Mississippi State Basketball: Men’s Hoops at Auburn Preview
Mississippi State (14-12, 8-9 SEC) has played better basketball as of late, posting a 3-1 record over the final two weeks of the season. The Bulldogs will wrap up their regular season with a visit to Auburn (12-14, 6-11 SEC) on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 12 PM CT on the SEC Network.
This game was originally scheduled for February 18th, but winter weather prevented Mississippi State from making the trip. Auburn won last year’s lone meeting, 80-68, in Starkville.
The Tigers came into the 2020-2021 season with high expectations after adding the 10th-ranked recruiting class in the country, headlined by five-star Sharife Cooper. Unfortunately for Bruce Pearl, Cooper was not cleared to play until early January when he shined in his debut against Alabama.
There’s no doubt Cooper is the difference-maker for the Tigers. However, Cooper injured his ankle in practice a couple of weeks ago and isn’t expected to return to the lineup this season. Auburn comes into the season finale with losses in four of its last five.
Guard Allen Flanigan leads the Tigers in scoring at 14.0 per game. Sophomore forward Jaylin Williams is the only active Tiger averaging in double-figures at 10.7 points per game. Freshman JT Thor is contributing 9.3 points and 4.9 boards a game in his first season on the Plains.
Versatile guard Devan Cambridge is adding 9.2 points to the Tigers’ cause, with point guard Jamal Johnson also scoring at a 9.2 clip. 6’11” freshman Dylan Cardwell adds size off the bench for Pearl, and he is averaging 3.8 points per game for Auburn.
As a team, Auburn scores about 77 points per game. The Tigers have shot 43.7% from the field and 32.6% from three-point range. Auburn protects the rim well, averaging six blocks a game.
Keys to a Bulldog Win
Defense will be the key for Mississippi State on Saturday. When the offense has struggled, the defense has kept State in games that shouldn’t have been that close. If the Bulldogs can keep the game in the 60s, they will have a good chance to escape the Plains with a victory.
Mississippi State continues to play with a chip on its shoulder and knocks off Auburn on the road. The Bulldogs enter the SEC Tournament on a high note.