Auburn Defeats MSU 91-76

AUBURN, Ala. - Mississippi State erased a 17-point first-half deficit Saturday afternoon. However, the Bulldogs could not make an early second-half lead hold up, falling to Auburn 91-76 in a Southeastern Conference men's basketball game played Saturday afternoon a AU's Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Auburn junior guard Tay Waller scored a career-high 32 points and the Tigers posted their highest points total as a team for the season.

Defensively, MSU gave up 13 3-point baskets - the most by a Bulldogs' opponent this season.

With the defeat, MSU fell to 16-9 overall and 6-4 in league play. On the heels of Wednesday's home loss to LSU, the Bulldogs have now lost back-to-back games for only the second time this season. Auburn improved to 16-9 and 5-5.

Coach Jeff Lebo's Tigers snapped a four-game losing streak in the series and beat MSU on its home floor for the first time in three seasons.

Auburn established its offensive presence early in the contest.

The Tigers hit six of their first seven 3-point attempts from the field. Waller hit his first five 3-point baskets from the field. Waller became the second Bulldog opposing player to hit five 3-point baskets in a game - and he accomplished that in the first 4:20 of the contest.

When AU teammate DeWayne Reed rammed home a 3-point basket, the Tigers held a 21-10 lead with 14:36 left in the first half. However, after that made trey, the Tigers missed their final eight shots from behind the arc in the opening half.

Auburn did however keep some of its early offensive success going, stretching the lead to as many as 17 points, at 32-15 with 11:09 left in the opening half. From there, MSU supplied most of the offensive firepower for the rest of the half.

Behind explosive 3-point shooting from Dee Bost and Barry Stewart, the Bulldogs stormed back. A 25-8 MSU run caught teams back up 40-40 with 1:07 left in the half.

The Tigers held a precarious 42-40 lead at the intermission.

Waller then hit his sixth 3-pointer of the contest to give Auburn a 45-40 advantage half a minute into the final half.

MSU then reeled off a 10-0 run taking its first lead of the second half and second lead of the contest. A free throw by Dee Bost gave the Bulldogs a 46-45 lead - it was their first advantage in the contest since a 2-0 lead earned on the game's opening possession.

Auburn quickly righted the ship and again found the shooting touch from long range. Including two more by Waller, the Tigers rammed home five of their first six 3-point shot attempts in the final half. An 18-4 run allowed the hosts to push back in front, 63-54 with 12:45 left in the contest.

The Bulldogs could get no closer than four points on three different occasions the rest of the way.

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 28 of 72 shots from the field (38.9 percent), 10 of 35 shots from 3-point range (28.6 percent) and 10 of 14 shots from the foul line (71.4 percent). The Tigers hit 27 of 56 shots from the field (48.2 percent), 13 of 27 shots from 3-point range (48.1 percent) and 24 of 32 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent).

Auburn finished with a 39-37 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had eight assists and 11 turnovers, while the Tigers had 16 assists and 10 turnovers.

Offensively, Jarvis Varnado led MSU with 20 points. Stewart added 18 points, while Bost had 13 points and Ravern Johnson scored 11 points. Phil Turner had a team-high nine rebounds, while Varnado had four blocked shots.

Waller's night was followed by 16 points from Reed, 14 points from Frankie Sullivan and 11 points from Korvotney Barber. Waller also pulled down nine rebounds for the Tigers.

MSU returns home for a Wednesday night contest with Eastern Division rival South Carolina. The Bulldogs and Gamecocks tip off at 7 p.m. in Humphrey Coliseum. There is no live television scheduled for that contest. Next Saturday, MSU travels to Alabama for a 2 p.m. contest.

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