Lucas Hargrove scored a game-high 24 points but Auburn committed 25 turnovers in a 73-62 loss to Missouri State on Monday as the Bears defeated an SEC opponent for the second straight season opener at JQH Arena.
"I thought Missouri State played awfully well in their home opener," said Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. "I thought it was pretty evident in the game our turnovers were the big difference in the game. Eight assists and 25 turnovers will get you beat. Shooting the basketball 5-of-24 from 3-point range will get you beat on most nights, especially on the road."
Missouri State (1-0) had a 7-4 lead almost four minutes into the game, but Auburn went on a 14-4 run over the next seven minutes to take an 18-11 advantage on a Hargrove 3-pointer with 9:09 left in the half. Trailing 20-14, the Bears scored 10 straight points to re-take the lead at 26-22, capped off with a Kyle Weems 3-pointer from the corner 6:12 before the half.
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A Hargrove dunk brought the Tigers to within 26-24, but the Bears reeled off six consecutive points to take their largest lead of the half at 32-24 at the four minute mark, closing out an 18-4 run that had the crowd of 7,213 in a frenzy.
Freshman Earnest Ross drained a huge 3-pointer from the corner and another long range shot with his toes on the line on back-to-back possessions to keep Auburn close at 32-27.
Trailing 36-31 at the half, Auburn (1-1) committed 15 turnovers in the first 20 minutes that led to 11 Missouri State points. The Bears had 10 turnovers with the Tigers converting for eight points. Hargrove, who only had five points in the season opener vs. Niagara, led Auburn with 11 points in the first half alone.
"We had too many turnovers," said Hargrove. "In a game like this, we really missed Vot (Barber), Rasheem (Barrett) and Tez (Robertson) and seniors with experience. We have a lot of inexperienced players on the team and as seniors, we have to step it up and pick up the slack."
Leading 41-36, Missouri State used a seven point run to take a 48-36 lead with 13:43 remaining. The Bears took their largest lead of the game at 65-51 on another long range 3-pointer from Adam Leonard, who led Missouri State with 14 points, making 4-of-7 shots from 3-point range. Missouri State defeated Arkansas in the first game in the arena's history last season.
"Adam Leonard made some key shots, and a couple were deep on ones we defended," said Lebo. "He was an emphasis to not let him get as many shots off. I thought at times he made some incredibly tough threes four steps behind the line, and he made some timely ones.
"We had a couple of fast break plays that we didn't convert on. We had a couple four on ones and three on ones and made bad plays. They scored layups on them and that's the difference in the basketball game. Missouri State defensively was solid and took us out of what we wanted to do."
DeWayne Reed added 12 points for Auburn but had seven turnovers while Frankie Sullivan added nine points and Ross seven. Missouri State had balanced scoring with six players scoring at least seven points.
Missouri State outshot Auburn 42.6 percent (26-of-61) to 40.7 percent (22-of-54) from the field and 31.6 percent (6-of-19) to 20.8 percent (5-of-24) from 3-point range. The Tigers were 13-of-22 from the foul line (59.1 percent) while the Bears were 15-of-20 (75.0 percent). Missouri State outrebounded Auburn 38-33.
Auburn returns to action as it plays UCF (1-0) Friday in the Glenn Wilkes Classic second round in Daytona Beach, Fa., at 5 pm Central. The Tigers will then play IUPUI Saturday and North Carolina State Sunday.