coach said.

"We are so challenged offensively to make shots, to make layups, to score in the post," Barbee said. "We had to do something to spark our offense so I thought we got more aggressive, but again we missed too many shots, we missed too many layups and we missed too many free throws. That has been the story of our season."

Auburn trailed 41-22 at halftime and dug itself into a hole by hitting just 26.4 percent of its field goals in the first half while Mississippi State made 56.5 percent of its shots, including four treys while Auburn made just one three. Auburn's shooting problems extended to the foul line where the Tigers made just 5-13 chances while the Bulldogs hit 11-14 free throws.

For the game the Tigers made only 11-24 free throws, 7-23 threes and 24-65 field goals. Mississippi State hit 18-28 free throws, 7-16 threes and 30-49 field goals.

The Tigers return home with a Thursday 6 p.m. CST home game vs. Florida.

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