Horrendous First Half Costs Mississippi State Basketball Against Auburn

Mississippi State basketball got off to a terrible start on the road against Auburn, and that proved costly for the Bulldogs.

Mar 2, 2024; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs forward Tolu Smith (1) takes a shot
Mar 2, 2024; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs forward Tolu Smith (1) takes a shot / John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
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Mississippi State basketball lost 78-63 to the Auburn Tigers in Neville Arena Saturday afternoon. A poor first half performance on the offensive end put the Bulldogs in a 17-point hole going into the break. State played much better in the second half, but the deficit was too much to overcome. The loss dropped Mississippi State to 19-10 on the season and 8-8 in SEC play.

Mississippi State basketball played some of its worst ball of the season in the first half

Mississippi State basketball's first half performance was about as poor as the Bulldogs have played this season. State shot just 27.6% in the first half with only eight made field goals. They were 1-10 from three and committed 10 first half turnovers.

Auburn's stout defense certainly presented plenty of problems for Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs were ugly on the offensive end beyond the Tigers affecting them. It wasn't a good defensive half either for State. They gave Auburn far too many uncontested looks, and the Tigers made them pay. AU connected on 17-31 first half shots for a 54.8% shooting performance.

Bulldogs with a better second half performance

Mississippi State basketball cleaned up their mistakes in the second half. They were far more organized on the offensive end and began contesting more from the Tigers on defense. Tolu Smith and Josh Hubbard both played great in the second half after slow starts. Smith had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Hubbard made another six threes to lead all scorers with 23.

MSU shot 51.9% in the second half and outscored the Tigers down the stretch. But ultimately, it was too little, too late for State. After cutting the lead to single digits on a few occasions midway through the second half, Auburn picked up the pace once again to close the game out. Auburn is far too good of a basketball team at home for anyone to be able to overcome a terrible start.

Road woes continue for Mississippi State basketball

With the loss at Auburn, Mississippi State basketball moved to 2-7 in true road games on the season. Outside of dominant wins over a terrible Missouri team and a mediocre LSU team, the Bulldogs have failed to play a complete game on the road this season. It's a factor that's working against MSU's tournament resume.

Granted Auburn has been dominant at home this season. They've lost there just once this season, and all of their wins have been by double-digits. But State put themselves out of this one with their own horrendous play early on. And with a critical game on deck at Texas A&M, Mississippi State needs to somehow show they can put together a strong performance on the road against a more competitive team.

State needs to quickly bounce-back after consecutive losses

After winning five-straight game, Mississippi State basketball has now lost its last two. There's no shame in either loss. State hung with an incredibly talented Kentucky team literally until the end, and Auburn has been almost unbeatable at home.

But with those losses, the pressure gets a bit higher on the Bulldogs going into the final week of the season. State is still in great position to return to the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight season, but they are not yet locked-in to the Big Dance. They need to find a win in either of their final two regular season games to feel completely safe about reaching March Madness.

Mississippi State basketball is back in action Wednesday night at 8:00 pm CT at Texas A&M.