Auburn Basketball falls at Mississippi State, 91-88 - Montgomery Alabama news.

Auburn Basketball falls at Mississippi State, 91-88

Varez Ward scored a career-high 24 points and Kenny Gabriel added a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds but Auburn fell short in a 91-88 heartbreaker at No. 22 Mississippi State in Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday.

Mississippi State (18-5, 5-3) shot 60.4 percent from the field and 63.2 percent from 3-point range on 12-of-19 treys to edge past the Tigers. Auburn (13-10, 3-6) tied a school record with only three turnovers that equaled the fewest in Tiger history at Georgia in 1970, and the Tigers had a season-high for points.

"To come into this environment against a very good defensive team and put up 88 points is pretty good," said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. "Hopefully, we can keep that offensive momentum going.

"Obviously, you can't give up 91 and win the game. We have been better than this defensively all year long. Just as our offense comes, we lose what has made us all season long, and that has been our defense. That is disappointing."

To open the second half, Dee Bost scored nine straight points, all on three 3-pointers, and had the Bulldogs' first 10 points as State pulled ahead 52-44 less than three minutes in. State continued the 16-4 run to take a 59-48 lead on Jalen Steele's trey.

Arnett Moultrie's alley-oop thunder slam gave State a 68-55 lead with 10:24 to play, but Auburn quickly answered with a 9-1 run to close to within 69-64 less than a minute later. Frankie Sullivan, who finished with 16 points, made three free throws to make it 79-74 State with 3:26 left, but Rob Chubb, who had eight points and six boards, missed two free throws on the next possession and then Gabriel's 3-pointer rimmed in and out after that.

Auburn was still close, trailing 81-76 after Sullivan split four free throws with 1:56 left after a technical by State's Rodney Hood. Moultrie, who led five Bulldog double-figure scorers with 21 points and seven rebounds, answered with a conventional 3-point play for an 84-76 Bulldog lead with 1:42 to play.

Another Ward driving layup brought Auburn to within 85-79 with 52.5 seconds left. Then, Gabriel's fourth 3-pointer closed it to 87-82 with 41 seconds to go. After Moultrie missed two foul shots, Sullivan's 3-pointer missed with 28 seconds on the clock that would have cut it to two. Allen Payne made it 88-84 State on a stickback with 15 seconds left.

"It was a tough game," said Ward. "It is hard to when you score 88 points and come up short. If we had come out and guarded better, we would have ended up winning. It is hard to win on the road when a team shoots 60 percent. If we had guarded like we usually guarded, we could have stolen this one."

The Tigers have lost three SEC games by a combined 12 points, losing in overtime at LSU by seven and at Arkansas by three points.

It was a hot-shooting first half as Auburn held a 44-43 lead at intermission by shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 4-of-9 from 3-point range. Mississippi State shot even better, going 63.0 percent from the floor and 7-of-12 from behind the arc.

Gabriel nailed a 3-pointer from the corner, his third of the opening half, just before the buzzer to give the Tigers' their halftime edge. It was the most points in a half by Auburn in SEC play this year while the Tigers came in averaging only 54.9 points in eight league games.

Allen Payne added 10 points and a career-high nine rebounds for Auburn, which shot 45.9 percent from the floor, 6-of-20 from 3-point range and 26-of-36 from the foul line. The Tigers outrebounded the Bulldogs 34-32 and outscored the taller State team 42-28 in the paint.

Renardo Sidney added 17 points for State while Bost had 15 points on 4-of-6 three-pointers, Steele added 13 points on 3-of-6 treys and Hood had 11.

Auburn plays host to Alabama on Super Tuesday on ESPNU at 8 pm Central in Auburn Arena.

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