The Mississippi State men’s basketball team erased a 19-point deficit and led for a large stretch of the second half but ultimately fell 81-68 in overtime to No. 5 Auburn on Wednesday night at Humphrey Coliseum.
MSU’s Tolu Smith scored 20-plus points for the third-straight game and notched a double-double with his 22 points and 12 rebounds.
Honored on senior night prior to what was his final home game, Garrison Brooks scored 10 points and brought down eight rebounds. Iverson Molinar tallied 14 points, keeping up his streak of scoring in double figures in every game this season. Off the bench, Andersson Garcia totaled eight points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
State (17-13, 8-9 Southeastern Conference) outrebounded Auburn 50-32 and found offensive success in the paint, where the team scored 50 of its points. But none of it was quite enough for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs missed all 13 attempts from 3-point range, while Auburn was 10 of 26 behind the arc. Mississippi State did outrebound the Tigers 50-32, including 21 offensive rebounds.
“It was a tough loss, and we’ve said that too many times this year,” Bulldogs coach Ben Howland said. “We outboarded them by 18, but we had too many turnovers (20). I blame myself for the looks we didn’t get down the stretch.
“Obviously, our 3-point shooting is impacting us. We are now 1 of 33 in the last three games. It is disappointing. It is frustrating for everyone.”
K.D. Johnson scored 12 of his 14 points in overtime, and Jabari Smith had 27 points for Auburn (26-4, 14-3 SEC). With the win, the Tigers clinched at least a share of the SEC regular-season championship, the fourth for Auburn and first since the 2017-18 season.
“It means so much to us because this league is so good,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “You know, there are about seven or eight teams that could have won this thing. The fact that Auburn put itself in this position is just incredible.”
The Bulldogs trailed 39-20 late in the first half before staging a furious rally. MSU closed out the first 20 minutes on a 6-0 run, then kept that momentum rolling after the intermission, surging ahead on a Brooks jumper with 8:46 left in regulation. The basket was part of a 13-0 Bulldog run that turned the game completely around.
The MSU lead grew to as many as five before Auburn staged a comeback of its own down the stretch. Smith hit a game-tying basket with 51 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime. The Bulldogs had a chance to win late in regulation but failed to score on their last two offensive possessions.
The Bulldogs couldn’t get much going offensively in the extra frame. State shot just 1-for-6 during the extra session. Meanwhile, Johnson scored the first 10 points of OT for Auburn, which shot 5 for 6 from the field and 9 for 10 from the line to lock down the win.
The Tigers led by as many as 19 in the first half and led 40-28 at halftime.
Auburn shot 7 of 14 from 3-point range in the first half and had 12 first-half assists. The Tigers shot 56 percent overall in the first half, while Mississippi State shot just 39 percent in the opening half and missed all nine attempts behind the 3-point arc.
Both teams will wrap up the regular season on Saturday, with Auburn hosting South Carolina and Mississippi State traveling to Texas A&M. The SEC Tournament will begin March 9 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.