AUBURN, Ala. — The trio of redshirt sophomore forward Tolu Smith, redshirt sophomore guard D.J. Stewart Jr. and sophomore guard Iverson Molinar combined to score 56 points, but the Mississippi State men’s basketball team fell to Auburn 78-71 Saturday inside Auburn Arena to end the regular season.
The Bulldogs fall to 14-13 (8-10 SEC), while the Tigers improve to 13-14 (7-11 SEC). Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl picked up his 600th coaching victory with the win.
Smith finished with 20 points and nine rebounds for MSU, while Stewart added 19 points and Molinar added 17.
The Bulldogs shot 27-for-60 (45.0%) from the field, including 2-for-10 (20.0%) from 3-point range. They made 15-for-24 (62.5%) from the free-throw line.
The Tigers shot 27-for-62 (43.5%), including 11-for-33 (33.3%) from 3-point range. They made 13 of 15 (86.7%) free throws.
Auburn sophomore guard Allen Flanigan led the Tigers with 22 points, 17 of which came in the second half. Sophomore forward Jaylin Williams scored 18, while junior guard Jamal Johnson knocked down four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points. Freshman forward JT Thor had 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Tigers jumped out to an early 6-0 lead and led for most of the first half. A jumper by Smith made it a two-point deficit at 14-12 with 11:24 left in the first half.
The Bulldogs finished the half on a 10-2 run to lead 34-32 behind 13 points from Smith.
MSU led by five points at 44-39 with 16:42 left in the game when Molinar knocked down a 3-pointer. However, Auburn freshman center Dylan Cardwell grabbed a deflected inbounds pass and drained a 3-point shot to pull the Tigers within one point at 46-45.
MSU’s last lead of the game was at 55-54 with 9:48 left when Stewart hit a runner in the paint.
A Flanigan 3-pointer put Auburn ahead 67-61 before his dunk gave the Tigers a 72-65 lead with 1:16 to play.
The Bulldogs did not have a late-game run in them as they fell 78-71.
The Bulldogs now turn their attention to next week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament where No. 9 seed MSU will face No. 8 seed Kentucky (9-15, 8-9 SEC) at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday.
The game will tip off at 11 a.m. CT and will air on SEC Network. The winner advances to Friday’s quarterfinal round to take on No. 1 seed and eighth-ranked Alabama.