Austin Wiley (above) dunks vs. the Bulldogs. He scored 14 points while adding five rebounds.
Auburn, Ala.--Leading by 20 points at halftime, Auburn held on for a 98-92 SEC basketball victory over Mississippi State on Tuesday night, but as was the case in its Saturday win at Alabama the Tigers did not finish gracefully.
Major advantages in points off of turnovers (26-9) and bench points (41-14) carried Auburn to victory on Wednesday night. That gave the Tigers a large margin for error in the second half, which they needed.
Bryce Brown scored 18 points off the bench to lead the Tigers while Mustapha Heron chipped in with 17, keeping his streak alive of reaching double figures for points in every game during his freshman season.
Quinndary Weatherspoon led the Bulldogs with 25 points and Lamar Peters scored 23. Mario Kegler added 16 points for the Bulldogs, who fell to 14-9 overall and 5-6 in the SEC.
Auburn improved to 5-6 in the SEC and 16-8 overall.
“I don’t think anybody is going confuse Auburn or Mississippi State as two of the better defensive teams in the league, but we do have some terrific players on both teams,” Coach Bruce Pearl said.
“You could see how dangerous a club they are. They came back from 19 down vs. Tennessee. It was just no fluke because they have so many weapons. Those guards, Peters, Kegler and Weatherspoon, they are handful. Those guys got it going in the second half and there wasn’t anything we could do to stop them.
“Fortunately, we had played beautiful basketball in the first half and the guys are playing well together,” said Pearl, who liked his team’s total of 22 assists with backup point guard Ronnie Johnson finishing with eight while Heron added four. Jared Harper and T.J. Dunans each had three assists.
Pearl also liked the contributions from the bench. “Right now we are in a nine or 10-man rotation and when we go to the bench we don’t drop off,” he said. “We are playing really well together and you are starting to see the dividends. Ninety-eight points is a lot of points in an SEC game.”
Mustapha Heron drives to the basket vs. the Bulldogs.
Auburn picked up where it left off on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa with strong three-point shooting. The Tigers hit 8-15 threes in the first half to take a 48-28 advantage at intermission. Brown hit 4-5 treys and another sub, T.J. Lang, made 3-4 treys.
The Tigers also helped their cause with a good defensive effort in the first half, allowing the Bulldogs to hit just 9-28 field goals (32.1 percent). Auburn enjoyed an 18-2 first half advantage in points off of turnovers while the AU bench outscored MSU’s bench 29-8 in the first half.
In the second half the Bulldogs got hot from behind the three-point line, hitting 8-13 while Auburn made just 1-7. That was a big part of State outscoring the Tigers 64-50 in the second half.
For the game Auburn hit 32-62 field goals (51.6 percent), 9-22 threes and 25-38 free throws. The Bulldogs made 27-59 field goals (45.8 percent), 11-23 threes and 27-34 free throws.
As was the case against Alabama, the Tigers struggled late in the contest vs. fullcourt pressure.
Bruce Pearl's team scored 98 points, the most in an SEC game for one of his Auburn teams.
“I think our point guards can do a much better job of getting the ball and attacking,” Pearl said. “They are spending too much time trying to draw fouls--just go get it.”
Brown continued his comeback from a shooting slump. He made 5-8 field goals and hit 3-5 threes and 4-6 free throws. He added five rebounds, two assists and three steals.
"I have been in the gym every day with the coaches and my dad," the sophomore guard said. "My mom even helped me...my dad passed the ball back and forth to me and my mom just held up a big brook like she was contesting the shot so I had to shoot over it."
Bryce Brown plays defense for the Tigers vs. Mississippi State.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Auburn’s 98 points were the most for the Tigers in an SEC game since defeating Alabama 102-61 on Feb. 13, 1999.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Horace Spencer missed a second consecutive game with a shoulder injury. Pearl did not offer encouragement that the sophomore forward/center will be quickly back in action. “He had an MRI today and it is going to be read again tomorrow. He has got something going on there, but we don’t know exactly what it is.”
Stat of the Game: Auburn converted 13 Mississippi State turnovers into 26 points.
Up Next: The Tigers will play at 5 p.m. CST on Saturday at Ole Miss.