Tigers Lose Battle Of the Basement Teams

Mississippi State got past the Tigers in overtime putting Auburn into last place to close the SEC basketball regular season.

Starkville, Miss.--Auburn proved it is the worst basketball team in the SEC, but it took an extra five minutes to do it as Mississippi State held off the Tigers 74-71 on Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum.

Auburn finished the regular season with a 3-15 SEC record. Mississippi State avoided finishing last in the league as the Bulldogs improved their record to 4-14 in league play.

The Tigers will travel to the SEC Tournament in Nashville and play the 9 p.m. CDT game on Wednesday vs. 11th seed Texas A&M. Auburn has lost nine consecutive games since defeating Alabama on February 6th.

Chris Denson, who led the Tigers in scoring with a career-high 24 points off the bench, had a chance to win the game in regulation, but missed a short jump shot on the baseline that sent the game into overtime with the score 65-65.

Frankie Sullivan missed a wide-open three in the closing seconds of overtime that would have tied the game and set up overtime number two.

"You have got to make shots, you have got to make plays, we had our opportunities," said Auburn coach Tony Barbee, whose team fell to 9-22 overall.

"We broke down on defense when we needed to make stops," he added. "They were tougher than us."

Denson, who missed the previous game with a back problem, was 10-19 from the field and led the Tigers in rebounds with nine.

Rob Chubb, who fouled out in the final minute of overtime, scored 18 points for the Tigers while adding seven rebounds.

Sullivan scored 12 points while Allen Payne finished with eight rebounds and seven points.

The game was close from start to finish. The Bulldogs took their largest lead early in the contest, moving on top 12-5, but Auburn pulled ahead 17-16 on a jumper by Payne with 7:33 left in the half.

Auburn then built its largest lead at 22-16, but by halftime the Bulldogs evened the contest at 24-24.

Neither team led by more than four points in the second half.

With the game tied at 62-62 Sullivan hit a three-pointer to put the Tigers up with 29 seconds left. However, forward Colin Borchert tied the contest with 17.5 seconds left with a three-pointer from the top of the circle. He led the Bulldogs in scoring with 20 points while guard Craig Sword added 19 points.

Frankie Sullivan drives vs. Colin Borchert.

Auburn took the initial lead in overtime with two free throws by Sullivan. A three-pointer by Fred Thomas with 2:16 remaining put the Bulldogs up 71-69. Denson then tied the game with a drive to the basket that ended with a goal tending call.

Sword put the home team up 73-71 with two free throws with 36 seconds remaining. Denson's jump shot was then blocked and Roquez Johnson hit one of two free throws with 19.5 seconds to end the scoring at 74-71.

Auburn made 28-68 field goals (41.2 percent) while MSU hit 25-62 for 40.3 percent. The Tigers were 3-16 on threes while the Bulldogs made 8-17. Auburn was 12-15 at the foul line. MSU hit 16-29 foul shots.

Auburn turned the ball over 14 times, one less than the Bulldogs.

Starting Lineup: Jordan Price made his first start since November. He scored just two points. Payne, Chubb, Sullivan and Josh Wallace were the other starters.

Halftime Numbers: Auburn hit 11-30 shots (36.7 percent), was 1-8 on threes and 1-2 at the foul line. MSU hit 10-27 (37.0 percent) from the field, 2-7 on threes and was 2-6 on free throws. Each team had 20 rebounds. Payne and Denson led the Tigers in scoring at the break with seven points apiece while Chubb scored six points.

Worth Noting, Part 1: Mississippi State came into the game struggling to rebound, but won the contest with a 50-43 advantage in that stat.

Worth Noting, Part 2: Denson had career-highs for both points and rebounds. "Chris got to the basket and not only that, he rebounded the ball well," Barbee said. "Chris was doing a lot of everything for us on the floor."

Up Next: The Tigers will take on a Texas A&M team that defeated Barbee's team 65-56 at the Auburn Arena on Feb. 20th. The winner of that game will play sixth-seed Missouri at 9 p.m. CDT on Thursday.

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