No. 11 Auburn clamps down on defense, beats Mississippi State 78-63

Sun, Mar 3, 2024
NCAAB News (AP)

No. 11 Auburn clamps down on defense, beats Mississippi State 78-63

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Johni Broome had 17 points, Denver Jones scored 15, and No. 11 Auburn bounced back from a road loss at fourth-ranked Tennessee with a 78-63 win over Mississippi State on Saturday.

Auburn (22-7, 11-5 SEC) set the tone with its defense, as Mississippi State missed 17 of its first 19 shots. The Tigers never trailed, and they recorded nine blocks and eight steals in the victory.

"Defense wins championships," Broome said. "We always harp on our defense. ... We knew it'd be a challenge on the defensive end, and obviously we stepped up."

All 22 of Auburn's victories this season have come by at least 11 points. The Tigers also have 20 wins by 15 or more points, which leads all of Division I men's basketball.

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Mississippi State (19-10, 8-8) cut Auburn's 17-point halftime lead down to eight with 13:28 remaining. Auburn responded with a 10-3 run of its own to reestablish control of the game.

Josh Hubbard finished with 23 points, including 20 in the second half, for the Bulldogs. Tolu Smith added 14 points and 10 rebounds.

"They were more physical than us," Mississippi State head coach Chris Jans said. "Kudos to Coach Pearl and his players and his staff. I haven't said that too many times this season. ... They took the fight to us."

Auburn fifth-year senior Jaylin Williams played in his 135th career game, breaking the program's record formerly held by Frankie Sullivan. Williams scored 10 points in his return to the Tigers' starting lineup after suffering a knee injury two weeks ago.

"This game, being back at home and being a starter, the ovation was amazing - because everyone was happy for me to be playing again," Williams said. "But I was still a little tired, so I've got to get back in shape a little more."

BIG PICTURE

Mississippi State: It's been a tough week for the Bulldogs, who had won five straight games before dropping a close one at home to No. 16 Kentucky on Tuesday night. The Bulldogs appear to be in the NCAA Tournament picture, but these two losses were missed opportunities to boost their resume.

Auburn: Bruce Pearl told his team recently that it needed to do a better job with its shot-making heading into March, and it has responded in a big way. The Tigers have now hit 40% or more of their 3-pointers in three consecutive games for the first time since November 2017.

"It's March," Pearl said. "It's time to make shots, not take shots. Guys have been putting in the work, and that's what it takes to win."

UP NEXT

Mississippi State: Visits Texas A&M on Wednesday night.

Auburn: Visits Missouri on Tuesday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

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