Mississippi State (19-8, 9-7 SEC), on a very emotional Senior Day, mauled the Auburn Tigers (19-10, 8-8), 67-45, for the Southeastern Conference Western Division title.

"Today, we set our goal to win the SEC Western Division," said MSU coach Rick Stansbury.

Pictured: Zimmerman with the net"> Mississippi State (19-8, 9-7 SEC), on a very emotional Senior Day, mauled the Auburn Tigers (19-10, 8-8), 67-45, for the Southeastern Conference Western Division title.

"Today, we set our goal to win the SEC Western Division," said MSU coach Rick Stansbury.

Pictured: Zimmerman with the net">

MSU Mauls Auburn for SEC West Title

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01games/basketball/2003/030803/zimandnet-small.jpg" align="left" width="146" height="169"> Mississippi State (19-8, 9-7 SEC), on a very emotional Senior Day, mauled the Auburn Tigers (19-10, 8-8), 67-45, for the Southeastern Conference Western Division title.<P> "Today, we set our goal to win the SEC Western Division," said MSU coach Rick Stansbury.<P> <small><em>Pictured: Zimmerman with the net</em></small>

After two games back-to-back against Arkansas and Tennessee when the Bulldogs could do nothing against the zone offensively, the Auburn Tigers, primarily a man-to-man defensive team, thought that maybe the third time would yield the same results.

"They decided that they were going to come in here and play a zone," said Stansbury. "I can't blame them for that because we haven't attacked zones and shot (the ball) very well."

While Coach Stansbury didn't blame Auburn for using the zone, Derrick Zimmerman and Timmy Bowers showed them the error of their ways very early in the game.

Zimmerman, not known for being a three-point zone buster, shot from just beyond the three-point line.

Swish!

"Teams don't really respect him a lot because he doesn't shoot the ball a lot," said Bowers. "We all know he can shoot the ball very well. It was his night tonight. He stepped up tonight and knocked them down."

The Dogs defense causes Auburn to turn the ball over.

Back to the zone the Tigers defense went.

Bowers shoots a two-point shot.

Swish!

Auburn tries a 1-3-1 zone next.

Zimmerman drives in for a layup for two points.

On defense, Zimmerman steals the ball and passes it to Michal Ignerski for an easy layup.

Mississippi State leads 9-4.

Bowers, after an Auburn miss, shoots from three-point range.

Swish!

MSU 12-4.

"It was our ability to beat that zone back down the floor," said Stansbury, explaining MSU's success against the zone. "The ball was in (Zimmerman's) hands and he was making reads. We attacked the zone a little differently today. Even though we didn't get it to him a lot, we got Mario (Austin) out on the baseline a little bit. But again, it was about making shots. When you makes shots, you can do a lot of things and everything looks good."

While the offense was shooting successfully over the Auburn zone, the MSU defense was mauling the Auburn offense.

"We wanted to come out tonight and knuckle down and play good hard-nose defense," said Austin. "We knew if we did that, everything else would take care of itself."

Trailing 20-6, Maquis Daniels tried to drive inside the Dog defense only to run into a sea of Maroon and White and be called for traveling.

On Auburn's next possession, Nathan Watson, with extreme pressure by Winsome Frazier, was called for a three-second call.

"I told Winsome to concentrate on what he is best at and that is defending," said Stansbury. "I thought that he got a lot of deflections."

With MSU now leading 23-11, their defense continued working hard; this time Bowers stole the ball mid-bounce.

Then, he and Zimmerman ran in transition down the court with Bowers going in for a layup after a pass from Zimmerman.

MSU 25, Auburn 11.

The Bulldog defense continued their heavy pressure, causing 12 Auburn turnovers in the first half.

The first half ended with the Bulldogs leading 33-17.

"They had 17 (points) at halftime," said Stansbury. "That is a credit to our players to defend. They didn't get a lot of looks, particularly from three-point range."

At the start of the second half, Auburn decided a new tactic: A full court press.

MSU broke it and Ontario Harper went in for a layup.

MSU 35, Auburn 18.

After Auburn came back with a 6 to 2 run to pull within 13 points, MSU went on a 16-0 run to make the score 52-24 and put the game away.

The play of the run was a thunderous dunk by Zimmerman after a steal. With the crowd roaring and on its feet, Mario Austin, screaming in delight because he knew this game was over and the West title was just minutes away, ran back down toward the defensive end of the court.

"(Zimmerman) came through the lane and tomahawked it," said Bowers. "It was a good play."

Auburn coach Cliff Ellis knowing he had no other choice, called a timeout to try and calm his team and the crowd down.

His Tigers, after the timeout, made a last gasp effort with a 11-2 run that pulled them to within nineteen, 54-35.

The Bulldogs then went on a run of their own to extend the lead to twenty-three, 60-37, with 2:20 left in the game.

With about two minutes left in the game, Stansbury put in subs Dennis Buse, Errol Bennett, Seth Cannon, Stephen Cowherd, giving them the opportunity to play in the title-winning game. He also brought senior Derrick Zimmerman back in after taking him out, primarily to give the fans one last time to honor this very special senior.

"I appreciate coach doing that for me," said Zimmerman. "It meant a lot to me because I have been here for four years. The fans were great."

Mississippi State was led in scoring by Zimmerman with 15. Other Bulldogs in double figures were Timmy Bowers with 14 and Michal Ignerski with 12.

"We went in with a gameplan to try and take Austin out of the game," said Ellis. "We limited his shots, but when you take someone out of a game, it opens it up for somebody else. When it came to making shots, I thought that Derrick Zimmerman was the key player."

Auburn's scoring leaders were Marquis Daniels and Kyle Davis with 14 points apiece.

MSU held Auburn to 36.4% and their lowest point total of the season.

MSU, after shooting just 37.8% the past two games, shot 48.2% from the field.

Mississippi State has now defeated Auburn five straight games.

Next up for the Bulldogs is the Southeastern Conference Tournament in New Orleans this coming weekend.

Because of their Western Division title, the Bulldogs have a first-round bye and won't play again until they face the winner of the Ole Miss/Tennessee game, noon, Friday.


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