Dropping 13 of its last 14 games, Auburn (9-21, 3-14) is coming off a strong effort in a loss to Tennessee on Wednesday night as Frankie Sullivan bounced back from his scoring slump with a game-high 24 points on Senior Night at Auburn Arena.
Meanwhile Mississippi State lost 79-72 at South Carolina for its 14th setback in 15 games and the news is even worse for Coach Rick Ray as guard Jalen Steele suffered a knee injury in the loss and is out for the rest of the season. He is the fourth Bulldog to suffer a season-ending injury and leaves Mississippi State with just eight players for this weekend's game.
No matter the injuries and struggles for the Bulldogs, Auburn Coach Tony Barbee says his team if focused on trying to finish out the season on a high note going into the SEC Tournament.
"If there's anything we're playing for it's to make sure we don't finish last in our league," Barbee said.
"In a conference tournament anything can happen," Barbee adds. "We obviously have to focus on Mississippi State, but everybody starts over when you get to the postseason. We haven't shown we can beat the best teams in our league, but we have shown we can play with them. Getting that winning feeling would be nice heading into the conference tournament."
Perhaps no Auburn player wants and deserves a win as much as senior point guard Josh Wallace. A former walk-on who has worked hard on improving his game the last four seasons, Wallace is averaging 11 points per outing on better than 50 percent shooting his last two games for the Tigers. A hard worker and team player, Wallace says this season has been tough on the team, but all you can do is keep fighting.
"The toughest part has been the mental aspect of it," Wallace says. "You work so hard and put in so much time practicing and watching film. You put your all into it and to not see the rewards coming from it is pretty frustrating. Nobody likes to lose."
Saturday's final regular season game can be seen on Fox Sports South at 4:30 p.m. CST. The Bulldogs are 3-14 in the SEC and 8-21 overall.
"It's very important," Wallace says of his final regular season college game. "These past two games we've taken a step forward as far as how we have been playing. A win this Saturday would just help with confidence going into Nashville. Then we could make anything happen. We just have to start with getting a win at Mississippi State."
The last time the Tigers and Bulldogs played Auburn took a 65-55 victory last season at Auburn Arena as Sullivan scored 19 points and Kenny Gabriel added 15 for the Tigers in a victory vs. the 23rd-ranked Bulldogs.