By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury felt like his Bulldogs played the role of snake charmer for a little while on Thursday night.
Now he hopes they won’t be bitten by struggling Auburn tonight.
Having lost four of their last five games – all on the road – before a 71-63 win over Ole Miss, the Bulldogs meet the Tigers in the second game of a three-date homestand that concludes with No. 3 Kentucky on Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs (17-7, 5-4 SEC) needed to beat Ole Miss to remain within striking distance of Western Division-leading Arkansas, and to do that, they needed to contain Ole Miss point guard Chris Warren.
“You’re not ever going to shut Ole Miss down, but Warren, their leading scorer … he’s the head of that snake,” Stansbury said. “He got three points, 1-for-9, 1-for-7 from 3. That was huge.”
The tipoff tonight against Auburn is 6 p.m., and the game will be televised by Fox Sports South.
MSU will need a similar perimeter defensive effort against the Tigers (12-12, 3-6), who lead the SEC in 3-point attempts with 606.
Though Auburn has notched just three SEC wins, the Tigers come in with a bit of momentum. They pushed Arkansas to overtime in Fayetteville and on Wednesday defeated Georgia 83-62, the most decisive victory against the Eastern Division Bulldogs.
“They’re a good team, and we’ve got a quick turnaround,” Stansbury said. “They’re a hard matchup for us.”
Placement of the matchup makes it even more challenging. The Bulldogs are coming off an emotional win against their in-state rival, a game they needed to reverse course in the division. They also will have an eye on Kentucky if Stansbury can’t keep them focused.
“The Ole Miss game was huge, a packed crowd, the emotion of it … We can sweep Ole Miss, but if we don’t beat Auburn it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have the same impact. We have to defend homecourt,” Stansbury said.
MSU players gave the home fans reason to stand and cheer early.
The Rebels had a turnover by Zach Graham and a missed shot by Terrance Henry on their first two trips. The Bulldogs converted with a 3-pointer after each miscue, the first by Barry Stewart, the second by Dee Bost.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy was calling time out before 60 seconds had run off the clock.
“The crowd got behind us, our bench was up and everybody was into it,” Stewart said. “We knew our backs were against the wall, and we stepped up, but that’s just one game. We’ve got two more coming quick, starting with Auburn.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Auburn at Mississippi State
– TV: Fox Sports South
– Radio: MSU Network
– Series: Auburn leads 69-62.
– Last Game: Auburn 76-58, Feb. 28, 2009 in Starkville.
– Coaches: Auburn– Jeff Lebo (208-151, 12th year; 93-88, sixth year at Auburn); Mississippi State – Rick Stansbury (248-135, 12 seasons, all at MSU)
– Notes: MSU’s Jarvis Varnado is 22 blocked shots from becoming the NCAA career leader. … Varnado has 514 career blocked shots. … Varnado is two rebounds shy of 1,000 for his career. He will become the third MSU player to reach that level. … Barry Stewart is tied for 11th on the school’s career scoring list with Charles Rhodes at 1,451 points. … Stewart needs seven 3-pointers tie Darryl Wilson’s school record of 258.
Mississippi State (17-7, 5-4 SEC)
F – Ravern Johnson 6-7 Jr. 14.1 ppg
F – Kodi Augustus 6-8 Jr. 8.9 ppg
C – Jarvis Varnado 6-9 Sr. 13.4 ppg
G – Dee Bost 6-2 So. 5.3 apg
G – Barry Stewart 6-3 Sr. 11.4 ppg
Top reserves: G Phil Turner, F Romero Osby, G Riley Benock
Auburn (12-12, 3-6 SEC)
F – Lucas Hargrove 6-6 Sr. 13.7 ppg
F – Johnnie Lett 6-8 Sr. 2.3 ppg
G – DeWayne Reed 6-1 Sr. 15.8 ppg
G – Frankie Sullivan 6-1 So. 13.3 ppg
G – Tay Waller 6-2 Sr. 13.1 ppg
C Brendon Knox
G Earnest Ross
G Andre Malone