By Gene Phelps
NEW ORLEANS Auburn guard Lance Weems hopes the third time is a charm when the Tigers play No. 25-ranked Mississippi State at 2:15 p.m. today in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament.
“We know going in that we’ll have a fight on our hands,” said Weems, whose team lost its two regular season games to the Bulldogs. “But I do think we matchup well with them.”
Mississippi State (19-7) defeated Auburn 67-51 last Saturday to clinch its second consecutive SEC Western Division championship. The Bulldogs needed overtime to nip the Tigers 78-75 Feb. 4 at Auburn.
Auburn (19-11) won the right to play State a third time by rallying from a 6-point halftime deficit to defeat Vanderbilt 68-65 Thursday in the opening round at the Louisiana Superdome.
Mississippi State coach Richard Williams, whose record is 1-9 in the SEC postseason tournament, expressed his concern earlier this week in playing and beating Auburn a third time.
“It is very difficult to beat a team three times in one year,” he said.
And Auburn always makes things difficult for Mississippi State and its All-SEC guard Darryl Wilson. The Tigers usually run a box-and-one or a triangle-and-two to stop him.
In the OT win at Auburn, Wilson scored 11 of his 14 points in the extra period. In last week’s win, he scored just 11 points. In the two games he is only 6-of-17 from the field.
“They use a box-and-one with a lot of help,” Wilson said. “It’s a team game and they play as a team. They want to keep the other team’s best shooter from scoring.
“But we won the two games and that’s all that matters. The other guys have been able to step up.”
Auburn and Weems also have the advantage of having played a tournament game.
“We have been on the court and they are starting off fresh,” Weems said. “They’ll have to adjust, but I’m sure that won’t be hard.”