The Bulldogs got hot early, put the Tigers away before halftime, and coasted to an 89-53 men's basketball victory on Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs improved their record to 19-7 overall and, even more importantly, MSU squared its Southeastern Conference record at 6-6. With the Bulldogs playing a weak non-conference schedule, a winning SEC mark is considered essential to Coach Rick Stansbury's team receiving an NCAA Tournament bid.
Barring a miracle run in the SEC Tournament on March 7-10 in Atlanta, the Tigers will be watching postseason play via television. Coach Cliff Ellis' team had its two-game winning streak snapped by the Bulldogs. The Tigers are 11-12 overall and 3-9 in the SEC.
The Bulldogs built a 25-point first half edge thanks to hot shooting, particularly from three-point range as the Tigers concentrated on neutralizing State's big front line. The Bulldogs are not normally a strong three-point shooting team, but they came out stroking the trey, hitting nine of 14 before taking a 44-24 halftime edge.
Auburn never was able to regroup for a second half run as the Bulldogs pulled away for the huge win with substitutes enjoying garbage time in the final minutes. The 89 points are the most allowed by the Tigers this year, six more than the Tigers surrendered vs. Arkansas in an 83-77 Razorback victory on Jan. 5th at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. The 53 points scored are also a season low, three less than the total at Rutgers where the Tigers lost 57-56 on Nov. 24th in New Jersey.
Auburn put just one scorer in double figures. Junior Adam Harrington finished with 15 points in a reserve role. Freshman point guard Lewis Monroe added 11 points, hitting five of seven shots, and added five assists to win praise from Ellis.
Five Bulldogs scored in double figures with freshman guard Timmy Bowers leading the way with 16 points. Mario Austin pulled down 14 rebounds to go with his 11 points and helped the home team dominate the boards with a 48-25 rebounding advantage.
MSU outplayed the Tigers in every phase of the game. AU had 27 turnovers, three more than Bulldogs. Auburn hit just 38.8 percent of its shots to 51.6 percent for the Bulldogs, who were 10-20 on threes to Auburn's 6-19. Auburn made just 9-21 free throws while State hit 15-24.
Coach Cliff Ellis
Ellis said that the Bulldogs have their best team since the 1996 squad that reached the Final Four. That was the last season the Bulldogs swept the season series vs. the Tigers. The Auburn coach says the Tigers could not match the Bulldogs' power around the basket. "They wore us down," Ellis said. "They came at us in waves."
Auburn returns to action with a Wednesday 7 p.m. CST start at Gainesville vs. the Florida Gators in a game that will be televised by Jefferson-Pilot. After that, the Tigers return home to play South Carolina, travel to Alabama and then close the regular season vs. LSU on March 2.