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Slow start dooms Tigers again

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The opening minutes were nightmarish again for Aubyurn's basketball team.

Earnest Ross led Auburn with 15 points

The Tigers fell behind 22-3 and nevrer record, losing their third consecutive Southeastern Conference game, 85-66 to Mississippi at Humphrey Coliseum. Last Thursday, they fell behind 32-6 to LSU.

Auburn dropped to 7-10 overall and 0-3 in the SEC. Mississippi State improved to 10-7 and 2-1.

"Offensively, we are challenged," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "It's a broken record. I keep saying it over and over again.We have trouble shooting it. We have trouble making layups. We have trouble throwing it into the post to get any production. You can't keep putting yourself behind the eight ball with a lack of offense against such good teams, but we are what we are.

"I thought our guys fought. They scrapped. We are just limited."

The Tigers fell behind by as much as 30-9 before ending the half down 41-22. Mississippi State pushed its lead to 46-23 and then led 53-36 before Auburn scored five straight points behind a layup and 3-pointer both by Earnest Ross to close to within 53-41 with 13:50 remaining.

The Bulldogs responded, pulling out to a 68-43 lead with 7:55 left.

Ross led Auburn with 15 points, six rebounds and four steals, but he went 5-of-17 from the field, 2-of-9 from 3-point range and 3-of-7 from the free throw line. Kenny Gabriel added 14 points and seven rebounds. Freshman Chris Denson scored a season-high 12 points off the bench and Josh Wallace added 10 points, five assists and three steals.

Auburn returns to action with two games in three days at Auburn Arena, beginning on Thursday at 6 p.m. agaisnt Florida on ESPN. Alabama visits on Saturday at 5 p.m.

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