The Bulldogs dropped their third straight for the first time this season. MSU is 19-8 overall and 6-6 in league play, while Auburn is now 14-12 and 4-8. The Tigers have now won four straight series meetings on their home floor, including the first two-ever meetings at the new Auburn Arena.
“We had a bad stretch there in the first half,” MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “We were playing some lineups there that had not been playing together. We just had a really bad stretch there and it proved too much to overcome.”
The Bulldogs scored the game’s first seven points and sprinted to a 9-2 advantage. MSU stretched the lead to eight points at 12-4 on a 3-point basket by Arnett Moultrie. After hitting a pair of 3’s during this early stretch, the Maroon and White only hit three more the remainder of the way.
Down 16-9, Auburn scored the game’s next 16 points and held a lead the remainder of the contest. A dunk by Adrian Forbes brought Auburn within two, while a follow-up layup by Varez Ward tied the contest at 16. A steal and old-fashioned 3-point play by Kenny Gabriel capped the run at 23-16 with 4:25 left in the half.
The Bulldogs went more than five minutes without scoring during the run. Auburn stretched the lead to double digits and led 35-24 at halftime.
“We fought hard in the second half and gave ourselves a chance,” Stansbury said. “But, we missed too many wide-open shots. You have to make shots when you are trying to make a comeback in a game. We had chances and couldn’t make shots.”
The Maroon and White were back within five on a Jalen Steele jumper with 16:15 left in regulation. Auburn scored back-to-baskets before Steele connected for a 3-pointer. The Bulldogs chopped it back to five on an Arnett Moultrie dunk and later four on a 3-pointer by Dee Bost.
Two Moultrie free throws brought MSU within 53-50 with 5:02 left. Auburn responded with a 9-2 run to move back out of danger.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 19 of 54 shots from the field (35.2 percent), 5 of 22 shots from 3-point range (22.7 percent) and 12 of 17 shots from the foul line (70.6 percent). The Tigers hit 25 of 53 shots from the field (47.2 percent), 4 of 15 shots from 3-point range (26.7 percent) and 11 of 14 shots from the foul line (78.6 percent).
Auburn held a 36-31 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had nine assists and eight turnovers, while the Tigers had 13 assists and 10 turnovers.
Moultrie paced the Bulldogs with 16 points, while Bost added 11 points. Moultrie also had 11 rebounds for his 15th double-double. Renardo Sidney did not play due to back spasms.
Auburn received 16 points from Frankie Sullivan, 15 points from Kenny Gabriel and 10 points from Ward.
MSU hosts No. 1 Kentucky at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The Bulldogs and Wildcats will play as part of the prestigious “Super Tuesday” package on ESPN inside a sold-out Humphrey Coliseum.