AUBURN, Ala. – Mississippi State sophomore I.J. Ready saw enough of a late-game run by Auburn Wednesday night.
Ready halted the run with a critical 3-point basket and followed that with four straight free throw as MSU grabbed its first win in the Auburn Arena with a 78-71 win over Auburn in a Southeastern Conference men’s basketball contest.
MSU snapped a 22-game road losing streak. For the Bulldogs, it was their first road win since a 72-61 win at Georgia on Jan. 12, 2013. MSU also halted a five-game slide on the Auburn campus, winning here for the first time since 2008. Auburn saw a seven-game home winning streak snapped with the defeat.
Fresh off the heels of a 57-54 home win over Vanderbilt Saturday, MSU it back-to-back league wins of the first time since consecutive home wins over Texas A&M and Auburn last season.
MSU is now 9-9 overall and 2-3 in league play, while Auburn is 10-8 and 2-3.
The Bulldogs scored 21 points off 12 turnovers by the Tigers. MSU also won by holding Auburn to 40.3 percent shooting from the field.
MSU was led by Gavin Ware, who posted his 11th career double-double. Ware had 16 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. Ready matched a career high with a team-high 18 points. Craig Sword and Fred Thomas were also in double figures with 10 points apiece.
“We did what we wanted to do defensively in the first half,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “In the second half, it got away from us for a little while. We knew they would put their head down and drive and it is hard to defend a team playing out of desperation. But we came out with a sense of urgency ourselves and really played with the mind-set and mental toughness we needed to play with to win a game on the road in this league.”
In a game full of runs, Auburn closed within 67-65 after a 14-2 run before Ready hit his 3-point basket with 1:34 left in regulation. Ready then hit four free throws, while Thomas did the same.
MSU erased an early 7-0 deficit with a 12-0 run. A Thomas 3-pointer extended the lead to 15-10. Auburn then scored on back-to-back possessions to take a 21-17 lead.
MSU followed with another 12-0 run. Travis Daniels had a putback basket and Sword helped cap off the run with a drive to the basket.
The Bulldogs held the Tigers to 26.9 percent shooting in the opening half and led 31-22 at the intermission.
A capacity crowd was energized after the home team closed within six points at 33-27 in the opening minute of the second half. Again, the Maroon and White put together another run. This time a dunk and two free throws by Roquez Johnson capped an 11-0 run and MSU led 44-27 with 16:38 left.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 26 of 56 shots from the field (46.4 percent), 5 of 15 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 21 of 31 shots from the foul line (67.7 percent). The Tigers hit 25 of 62 shots from the field (40.3 percent), 8 of 26 shots from 3-point range (30.8 percent) and 13 of 23 shots from the foul line (56.5 percent).
“On offense, we did a really good job against their press,” Ray said. “We wanted to throw the ball deep and get some easy baskets. Gavin had a great night and did the things that we need him to do every night. I.J. is such a calming, steady influence out there. You know he is going to make the plays you need him to make.”
MSU held a 44-33 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 11 assists and 17 turnovers, while the Tigers had 11 assists and 12 turnovers.
Auburn received 22 points from KT Harrell, 16 points from Cinmeon Bowers and 10 points from Antoine Mason. Bowers also had a double-double with 17 rebounds.
For MSU, Sword had three steals and five assists, while Ready had eight rebounds.
MSU returns home for a Saturday afternoon matchup with Georgia. The SEC’s “Battle of the Bulldogs” will tip at 2 p.m. from Humphrey Coliseum and be televised by Fox Sports Net South.
(From MSU Media Relations)