STARKVILLE, Miss. - Chris Denson had career-highs of 24 points and nine rebounds and Rob Chubb added a season-high 18 points with seven rebounds, but it wasn’t enough for Auburn to escape the Southeastern Conference cellar.
Chris Denson scored a career-high 24 points against Mississippi State
The Tigers lost their ninth straight and 15 in 16 games, falling to Mississippi State 74-71 in overtime at Humphrey Coliseum. The loss gave the Tigers (9-22, 3-15) sole possession of last place in the 14-team Southeastern Conference. Mississippi State finished the regular season at 9-21 and 4-14.
Denson missed a runner from the right baseline for the win the game in regulation, and Frankie Sullivan’s 3-point attempt that would have tied the game missed with six seconds left in overtime.
Fred Thomas’ 3-pointer gave the Bulldogs a 71-69 lead with 2:14 left in the extra period. Payne’s layup tied it at 71 with an assist from Denson on the back door play with 53.9 seconds to go. Chubb fouled out with 34 seconds left, and Craig Sword gave State the lead for good at 73-71 on a pair of foul shots. Denson’s runner on the other end misses from the left baseline, and then Roquez Johnson splits a pair of foul shots with 20 seconds left for the final margin.
After an Auburn time out with 11.8 seconds remaining, Sullivan’s 3-point attempt missed with six seconds to go to seal it for Misssissippi State.
“It was a tough loss,” said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. “You have to make shots. You have to make plays. We had our opportunities. We broke down defensively when we needed to get stops. They were tougher than us today, and they got the win.
“Chris got to the basket and not only that, he rebounded the ball well. Chris was doing a lot of everything for us on the floor.”
Payne, who finished with nine points and a season-high eight rebounds, drilled a 3-pointer to open the scoring, but Mississippi State scored nine straight points and had a 12-2 run to take a 12-5 lead on Colin Borchert’s second trey in the early going. Shaquille Johnson’s alley-oop slam and then a Chubb hook ended a 10-2 Auburn run as the Tigers regained the lead at 15-14 with 8:46 left.
The Tigers extended their 17-4 run over seven minutes to lead 22-16 with 4:50 to go, but the Bulldogs ended the half on an 8-2 run to tie it at 24.
Auburn opened the second half by scoring the first four points, but State answers with a 13-6 run to take a 37-34 lead four minutes in. The Tigers scored five points in a second span as Denson had a conventional 3-point play, State threw away the in-bounds pass and then Chubb’s layup regained the lead for Auburn at 41-40 with 13:41 remaining.
Sullivan’s 3-pointer and Denson’s circus and-one gave Auburn a 54-51 lead with 8:58 left, but State hit its fourth 3-poitner of the second half, the second from Tyson Cunningham, to tie it at 54. The game continued to go back and forth as it finished with 17 lead changes and 14 ties.
Another Denson three-point play gave Auburn a 63-62 lead with 2:13 to play as he scored 14 of the Tigers’ last 19 points. Sullivan gave Auburn a 65-62 lead with 28 seconds left, but Borchert drained a 25-foot 3-pointer to tie it at 65 with 17.5 seconds left. Denson’s runner from the right baseline fell just short on the final possession of regulation.
Borchert’s double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds led Mississippi State.
State outshot Auburn 41.2 percent to 40.3 percent from the floor, but the Bulldogs were 8-of-17 from 3-point range to 3-of-17 for the Tigers as State made six treys after the half. State was 16-of-29 from the foul line to 12-of-15 for Auburn. The Tigers had a 46-28 edge in paint points.
Auburn plays Texas A&M on Wednesday at 9 p.m. in the SEC Tournament first round in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. The winner plays No. 6 seed Missouri in the second round on Thursday at 9 p.m.
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