AUBURN, Ala. (AP)Jaylin Williams scored a season-high 21 points, Wendell Green Jr. added 17 and No. 21 Auburn defeated Mississippi State 69-63 on Saturday night.
Williams scored 11 of Auburn’s first 13 points, which included three 3-pointers in the opening six minutes of the game. The senior forward hit two more 3-pointers in the span of 1:27 early in the second half.
”I thought that was one of the best games I’ve seen (Williams) play,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. ”Everyone’s going to point to the five 3s. But it was as hard and as physical as I’ve ever seen him play.”
Auburn led by as many as 13 points in the second half, but Mississippi State cut the lead to four with 2:34 remaining. Green then hit a deep 3-pointer before coming away with a steal and a layup on the following possession.
Auburn (14-3, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) has won 28 straight games inside Neville Arena. The Tigers have the second-longest home winning streak in Division I men’s basketball, trailing Gonzaga.
Mississippi State (12-5, 1-4) was led by the inside presence of fifth-year senior Tolu Smith, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Senior forward D.J. Jeffries added 12 points and eight rebounds.
But the Bulldogs missed all 18 of their attempts from deep, while the host Tigers hit a season-high 11 3-pointers in the win. It was a familiar feeling for Mississippi State, which didn’t hit a single 3-pointer in its loss to Auburn last March.
”I’m not sure many college basketball games have been won when you’re 0 for 18 from the 3-point line, especially on the road,” Mississippi State head coach Chris Jans said. ”But I thought we took really good shots. … we just didn’t knock them down. I hate to say this, but (missing) just becomes contagious.”
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs boast one of the toughest defenses in the country, but offense has been a major problem recently. Mississippi State has not scored 70 or more points in a contest since Dec. 3, a streak that is nine games long.
”I think we lost the game in the first half, to be honest with you,” Jans said. ”I felt like we just had so many empty possessions. Two assists and 13 turnovers (in the first half) isn’t a good recipe to win on the road.”
Auburn: The Tigers have now won three straight SEC games, thanks in large part to the resurgent play of their veterans. Williams and Flanigan are in the midst of the best scoring stretches of their four-year careers at Auburn, while Green is averaging nearly 20 points per game during the winning streak.
”Sixty-nine points doesn’t seem like a lot,” Green said of Auburn’s offense. ”But it’s a lot against Mississippi State.”
THE STREAK ENDS
Auburn center Johni Broome entered Saturday having recorded a double-double in each of his last four games, but he finished with six points and four rebounds Saturday night. Yet Pearl spun the end of Broome’s streak into a positive for his team.
”Johni Broome has been our most consistent player,” Pearl said. ”He’s been unbelievably consistent. Tonight, he just didn’t have a big night – and yet we’re still able to win. This team should feel really good about that.”
LOPSIDED AT THE LINE
After neither team attempted a single free throw in the first half Saturday, the Bulldogs and the Tigers combined for 41 attempts from the line in the second half.
”I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a game like that,” Pearl said.
Mississippi State, which shot just 31.8% from the free-throw line Wednesday night in a loss to Georgia, bounced back to hit 75% of its attempts Saturday night. Auburn hit 10 of its 13 free throws, with Green going a perfect 7 for 7.
Mississippi State: Returns home to host Tennessee on Tuesday.
Auburn: Visits LSU on Wednesday.
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