From Auburn Media Relations…
STARKVILLE, Miss.—Auburn’s bench outscored Mississippi State’s 36-0 en route to a 76-58 Tiger win to tie their largest margin of victory in Starkville Saturday. The Tigers swept the Bulldogs for the first time since 2001 and ended an eight game Humphrey Coliseum losing streak.
The win propelled Auburn (19-10, 8-6) into sole possession of second place in the SEC’s Western Division with two games to play.
Balanced scoring was in order for Auburn as all eight Tigers who played scored at least six points, led by Frankie Sullivan’s 14 points off the bench and Lucas Hargrove and Rasheem Barrett scoing 12 apiece. Brendon Knox, who came in averaging 2.3 points a game, tied a career-high and set an SEC- high with 10 points.
‘I am real proud of my team,’ Lebo said. ‘I knew whoever was going to be able to make shots in this basketball game was going to be the one who won. I thought the one thing that we did do was that we took the ball to the basket at key times. They didn’t shoot the ball very well and that certainly was a big factor in the game.
‘Defensively, we were awfully quick and got a lot of deflections and a lot of 50-50 balls. Our play off the bench was terrific. Lucas, Knox and Frankie Sullivan were the big difference in the game in outscoring Mississippi State 36-0 in bench points.’
After falling behind 7-2, Auburn scored 13 straight points by holding Mississippi State (17-12, 7-7) scoreless for 8:17 to take a 15-7 lead on a Knox layup with 10:45 left in the half. The Bulldogs ended the drought with a foul shot with 9:27 left but then the Tigers pushed their lead to 22-11, 28-15 and then to 36-20 with 1:51 to go on another Knox layup and back-to-back 3-pointers by Frankie Sullivan and Rasheem Barrett.
The Tigers scored the final 10 points in the final 2:35 of the half to enjoy its largest first half lead at 38-21. In the first 20 minutes, Auburn went 7-of-12 (.583) from 3-point range while Mississippi State was 2-of11 (.182). From the field, the Tigers shot 50 percent (15-of-30) while holding the Bulldogs to 26.9 percent (7-of-26), and Auburn outscored State 18-0 in bench points.
‘In previous years, we were always at the bottom of the SEC and now playing at the end of the year for something means a lot to me personally because we are just not playing to be playing,’ said Hargrove. ‘Now, we are playing for postseason hopes.’
After Quantez Robertson scored the first bucket after intermission, Mississippi State scored 10 consecutive points to cut the lead to 40-31, but a Korvotney Barber hook and a Quantez Robertson layup after a steal pushed the lead back to 13 points with 15:36 to go.
The Tigers enjoyed their largest lead of the game at 60-40 with 5:30 remaining.
Auburn has won three SEC road games in a season for the first time since 2003, marking the same time the Tigers won at least eight league games in a season.
For the game, Auburn shot 49.1 percent (28-of-57) from the field, a season-high 52.9 percent (9-of-17) from 3-point range and 50 percent (11-of-22) from the foul line while State was held to 35.1 percent (20-of-57) from the field and 30 percent (9-of-30) from behind the arc.
Auburn scored 21 points off 18 Mississippi State turnovers while the Bulldogs only had eight points off 10 Tiger turnovers. The Tigers outscored the Bulldogs 36-16 in the paint.
DeWayne Reed added eight points for Auburn while Korvotney Barber and Tay Waller had seven apiece and Robertson six points.
Jarvis Varnado led Mississippi State with 14 points, nine rebounds and two blocks while Dee Bost added 12 points and eight boards and Phil Turner 12 points.
The win tied Auburn’s 73-55 win over Mississippi State on Dec. 22, 1983, for the Tigers’ largest margin of victory in the 62 game series in Starkville.
Auburn concludes its tough road stretch at Alabama (16-12, 6-8 on ESPN’s Super Tuesday at 8 pm Central in Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide has won three consecutive games after thrashing Ole Miss 90-69 in Oxford for their first road win in three years.