Tigers Close at the Coliseum in Style

It was Senior Night in more ways than one as Auburn outscored Mississippi State in the final basketball game scheduled at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Auburn, Ala.--What was expected to be Auburn's final home basketball at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum ended in style with the Tigers knocking off Mississippi State 89-80 on Wednesday night.

Tay Waller led the Tigers with 22 points and Brendon Knox added 21 for Auburn in what was a well-played SEC contenst from start to finish.

"We really wanted to win this game being the last in the coliseum and the last one for us seniors," said Knox, who hit key free throws down the stretch to ice the victory after having some problems at the foul line earlier in the game. "If I had hit some more free throws earlier, it might not have been so close at the end," Knox added.

Waller, another senior, was beaming after the victory. "We knew this game meant a lot to Auburn and it was important to us to win it," he said. "It was a great way to close out the arena."

It was Senior Night as Coach Jeff Lebo started all five of his seniors. The group scored 79 of Auburn's 87 points.

The seniors were honored before the game as they were introduced individually and given framed jerseys. After the game a group of Auburn basketball celebrities and AU officials were introduced and they cut down the nets at both ends of the coliseum and a coliseum highlight video was played.

DeWayne Reed, who had not practiced this week due to a back problem, scored 19 points and dished out eight points with just two turnovers in one of his best all-around games of the season.

Senior Lucas Hargrove scored 16 points and tied for the team rebound lead with seven.

Dee Bost, who scored all of his 25 points in the second half, sparked a rally for Mississippi State that hit seven three-pointers after intermission to make the game close down the stretch.

Both teams shot the ball well on Wednesday night. The Tigers hit 51.7 percent from the field and made 11-24 threes for 45.8 percent.

Mississippi State hit 48.4 percent of its field goals and 12-33 treys.

The only area the Tigers struggled was at the foul line as they made 18-31. The Bulldogs hit 8-11.

The Tigers enjoyed a 36-33 edge in rebounds as a crowd of 9,927 watched the action.

Tay Waller calls for the basketball after coming off a screen.

Auburn improved its record to 15-15 overall and 6-9 in SEC games as it avenged a controversial overtime loss to the Bulldogs in the first matchup this year in Starkville. Mississippi State dropped to 21-9 overall and 9-6 in the SEC.

The Tigers led 46-37 at halftime in a game that was close much of the period.

Auburn built its lead into double digits for the first time at the 2:56 mark on a fastbreak basket by Reed.

Both teams shot the ball well prior to intermission. Auburn hit 19-32 shots (59.4 percent) while the Bulldogs hit half of their 28 attempts.

Each team made five treys in the first half with Waller hitting three for the Tigers and Barry Stewart making three for Mississippi State.;

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Frankie Sullivan makes a free throw for Auburn's last point in the coliseum.

Auburn built its edge with its shooting and ball-handling. The Tigers had just one turnover in the opening 20 minutes while the Bulldogs had six.

The Bulldogs made a run in the second half cutting the margin to 52-49 at the 14:35 mark.

The Bulldogs evened the game on a three to tie the score at 65-65 by Dee Bost with 9:10 to play, but the only lead the visitors had was by two points in the opening minute of the game.

After the Bulldogs tied the Tigers, the Auburn seniors took control of the contest and built the lead back to 10 at the 3:19 mark on a dunk by Knox on a pass from Reed.

Commenting on Knox's performance, Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said, "It was big. He played (Jarvis) Varnado pretty well even though he didn't play him too well the last time (in Auburn's overtime loss at Starville this year). He guarded him pretty well and scored on the inside."

The Bulldogs had chance until the final minute. With Auburn up 85-78, Dee Bost made a driving basket and was fouled with 44.1 seconds left. However, he missed the foul shot.

Lucas Hargrove was fouled with 40.8 seconds to play and made two free throws to ice the contest and set up a celebration at the arena.

Bost hit 5-9 threes as the game's leading scorer with 25 points. Stewart scored 18 for MSU, Ravern Johnson added 16 and Jarvis Varnado chipped in with 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

"I am so excited for my seniors," Lebo said. "To go out on senior night and the last game in Beard-Eaves Memorial Colsieum, I was really dreading it. I wanted to win this one so bad for them and to send the arena out in the right way.

"It was a great game, but I am so excited for my seniors who scored all but 11 points in this game. It is so fitting."

Wally Tinker shoots on Wednesday night.

Frankie Sullivan scored the last points in the arena making a pair of free throws. Wally Tinker, who made the first basket in 1969, came back with teammates from 1969 to be introduced in postgame ceremonies. Tinker drew a roar from the crowd when he banked in a seven-foot shot from the same spot he made the basket 42 years ago.

Auburn closes the regular season on Saturday at Alabama. Tipoff is set for 12:47 p.m. for the game that will be televised on the SEC Network. After the Tigers travel to Nashville for the SEC Tournament that runs March 11-14 at the Sommet Center.

News and Notes John Mengelt, who has the coliseum record for points scored with 60, attended the final game...Doc Robinson, an All-American on Auburn's last SEC Championship team in 1989, was also recognized at the contest...Bill Alexander, Auburn's leading scorer in the first game at the arena, attended the event...Tay Waller made 6-11 threes. He has made 27 of his last 42 in the past four games...All-American Wesley Person helped cut down the nets...Former Tiger star Jeff Moore, who played on Auburn's Elite Eight team, helped cut down the nets as did the coach of that team, Sonny Smith...Joe Ciampi, the winngest coach in coliseum history, was also recognized on Wednesday night. He coached the AU women's team for 25 seasons...Susan Nunnelly, the first women's coach at the coliseum, was also recognized.

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