It was bad matchup night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum as the bigger and very athletic Bulldogs jumped on the Tigers early in the game and were never seriously threatened.
Mississippi State improved to 6-2 in the SEC and 16-7 overall while the Tigers dropped to 12-10 overall and 2-7 in the league.
"We shot the ball too poorly to win," said Auburn coach Jeff Lebo, whose team was outshot from the field 52.1 percent to 33.8 percent.
The Auburn coach noted that State's strength on the boards was another major issue. "They just cleaned us on the glass," said Lebo, whose team was dominated 46-27 rebounding.
Part of that was because the Bulldogs are such a strong rebounding team. Part of it is because the Tigers often played four guards and only got 22 minutes of court time from their big man Quan Prowell, who fouled out with just three points and no rebounds.
"We got nothing out of Quan and nothing out of DeWayne Reed," Lebo said. Reed finished the game with four points, no rebounds, two assists and one turnover in 20 minutes of action.
Frank Tolbert, who scored 17 points for the Tigers, tried to keep the Tigers in the game with six steals, four assists, four rebounds and two blocked shots. "We just didn't box out," Tolbert says of his team's rebounding woes. "That is the main thing that happened."
The biggest crowd of the year, 7,489, watched the Tigers fall behind early and didn't have much to cheer about.
Quantez Robertson, who scored 16 points for the Tigers and had five rebounds and four steals, said State jumped on the Tigers early with hot shooting and compounded Auburn's problem by getting the ball inside and getting the Tigers into foul trouble.
The visitors hit 14-15 first half free throws and 23-26 for the game.
Jamont Gordon hit 11-12 free throws himself and the MSU star led all scorers with 24 points and all rebounders with 13. He also had eight assists, but turned the ball over eight times as the Bulldogs had 24 in the game.
Ben Hansborough, who hit four threes, added 20 for the Bulldogs while Charles Rhoads chipped in with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
At halftime the Tigers were in a serious hole trailing 44-29 with both Prowell and Rasheem Barrett picking up their third fouls just before intermission.
The Tigers dug themselves into the hole by hitting just 29 percent of their first half shots while the Bulldogs made 56.5 percent. Auburn trailed 10-0 at the 18:24 mark after a Ben Hansborough three before Auburn finally scored on a foul shot by Reed at the 18:13 mark. The rebounding statistic was even more lopsided as the Bulldogs held a 26-8 edge.
The only thing that kept the score from being worse was 12 turnovers for the visitors in the first 20 minutes while Auburn committed just four.
Despite Prowell picking up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the second half, Auburn was able to make a run with the senior on the bench midway through the half.
At the 11:33 mark, a Tolbert steal and a pass to Robertson for a layup cut the gap to 60-50.
However, Gordon nailed a long three-pointer and after that the Bulldogs steadily pulled away before winning by 19.
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury was pleased with his team's performance. "It was huge win," he said. "Every SEC win is great. It was made very clear to my ball team that we must win tonight vs. Auburn to have a chance in the NCAAs."
Other than the 24 turnovers, MSU's stat line was impressive. "We did have a lot of turnovers, however, I believe they were created by Auburn*s defense rather than just turning the ball over," Stansburgy said. "Even though we did have many turnovers, it didn't seem to really affect our flow in the game."
Stansbury said he told his team that winning the battle on the boards would be critical for the Bulldogs.
Frank Tolbert looks to make a pass to a teammate in front of the Auburn bench as head coach Jeff Lebo and assistant John Cooper watch the action Saturday night.
Commenting on the game, Stansbury said, "First of all, Jeff Lebo does an excellent job coaching his team by squeezing out extreme hustle and hard work out of his ball team. I give him a lot of credit for that. Tonight, we just played tough and executed our game plan as well as we possibly could. We had a great run early on which I believe set a tone for the whole game. We were able to get them in foul trouble, which in return allowed us to shoot more free throws. We out-rebound them and held a very good offensive team to 33 percent."
The Tigers have no mid-week game in the coming week and will be back in action next Saturday with a 4 p.m. contest at Ole Miss.