Thursday, February 20, 2003
Mississippi St. 63, Auburn 46
The Associated Press
AUBURN, Ala. - Next stop: Kentucky. Mississippi State beat Auburn 63-46 behind Timmy Bowers' 25 points and smothering defense Wednesday night to take sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference's Western Division.
The No. 19 Bulldogs (17-5, 7-4) won for the seventh time in eight games. Their next road test is the second-ranked Wildcats, who boast the nation's longest winning streak at 15 games.
"No question Kentucky in Rupp Arena is the best team in America," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "If this does anything to help us Sunday, we'll take it."
It was at least a good tuneup as the Bulldogs held Auburn (17-7 6-5) to its fewest points of the season and fewest since getting 42 against Temple in the 1997-98 season opener.
Bowers hit 9-of-13 shots, including 4-of-6 3-pointers while Mario Austin had 14 points and 12 rebounds in a nice inside-outside combination.
Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said his team came out tentative, and "playing not to lose." The result was a miserable shooting night, with the Tigers going 4-of-15 from the line, 19-of-57 from the field and 4-of-21 from 3-point range.
"Mississippi State is too good a basketball team," Ellis said. "If that kind of stuff happens, they're going to bury you. They are that good and we've got to be able to handle that."
The Bulldogs broke the West deadlock without many problems, dominating the boards 40-30.
"We haven't been given much respect in the SEC," Bowers said. "We have been winning our games on the road and that's what good basketball teams do. We came in here and played like a first-place team. We knew we were the better team."
Auburn, which has lost five of seven since a 4-0 start, has dropped the past four meetings.
Marquis Daniels scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half for the Tigers, but shot just 7-of-19. Kyle Davis had seven points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots but made just 1 of 7 free throws.
"Our slumps just came at a bad time of the year," said Davis, who had eight offensive boards. "We'll be OK if we just stay focused and can still win this thing."
Marco Killingsworth was the only Auburn player to hit half his shots or more, going 5-of-7 for 11 points.
Auburn scored the first 10 points of the second half and cut it to 35-29 on a 3-pointer by Daniels less than four minutes in.
The Bulldogs then scored the next seven points, capped by Ontario Harper's 3-pointer, and led by at least nine the rest of the way.
"The biggest thing you've got to do is not panic," Stansbury said. "Our kids have been through a lot this year and they've got a lot of confidence."
The game featured two of the league's top defensive teams, but only one was really effective, especially in the first half.
The Bulldogs took a 35-19 halftime lead, holding Auburn to one field goal over the final five minutes and 7-of-28 shooting.
Bowers was as hot as Auburn was cold, shooting 7-of-8 and making three 3-pointers.
"After I made that first 3-pointer, my confidence was pretty high and I just started knocking down shots," he said.
Harper stole the ball and found Zimmerman for a wide-open dunk with 39 seconds left as Mississippi State closed the half on a 25-9 run over the final 12 minutes.
It matched Auburn's fewest points for a half this season, equaling the first half against Western Michigan.
Ellis wanted his players to be more aggressive. That wasn't a problem for the Bulldogs.
"We came out and played aggressively," Austin said, "but we won the game with our defense."
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Duke 75, Maryland 70
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HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
Today's high school schedule
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Boys Games: Bacon opens defense of state title
Girls Games: West picks up for injured star
Ky. Boys: Ryle, Doellman knock off Dixie
Ky. Girls: Dixie knocks off Ryle
LeBron to have number retired
West, Ross bring home sectional championships
Sectional wrestling results
Wrestling honor roll
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Ky. swim meet delayed a week
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