Tigers Can't Run With The Big Dogs In Starkville

Mississippi State pulled away in the second half to dominate Auburn's SEC basketball opener.

Starkville, Miss.--Jeff Lebo's SEC basketball coaching debut was not a pretty sight for the Auburn Tigers as his cold-shooting Tigers were cold-cocked by the 18th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs on Wednesday night at Humphrey Coliseum.

The 90-53 game featured the largest margin of victory for any Mississippi State basketball team vs. Auburn in the history of the series. It was also the largest margin of victory in an SEC game for a MSU team coached by Rick Stansbury.

Auburn shot just 26.5 percent from the field and was overwhelmed by the taller, deeper and more talented Bulldogs, who improved to 13-2 for the season. Auburn slipped to 9-5 and will be off until next Wednesday when the Tigers play the Florida Gators at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

The Tigers managed to stay in the game despite hitting just 25 percent of their first half shots, but the Bulldogs got hot after halftime and hit 21-31 field goals (67.7) percent to turn the contest into a runaway.

Despite cold-shooting in the first half, the Tigers actually led 21-20 with eight minutes remaining in the first half. However, the Bulldogs made a late run before halftime to take a 37-25 lead at intermission.

State kept the pressure on after the break, outscoring the Tigers 21-6 to take a commanding lead in the first eight minutes of the second half.

Prior to the game, Lebo said he was concerned that his undersized team would get mauled on the boards. That is exactly what happened as the Tigers were out-rebounded by a 53-33 margin.

Coach Jeff Lebo

To combat that, the Auburn coach said his team needed to have a strong game from three-point range, but that didn't happen. The Tigers made just 10-38 treys while the home team made 8-18.

Auburn got 14 points from freshman guard Toney Douglas, but he made just 5-16 field goals.

Auburn's only other player who scored in double figures was Ian Young, but he was a dismal 3-17 from the field. He did manage eight rebounds and five assists after missing the previous game with an ankle sprain.

Quinnel Brown added eight points for the Tigers and little-used senior guard Troy Gaines added seven points in nine minutes off the bench.

For the Bulldogs, a crowd of 8,746 watched Lawrence Roberts score 19 points and pull down 15 rebounds. He blocked two shots and nailed 9-11 free throws, but was just 5-14 from the field. It was the 45th double-double of his collegiate career.

State got 12 points apiece from guards Winsome frazier and Jamall Edmondson while point guard Gary Ervin added 11 points and six assists.

The Tigers have now lost eight straight games to the Bulldogs.

"In the second half defensively we just couldn't find a way to stop them," Lebo said. "They made shots and scored inside."

Auburn turned the ball over 14 times, two more than the home team.

"If we will make shots, we have an outside chance," Lebo said. "If we don't, this is the kind of stuff that can happen to you because we just don't have an answer for anybody inside."

For the contest, Auburn got only eight foul shots and made seven. MSU was 14-19 at the free throw line.

For the game Mississippi State shot an even 50 percent, almost doubling Auburn's 26.5 percent mark.

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