By David Brandt/The Associated Press
STARKVILLE — Arnett Moultrie scored 21 points, Renardo Sidney added 17 and No. 22 Mississippi State beat Auburn 91-88 on Saturday.
Dee Bost hit three consecutive 3-pointers to open the second half, turning Mississippi State’s 44-43 halftime deficit into a 52-44 lead. The Bulldogs would never trail again, shooting 60.4 percent (29 of 48), including 63.2 percent (12 of 19) from 3-point range.
Bost finished with 15 points, make 4 of 6 from beyond the 3-point line while also adding seven assists. Jalen Steele added 13 points while Rodney Hood scored 11.
Bost’s three consecutive 3-pointers to open the second half that turned Mississippi State’s 44-43 halftime deficit into a 52-44 lead. The Bulldogs never trailed again, shooting a torrid 60.4 percent (29 of 48) from the field, including 63.2 percent (12 of 19) from 3-point range.
That kind of shooting touch usually indicates an easy game. But Mississippi State still had to sweat out the final minutes due to some missed free throws and defensive lapses.
“We got the ball around the hole a bunch and we got fouled a bunch,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “We just didn’t make our (free throws) and get separation like we needed to.”
Mississippi State (18-5, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) has won five of its past seven games.
Auburn (13-10, 3-6) was led by Varez Ward, who scored 24 points off the bench. Kenny Gabriel added 22.
“We made shots but we didn’t defend,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. “Hopefully this kind of output will lead to more confidence and spark more offensive production like this. But we can’t give up 60 percent shooting to win a game.”
Mississippi State got off to a good start on its three-game homestand that continues Thursday against rival Ole Miss. But Auburn made things interesting in the final minutes — and Mississippi State seemed almost intent on helping the Tigers back into the game.
Hood got a technical foul while Bost and Moultrie fouled Auburn shooters on 3-point attempts. Bost’s foul was particularly harmful, because it meant he fouled out with 3:26 remaining. The Bulldogs don’t have another healthy true point guard, making do with Brian Bryant and Steele handling the responsibilities.
Then there was the Bulldogs’ sometimes shaky defense.
“Offensively, Auburn can get on a roll, and they got on a roll tonight,” Stansbury said. “They got to the free throw line against us more than any other team (this season) and that’s a bad stat.”
Read more about this game in Sunday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.