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SEC MEN'S TOURNAMENT - 1ST ROUND - Bridgestone Arena - Nashville, TN

Auburn tops MSU 74-68 to advance

3116 days ago
Associated Press
Photo: Jonathan Palmer

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- K.C. Ross-Miller scored 21 points, and the Auburn Tigers beat Mississippi State 74-68 Wednesday night in the opener of the Southeastern Conference tournament snapping a couple different skids.

The 13th-seeded Tigers (13-19) had lost six straight coming into the postseason, and they hadn't won in the SEC tournament since 2009. Now they will play No. 5 seed Texas A&M on Thursday afternoon.

KT Harrell added 19 points for Auburn, and reserve Alex Thompson scored a career-high 16 points, hitting all three 3-pointers. Craig Sword scored 21 points for No. 12-seeded Mississippi State (13-19). I.J. Ready added 18.

Mississippi State rallied after trailing by 11 points and last led 65-64 on a dunk by Sword with 4:17 left. The Bulldogs hit only one more shot down the stretch as Auburn finished the game on a 10-3 run.

Auburn took control right before the buzzer at the end of the first half. Harrell ended a 10-2 run by Mississippi State with a 3 to pull the Tigers within 36-34 at halftime. Auburn picked up where it left off, outscoring the Bulldogs 22-9 to start the second half.

Ross-Miller hit two free throws capping the spurt with 11:37 left, giving Auburn its biggest lead at 56-45. The Bulldogs finally started clicking again and reeled off a 16-3 run with Ready's jumper putting Mississippi State up 61-59 with 7:09 to go.

The teams swapped the lead back and forth before Harrell's layup with 3:45 left gave Auburn the lead for good. Ross-Miller scored the final five points for Auburn.



Auburn: The Tigers last won Feb. 14 at Georgia. ... Their last SEC tournament win came against Florida in 2009. .. First-year coach Bruce Pearl improved to 6-3 all-time against Mississippi State and 7-6 all-time in this tournament.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs hadn't played Auburn in this tournament since 1996 when they won the title, and they reached the championship the last time the SEC tournament was played at Bridgestone Arena in 2010. ... They finish 4-7 in SEC games decided by six points or less. ... They also went 10-6 when leading at the half with all six losses in SEC games.

MASON PLAYS: Auburn guard Antoine Mason played for the first time since Feb. 24. His father, former NBA forward Anthony Mason died at age 48 on Feb. 28. Mason is Auburn's second-leading scorer averaging 15.1 points. He rejoined the Tigers on Sunday and scored four points.


The Tigers are the SEC's best at getting to the free throw line, and they got Mississippi State into serious foul trouble early with five Bulldogs with two fouls each by halftime. Sword wound up playing only nine minutes of the first half after getting his second. That gave Auburn a huge edge at the free throw line for the game (22 of 34) compared to Mississippi State (15 of 19).


Auburn: Texas A&M on Thursday afternoon.

Mississippi State: Season completed.