A large crowd filled the Hump Coliseum as Mississippi State University men's basketball (13-4 (1-3) SEC) took on No. 22 Auburn University (16-1 (3-0) SEC) on Saturday afternoon.
Defensive showings by Lamar Peters and Aric Holman were key in preserving the lead for MSU in the first half, as they went into the break up 35-24. State was able to hold Auburn to 26.7 percent shooting. Head coach Ben Howland felt it was the best his defense had played all year.
“I’m really proud of how hard we played, I thought the first half was spectacular,” Howland said. “Our defense was the best we played all year. They shot 26 percent in the first half, the best scoring team in the conference.”
Abdul Adu, a freshman forward from Lagos, Nigeria, felt Auburn was able to stay consistent in their shooting in the second half as the Tigers fought back, eventually taking the lead with ten minutes to go in the second half.
“They were just consistent with what they were doing in the first half which was take shots,” Adu said. “The first half we did a better job of playing defense and being aggressive the whole time. In the second half, we were more laid back, we have the same intensity as we had the first half.”
The second half was also a struggle offensively for the Bulldogs, as they had a four minute scoring drought, and had costly turnovers down the stretch. Auburn capitalized on those weakenesses, scoring 19 points off of turnovers.
“I felt their pressure defensively picked up in the second half, and that pushed us out further," Howland said. “We need to keep being aggressive, and keep making good decisions. We are trying to score with two guys on us, instead of stopping.”
It was a battle in the paint for the whole 40 minutes, as Ado fought for every point and rebound in his double-double. He finished the game with 10 points and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes of play.
“I’m just doing anything possible to get my team to win, be it rebounds, be it scoring, block shots or run the floor,” Adu said. “I’m just trying to do anything possible to help my team win, but I guess a double-double isn’t enough. I guess I’ll probably have to do more to help my team.”
Howland felt Adu is doing a good job, and the team needs to use his talents more. He also felt the blown lead from the first half is a result of poor play at both ends of the court. This is the second in three games MSU lost 76-68.
“He isn’t turning the ball over, and he is making good decisions. We need to continue to try and play through him more,” Howland said. “I think we can learn how to protect leads a little better. Today it was early in the second half when we let them get back in it, and it’s at both ends.”
Mississippi State will play the Vanderbilt Commodores January 16 in Starkville, and the game will be on the SEC network.