When the Bulldogs locked up with the Auburn Tigers (12-9, 2-5) the first time, Mississippi State had won 12 in a row at home and faced a team with a terrible road record. The script has changed a bit for their second match-up, slated for today at 7 pm at Auburn Arena in a game that may have a significant impact on their post-season hopes.
The Bulldogs are limping into this match-up, both in the record book and on the floor. Mississippi State has dropped its last two games, both in overtime, and Renardo Sindey and Arnett Moultrie will play, even though both have been limited this week. With Wendell Lewis being the only other big man that has seen significant playing time this season, the Bulldogs could face serious depth issues if either player cannot complete the matchup.
Auburn, with players such as Rob Chubb, can play a physical brand of basketball. Kenny Wallace can also work on Moultrie and Sidney, and the senior averages over two blocked shots per contest.
With the injuries to the big men, one would think that tonight, the Bulldogs will try to run their offense through Dee Bost. In the last meeting between the two teams, Bost scored 15 points and dished seven assists before fouling out in the contest.
For the Tigers, Frankie Sullivan and Kenny Gabriel both average over 12 points a game, and with seven rebounds a game, Gabriel leads the Tigers on the boards. In their last match up, Gabriel scored 22 and pulled down eleven boards, and Varez Ward came off the bench to score 24 points.
In that game, Arnett Moultrie scored 21 points and collected seven rebounds, and Brian Bryant, who was pressed into point guard duty, scored seven points, grabbed seven boards and dished nine assists.
Mississippi State won the last match-up 91-88, but that seems like it was a long time ago.
Looking at the bigger picture this game is vitally important for Mississippi State in terms of SEC standings and trying to stay off of the bubble. In recent projects, Joe Lunardi has the Bulldogs as an eight seed, slated to play West Virginia in a regular season rematch. Jerry Palm has the Bulldogs as a nine seed, playing Memphis in the first round.
One would think a loss to Auburn could put the Bulldogs squarely on the bubble.
Going into today, Mississippi State is fourth in the SEC and would receive a first round bye. However, they are tied with Tennessee at 6-5 in the conference, and Arkansas, LSU, Alabama, and Ole Miss lurk at 5-6. The Bulldogs split with Ole Miss and LSU, and they can do no better than split with Arkansas. Mississippi State can sweep Alabama.
You can watch the game on FSN.