No. 5 Auburn holds off Mississippi State 81-68 in overtime
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — K.D. Johnson scored 12 of his 14 points in overtime, Jabari Smith had 27 points overall and No. 5 Auburn held off Mississippi State 81-68 in overtime Wednesday night.
With the win, the Tigers (26-4, 14-3 Southeastern Conference) clinched at least a share of the SEC regular-season championship. It marks the fourth SEC title for Auburn and the program’s first since the 2017-18 season.
“It means so much to us because this league is so good,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “You know, there are about seven or eight teams that could have won this thing. The fact that Auburn put itself in this position is just incredible.”
Smith tied the game at 61 in the final minute of regulation, but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. But Johnson scored the first 10 points of overtime to help the Tigers pull away.
Smith also finished with 10 rebounds for the Tigers and was 9 of 13 from the field. Zep Jasper also added 11 points for Auburn and was 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
”(Smith) is one of the great competitors I’ve ever coached,” Pearl said. “You could look at his jump shot and you can look at all the other things about him. But that is one competitive talent. He wants the ball, he’s not afraid of the moment and I’m gonna just trust him.”
Tolu Smith had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Iverson Molinar had 14 points and five assists for Mississippi State (17-13, 8-9).
The Bulldogs missed all 13 attempts from 3-point range while Auburn was 10 of 26 behind the arc. Mississippi State did outrebound the Tigers 50-32, including 21 offensive rebounds. Andersson Garcia finished with a career-best 13 rebounds for the Bulldogs and added eight points.
“It was a tough loss and we’ve said that too many times this year,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. “We outboarded them by 18, but we had too many turnovers (20). I blame myself for the looks we didn’t get down the stretch.
“Obviously, our 3-point shooting is impacting us. We are now 1 of 33 in the last three games. It is disappointing. It is frustrating for everyone.”
Auburn jumped on Mississippi State right out of the gate and did most of the damage from 3-point range. Jasper made his third 3-pointer of the half with 10:33 remaining and gave the Tigers a 23-10 advantage.
The Tigers led by as many as 19 in the first half and led 40-28 at halftime.
Auburn shot 7 of 14 from 3-point range in the first half and had 12 first-half assists. The Tigers shot 56% overall in the first half, but were outrebounded 20-16.
Mississippi State shot just 39% in the opening half and missed all nine attempts behind the 3-point arc.
However, Mississippi State used a 32-10 run that spanned over two halves and took a 54-49 lead with 7:20 left in regulation. The Bulldogs also had a chance to win late in regulation, but failed to score on their last two offensive possessions.
Auburn: The Tigers snapped a three-game road losing streak in the SEC and did so at the perfect time. Auburn finished with a 7-3 road record in the league.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs’ shooting woes from 3-point territory continued. Against Auburn, the Bulldogs were 0 of 13 beyond the arc and over the past three games, Mississippi State is just 1 of 33 from 3-point range in that stretch.
Auburn: Closes the regular season on Saturday and will host South Carolina.
Mississippi State: Concludes the regular season Saturday at Texas A&M.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25