*In four SEC wins the Dogs have a 3.3 point margin of victory; their three losses have been by an average 9.7 points.
*The Bulldogs have now been ranked 11-straight weeks, though this is the first time since November they've been outside the top-twenty. The highest A.P. ranking so far is #15.
*Auburn holds a 65-62 lead in the series, maintaining their edge by winning four of the last six meetings including three-straight in Auburn. But since 2001 State has a 15-6 advantage that has cut down the Tiger's historic lead. Auburn last won in the Hump in 2009.
*Rick Stansbury is 15-11 against these Tigers. The MSU coach has 289 career wins and ranks 9th on the SEC list needing 297 to tie for 7th place.
*Dee Bost's eyes light up every time he sees Auburn on the other bench. The State senior has averaged 18.8 points in his six games against Tiger teams, and made 23 three-point goals. Those are his best numbers against any SEC opponent.
*Seven Dogs have accounted for all but three of the 625 minutes played in the last three games. Reserve G Shaun Smith had one minute at Vanderbilt and two against LSU.
The Opponent: It's something of a mystery. No, not that Auburn is struggling along through another year, that was expected as a second season is still too early for Tony Barbee's rebuilding job to show a lot of progress. The mystery is how this team is 3-5 SEC, what with the Tigers last in league-game scoring, 11th in shooting, 11th in free throwing, and 10th in three-pointing. One obvious response is that the bottom-third of the SEC this year is setting modern-day standards for badness, and that says a lot given how mediocre the league has been for over a half-decade. Still there are four teams with fewer wins in the current standings, and a winning season is not unthinkable now…if Auburn can start making more shots. Only once in the last six games have the Tigers hit much better than 40%, and usually it is much worse. Balance on offense can be a good thing but when it means just two starters get in double-digits, and each less than 12 points, there are going to be challenges. Especially if a defense can put the clamps on junior guard Frankie Sullivan and senior forward Kenny Gabriel, as those two combine for 71 of the team's 111 total treys made. In fact only two regulars shoot better than break-even and they don't always start as Barbee has shuffled the lineup a lot. At least everyone ought to have healthy legs because only those two aforementioned Tigers put in over 30 minutes. So where'd the three wins come from? Well, while Auburn can't score well or often they can force the same on some opponents. Sound defense set up all those successes and for that matter the Tigers haven't been easy for even good teams to score on. Kentucky managed just 68 points after all, and that's the most this team has allowed all SEC season. Ole Miss needed two overtimes to get to 68 and lost anyway. So Auburn will get after you on that end of the floor with a SEC-games-best average 38% field goal defense. Another key is turnovers with a pretty direct connection of that ratio to the final result. And the Tigers don't get rattled playing tight contests. They prefer it in fact, as the best chance to steal another SEC win or two here in year-two. A year that, like all since 2003, will not include a NCAA trip. But with Gabriel the only real graduation loss looming and a young team returning, Barbee has his chance to show real progress next winter. If he can just secure some scorers.
Projected Starting Lineups:
AUBURN: F Allen Payne, SO 6-6 210, 3.2ppg, 3.2rpg; F Kenny Gabriel, SR 6-8 210, 11.8ppg, 7.9rpg, 25 3ptrs, 2.6 blocks; C Rob Chubb, JR 6-10 240, 8.9ppg, 5.0rpg, 21 blks; G Josh Wallace, JR 5-10 170, 3.3ppg, 1.8apg; G Frankie Sullivan, JR 6-1 205, 11.9ppg, 2.5apg, 46 3ptrs.
Top Reserves: G Chris Denson, SO 6-2 170, 9.6ppg, 13 3ptrs; G Varez Ward, SO 6-2 205, 8.9ppg, 3.5rpg, 18 3ptrs; F Adrian Forbes, SR 6-8 230, 2.0ppg, 2.7rpg, 10 blks.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Rodney Hood, FR 6-8 200, 11.5ppg, 5.1rpg, 30 3ptrs; F Arnett Moultrie, JR 6-11 249, 16.4ppg, 11.2rpg, 56%fgs; C Renardo Sidney, JR 6-10 285, 10.5ppg, 4.9rpg, 56%fgs; G Dee Bost, SR 6-2 175, 16.4ppg, 88 asts, 44 3ptrs; G Brian Bryant, SR 6-3 168, 7.2ppg, 4.8rpg, 32 asts.
Top Backups: G Jalen Steele, SO 6-3 195, 7.3ppg, 34 3ptrs; C Wendell Lewis, SO 6-8 253, 4.5ppg, 4.1rpg, 23 blks.
HOW THEY COMPARE:
Scoring: MSU 73.0ppg, AUB 63.5ppg
Scoring Defense: MSU 65.7ppg, AUB 63.3ppg
FG Shooting: MSU 46.0%, AUB 41.7%
FG Defense: MSU 42.8%, AUB 39.5%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 35.6%, AUB 31.2%
3-point Attempts PG: MSU 19.0, AUB 16.2
Rebounding: MSU 37.3, AUB 35.6
Rebound Margin: MSU +4.1, AUB +0.1
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 70.4%, AUB 66.0%
Turnovers: MSU -0.1, +0.2
BULLDOG NOTES: *Three Bulldogs—Dee Bost, Arnett Moultrie, and Rodney Hood—come in this week 1-2-3 for minutes played in SEC action.
*State's defense is last in the league in three-point coverage, allowing almost 44% accuracy in league play.
*When league opponents miss though, the Bulldogs are best in defensive rebounding.
*Irony alert: in SEC wins the Bulldogs have averaged 5.8 made-treys; in the losses it was 8.7-per.
*And they have made 36 treys in the four road games; just 13 in three home games. Accuracy? At home the Dogs shoot 28% from the arc, on the road 42%! So much for needing friendly iron.
*PF Arnett Moultrie is one of two SEC players averaging a double-double, along with Kentucky's Anthony Davis. Moultrie has a league-best 13 D-Ds, out of 19 games played.
*Moultrie ranks 3rd in overall SEC scoring this week and second in shooting. But he's a clear league leader in rebounding at 11.3 boards.
*Moultrie has scored 319 points so far at State, giving him 969 career markers and opportunity to break 1,000 during this homestand with just a couple of average outings. Moultrie has 737 career rebounds including those two seasons at UTEP.
*Moultrie has averaged 22.0 points in State's SEC wins; 10.3 in losses.
*Last Saturday at Florida was Moultrie's first sub-.500 shooting day in SEC play.
*Moultrie has nine fouls the last two games; he had 11 in the previous four games.
*At one point Moultrie was approaching 90% for free throws. But tiredness may be telling as in the last six games he is 26-of-40 at the stripe.
*Speaking of tired, PG Dee Bost is playing a SEC-high 37.1 minutes in league games. His free throwing hasn't been hurt much though as in the last five games he is 19-of-24 there.
*What might be affected is his ball-work as Bost has 11 turnovers the last three games, against 18 assists.
*He is also 2-of-8 at the arc the last two games working without regular relief from health-sidelined G Deville Smith.
*Just the fourth Bulldog with 200 career treys, Bost now has made 208. He needs 258 for third place.
*Bost now has 1,469 points and in the last two weeks has jumped to 11th place all-time. He needs 22 points to catch Tony Watts for 10th place.
*And he is all alone atop the assists column with 552 in 111 career games. In the last six games he has handed out 33 assists.
*Bost is third in MSU career steals with 174, and second this week in SEC average at 2.1 per game.
*Bost has started every game played in his four State seasons.
*In a ten-game stretch C Renardo Sidney shot at or better than 50%. Now in the last three games he is 7-of-25 overall.
*At Florida, Sidney had his best ‘minutes to fouls' rate of SEC season with just two personals in 27 minutes.
*He's still playing things cautiously on defense though, with just two blocked shots the last eight games.
*Sidney did not get an assist in five of the last six games. But he had ten boards in the last two games.
*G Jalen Steele has been on a three-point tear the last four games, making 13 of 23 tries from the arc.
*In SEC play, Steele has taken 36 trey-tries out of his 45 total shots.
*Steele's job as a set-shooter is pretty basic, and he has just one assist and six rebounds in the last seven games.
*This does keep him from drawing fouls, though, as he has just four free throw trips in the last nine games; all four against LSU, and all made.
*SF Rodney Hood is 7-of-16 shooting the last two games. He was 8-of-33 in the first three league contests.
*And Hood has hit a trey in the last four games. Though, he is 5-of-16 at the arc in this stretch.
*What Hood has really picked up is some of the assists load, with 11 scoring passes the last four games.
*G Bryan Bryant was struggling with 6-of-22 shooting in a four-game stretch. But the last two times out he is 6-of-7. And he scored his first trey since December 28 when he hit for three at Florida.
*C Wendell Lewis continues to put in big minutes with small points off the bench. He has 11 points for SEC season. Of course the junior has taken just 13 shots in these seven games.
*Lewis has a team-best 23 blocks as the backup postman.