BASKETBALL: No. 22 Mississippi State (18-5, 5-3 SEC)

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

Looking back: After a midweek bye, MSU was back home Saturday and held off Auburn, 91-88, in the first of two meetings between the teams this season.
Looking ahead: State continues its three-game homestand with Ole Miss on Thursday (6 p.m., ESPN2) and Georgia on Saturday (12:30 p.m., SEC Network).
Who’s hot: Coming off the bench has been good for sophomore Jalen Steele. Since being taken out of the starting lineup, he’s shot 55.2 percent from 3-point range (16 of 29). For the season, Steele is shooting 39.8 percent from behind the arc.
Who’s not: MSU’s guards have continued to be vulnerable defensively, whether it’s Florida’s Bradley Beal knocking down outside shots or Auburn’s Varez Ward slicing into the lane to score or create easy buckets. Perimeter defense has been an issue in several games, and an offensively challenged team like Auburn scoring 88 points is not a good sign.
RPI watch: The Bulldogs have risen a bit to No. 32 nationally in the RPI rankings, according to RealTimeRPI.com. Looking ahead, Ole Miss is 52nd, while Georgia is 126th.
Bottom line: Home SEC games haven’t been easy for State, but it is 4-0 in such contests. Auburn was a tougher out than expected, and MSU needed every one of the dozen 3-point shots it made. MSU can’t expect to shoot that well every game – well, except maybe for Steele – and has to step up the defensive effort.

Bulldogs
November
N7 Eastern Kentucky W, 76-66
N9 Akron L, 68-58
N12 South Alabama W, 80-65
N17 n-Texas Aamp&M W, 69-60
N18 n-Arizona W, 67-57
N21 Louisiana-Monroe W, 78-63
N25 UT Martin W, 76-50
N27 North Texas W, 82-59
December
D3 West Virginia W, 75-62
D10 Troy W, 106-68
D13 Florida Atlantic W, 75-68
D17 at Detroit W, 80-75
D22 1-Northwestern St. W, 82-67
D28 2-Baylor L, 54-52
D31 Utah State W, 66-64
January
J7 *at Arkansas L, 98-88
J12 *Tennessee W, 62-58
J14 *Alabama W, 56-52
J18 *at Ole Miss L, 65-68
J21 *at Vanderbilt W, 78-77
J25 *LSU W, 76-71
J28 *at Florida L, 69-57
February
F4 *Auburn W, 91-88
F9 *Ole Miss [ESPN/2] 6 p.m.
F11 *Georgia [SEC] 12:30 p.m.
F14 *at LSU [ESPNU] 8 p.m.
F18 *at Auburn [FSN] 7 p.m.
F21 *Kentucky [ESPN] 8 p.m.
F25 *at Alabama [ESPN/2] 5 p.m.
F29 *at South Carolina [SEC] 7 p.m.
March
M3 *Arkansas [FSN] 4 p.m.
n-Neutral court, 1-at Jackson 2-at Dallas