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Auburn’s Josh Dollard, left, works with the ball against Mississippi State’s Dietric Slater during the first half of the Bulldogs’ 91-83 win in Auburn on Saturday
AP photo by Anthony Hall
Auburn’s Josh Dollard, left, works with the ball against Mississippi State’s Dietric Slater during the first half of the Bulldogs’ 91-83 win in Auburn on Saturday

AU defenseless
at home

Lebo disappointed team can’t slow foes

By Bradley Handwerger

AUBURN — It’s hard to lose games when you shoot 68.2 percent from the floor in one half.

Against Mississippi State at home Saturday, Auburn found a way.

The Tigers followed up a 47-point first half by shooting 38.2 percent in the second half and losing to the Bulldogs 91-83 at Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum.

Mississippi State broke a 12-game SEC road losing streak.

“It’s very frustrating,” Auburn sophomore guard Quantez Robertson said. “Giving up this many points at home and losing. We’re trying to come out here and do the best we can, but the best is not what we’re doing all the time.”

This time, Auburn can’t blame turnovers. Instead, poor shooting and defense doomed the Tigers.

“I was just disappointed defensively,” Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo said. “All they did was look us in the eye and say, ‘We are going to beat you one-on-one. We are going to throw it into (Charles) Rhodes and beat you in there, or when we shoot it, we are going to rebound it and lay it in.’

“They kind of streetwalkered us and whipped us.”

Rhodes scored a game-high 25 points for the Bulldogs (13-10, 4-6 SEC). Jamont Gordon added 19, and three other Mississippi State players managed double figures, while the Bulldogs shot 54.1 percent for the game.

And yet, as in the two previous games — both losses — Auburn (14-12, 4-7) had its chances. The Tigers led by four at halftime, and extended the lead to 57-49 with 16:57 to go in the second half.

Then, as if on cue, Auburn did what it always does and stopped making shots.

While the Tigers were missing, the Bulldogs were making. Mississippi State went on a 19-4 run during 51/2 minutes, erasing an eight-point deficit and taking a seven-point lead at 68-61.

Rhodes scored 11 of the 19 points in the sequence.

“It just evaporated quickly,” Lebo said. “We couldn’t stop them. We talked about getting stops, two, three at a time. When they did miss one, they got two or three attempts at it in the second half on the offensive glass.”

The Bulldogs outscored Auburn 15-1 in second-chance points. Also, Mississippi State outrebounded Auburn 34-30.

“I said at halftime — it was a four-point game and Auburn had shot 68 percent — you’re not going to win on the road when the other team shoots 68 percent,” Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said. “We came out in the second half and I thought defense was a huge key.”

It didn’t help that Quan Prowell, Auburn’s leading scorer, finished with six points and took only three shots.

He was nonexistent for most of the game even though he played 21 minutes.

“Quan was not very good today,” Lebo said. “I don’t know if he sweated in 21 minutes.”

The Tigers turned to Josh Dollard and a bevy of other players to fill in for Prowell’s non-production. Dollard finished with 17 points. Rasheem Barrett had 15, and Frank Tolbert added 14. Robertson ended with 13, and Archie Miaway pitched in 10.

After the Bulldogs took a seven-point advantage, Barrett and Robertson combined for 12 points to bring the deficit down to three.

But that’s as close as Auburn came down the stretch because Mississippi State made its free throws — seven in all in the final 1:38.

“It feels good for the team to unite like that,” MSU’s Rhodes said. “This gets the monkey off our backs. We have been waiting for it for a long time.

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