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March 9, 2013

Tigers fall at MSU


STARKVILLE, Miss. | Chris Denson finished with career-highs in points (24) and rebounds (nine) while Rob Chubb added a season-high 18 points, but that wasn't enough during the Tigers' 74-71 loss at Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon.

The loss assured Auburn of a last-place finish in the Southeastern Conference standings.

Denson missed a runner from the right baseline for the win the game in regulation, while Frankie Sullivan's game-tying 3-point attempt in overtime missed with six seconds remaining.

Fred Thomas' 3-pointer gave the Bulldogs a 71-69 lead with 2:14 left in the extra period. A layup from Allen Payne tied it at 71 with an assist from Denson on a back-door play with 53.9 seconds to go. Chubb fouled out with 34 seconds left, and Craig Sword gave State the lead for good at 73-71 on a pair of foul shots. Denson's runner on the other end missed from the left baseline.

After an Auburn time out with 11.8 seconds remaining, Sullivan's 3-point attempt missed with six seconds to go to seal it for Mississippi State.

"It was a tough loss," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "You have to make shots. You have to make plays. We had our opportunities. We broke down defensively when we needed to get stops. They were tougher than us today, and they got the win.

"Chris got to the basket and not only that, he rebounded the ball well. Chris was doing a lot of everything for us on the floor."

The Tigers fell behind 12-5 early, but Auburn built a quick retort to gain the lead with 8:46 remaining in the first half.

Auburn opened the second half by scoring the first four points, but State answered with a 13-6 run of its own to create some separation. Still, Denson's ability to penetrate toward the basket and create advantageous situations helped the Tigers answer.

Sullivan's 3-pointer and Denson's circus and-one gave Auburn a 54-51 lead with 8:58 left, but State hit its fourth 3-poitner of the second half, the second from Tyson Cunningham, to tie it at 54. In all, Saturday's game featured 17 lead changes and 14 ties.

Another Denson convetional 3-point play gave Auburn a 63-62 lead with 2:13 to play as he scored 14 of the Tigers' last 19 points. Sullivan gave Auburn a 65-62 lead with 28 seconds left, but Borchert drained a 25-foot 3-pointer to tie it at 65 with 17.5 seconds left. Denson's runner from the right baseline fell just short on the final possession of regulation.

Colin Borchert finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead Mississippi State.

State outshot Auburn 41.2 percent to 40.3 percent from the floor, but the Bulldogs were 8-of-17 from 3-point range. Auburn was 3-of-17. The Tigers had a 46-28 edge in paint points.

Auburn (9-22, 3-15) resumes play 9 p.m. Wednesday against Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament. The winner plays sixth-seeded Missouri in the second round on Thursday at 9 pm.

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