Coming off of a two-game losing streak, the No. 16 Auburn Tigers hope to turn things around at No.22 Mississippi State Saturday night.
The Bulldogs are 9-1 at home this season, and in the past 16 meetings between the Tigers and Bulldogs in Starkville, Mississippi State has won 14.
“They’re really good at home,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “They score like 85 points a game at home. They shoot 40 percent from the three at home.”
In conference play, the two team stack up evenly with both having a 2-3 record against in-conference opponents. The teams have also lost to the same three SEC opponents this season as both came up short against Ole Miss, South Carolina and Kentucky.
For the Tigers, those losses to Kentucky and South Carolina came back-to-back and on the heel of losing center Austin Wiley to a lower leg injury that will keep him out for a couple of weeks. Pearl said that Wiley is progressing and will travel with the team but will not play.
In those same two losses, both Anfernee McLemore and Horace Spencer have fouled out, and their foul trouble is something that the Tigers need to prevent if they want to win this game.
“You know, we've talked about it,” McLemore said. “We have to be a little smarter, just pick and choose, you know, if we do foul, that it's not an and-one. Just things like that.”
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This Mississippi State team is extremely competitive offensively with players like Quinndary Weatherspoon, who is averaging 16.8 points per game, good for fourth highest in the conference, and Lamar Peters, who Pearl described as one of the most improved shooters in the league.
“Its a very, very strong team,” Pearl said.
“Picked in the top three or four, I think, in all preseason,” Pearl said, referring to the SEC preseason rankings. "Along with Tennessee, Kentucky and us, and maybe a few others, I think. Mississippi State was a team that everybody recognized was gonna windup being in there at the end of the year.”
With all the different weapons the Bulldogs bring to the match up, Auburn knows it is facing a tough opponent in their hopes for a win.
“They are tough to guard,” McLemore said. “I’m expecting them to try and drive the ball. They shoot pretty well.”
The Tigers are going into Starkville knowing they have something to prove to their fans. The Bulldogs want to keep living up to preseason expectations, and a win against Auburn would further cement their place in the SEC.
“We're expecting to be in an intense game, a fast-paced game, and hopefully, well we're gonna come out with a 'W,'” McLemore said.
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