Bulldogs blow lead at Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. - Mississippi State surrendered a 19-point second-half lead, dropping a 65-62 decision to Auburn in a Southeastern Conference men's basketball game played Saturday night at the AU Arena.
The Tigers closed the contest on a 30-9 to win a conference game for the first time in the history of this building. MSU hit eight 3-point baskets in the opening half and actually extended the lead to 51-32 with 11:24 remaining. However, seven turnovers in the final 5:45 doomed the Maroon and White's chances.
With the defeat, MSU fell to 13-11 overall and 5-5 in league play. For a second time this season, the Bulldogs fell in their attempt to win a third straight league game. Auburn is now 9-15 and 2-8. The Bulldogs still remain in sole possession of second place in the Western Division race.
"We played so well for about 35 minutes," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "In the last five minutes, we had too many unforced turnovers. You can't turn the ball over that many times on the road and expect to win the game. It does not matter who you are playing."
The Bulldogs may have played their best first half of the season. After missing the first four attempts from 3-point land, the Bulldogs hit eight of their next 10. Auburn held an early 7-2 lead, before MSU forged ahead with a 22-6 run.
Dee Bost tied the game at 7-7 on a 3-point basket. Bost placed the Bulldogs ahead with another trey. Renardo Sidney hit one from the top of the key, prior to Bost hitting another trey for a 19-13 lead.
A 3-pointer by Riley Benock capped the run and extended the advantage to 24-13 with 5:46 left in the half. The Bulldogs ran the lead to 33-18 on a Ravern Johnson 3-pointer. Johnson played 19 minutes after missing the past two games for suspension.
MSU carried a 36-24 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Bulldogs continued to penetrate the Auburn defense with ease in the early stages of the second half. Bost scored on back-to-back possessions. Back-to-back dunks by Kodi Augustus and Wendell Lewis pushed MSU out to a 53-35 lead with 9:46 left in the contest.
MSU still maintained a 58-45 lead on an Augustus dunk with 4:21 left. However, after the basket went through, Augustus was called for a technical foul as headed back up court.
"The technical was the turning point in the game," Stansbury said. "They hit both free throws and score on the possession. Later, Dee missed the front end of a one-and-one. So you have those two plays and all of the turnovers. Those plays hurt your chances of winning the game. It was a total meltdown in a game that you should have won."
Auburn scored 17 straight points to turn the 58-45 deficit into a 62-58 lead. The Tigers took their first second-half lead at 59-58 on a Kenny Gabriel 3-point basket with 1:18 left.
After the Augustus dunk and technical, the Bulldogs managed only four points over the final 4:21.
Still, MSU had a final chance as Bost missed a shot from just past mid-court as the final horn sounded.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 21 of 48 shots from the field (43.8 percent), 9 of 24 shots from 3-point range (37.5 percent) and 11 of 15 shots from the foul line (73.3 percent). The Tigers hit 26 of 59 shots from the field (44.1 percent), 6 of 12 shots from 3-point range (50.0 percent) and 7 of 12 shots from the foul line (58.3 percent).
MSU held a 34-30 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 12 assists and 16 turnovers, while the Tigers had 14 assists and 12 turnovers.
Bost paced the Bulldogs with 22 points. Sidney just missed a third double-double with nine points and a team-high 13 rebounds.
Auburn received 21 points from Earnest Ross and 18 points from Gabriel.
MSU plays Kentucky Tuesday night in Rupp Arena. Game time is set for 6 p.m. CT for a "Super Tuesday" national broadcast on ESPN. The Bulldogs host Ole Miss at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.