FINAL: MSU 85, Auburn 66

The buzz: Auburn was as bad as advertised, but MSU also came out looking sharp, obviously bolstered by Thursday’s win at Ole Miss. Ravern Johnson found his long-lost shooting touch, but everybody got in on the act, with big John Riek logging some productive first-half minutes. By the 15:46 mark of the first half, every State starter was in the scoring column. MSU is now 10-7 overall and 2-1 in SEC play and has its first two-game winning streak since winning three in a row Dec. 12-14.

Turning point: When Auburn got off the bus. Or rather, didn’t get off the bus. MSU raced out to a 22-3 lead by the 11:29 mark. Auburn (7-10, 0-3) went scoreless for nearly six minutes. The Tigers got within 12 in the second half, but Riley Benock shut down that rally with a 3-pointer, and the lead swelled back to 20-plus points.

MVP: Give it to Johnson, who had his seventh 20-point game of the season. The Bulldogs have desperately needed him to get back on track, and now’s a great time, what with the rest of the January schedule including games against Georgia, Vanderbilt and Florida.

Key stats: Auburn shot 35.8 percent from the field (25.0 percent first half); MSU shot 62.0 percent for the game; MSU had 10 blocked shots.

MSU leaders: Johnson 20 points (8-15 FGs, 2-6 on 3s, 4 rebounds; Renardo Sidney 15 points (6-12 FGs), 6 rebounds, 3 assists; Benock 11 points (4-5 FGs); Jalen Steele 10 points; Dee Bost 10 points, 8 assists.

Auburn leaders: Earnest Ross 15 points (5-17 FGs); Kenny Gabriel 14 points, 7 rebounds; Chris Denson 12 points; Josh Wallace 10 points.

Highlight reel: Plenty to choose from, perhaps one of Sidney’s sweet assists? How about this sequence: Wendell Lewis stuffed a dunk attempt, then on the ensuing fast break Bost lobbed an alley-oop to Johnson for the flush, giving MSU a 58-41 lead with 11:26 left in the game.

Bottom line: This was a game MSU was supposed to win handily, and it did. Sidney was solid all-around, contributing even when he wasn’t scoring (12 of his points came in the second half). Now the Bulldogs get to rest until Saturday’s trip to Georgia, and they’ll head to Athens feeling pretty good about things.

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