basketball Edit

Tigers to title game

NASHVILLE | Mississippi State had the momentum, cutting Auburn's advantage to one with 5:01 left in Saturday's semifinal at the SEC Tournament.

An unlikely hero came through for the No. 12 Tigers.

Dylan Cardwell's dunk at 4:40 gave the Tigers a three-point lead. The center then deflected a three-point attempt from Josh Hubbard, raced down the court and received a pass for another dunk to spread the advantage back to four. Chad Baker-Mazara hit a jumper on the next possession.


"It was a great, great opportunity just to show the fans that we're here and we might've gave 'em a little run, but at the end of the day, basketball was a game of runs and it was just a chance to stop their run and stop getting them the momentum because their crowd started to get into it," Cardwell said.

Johni Broome might have been the most excited for Cardwell following the sequence.

"Got me off my feet," he said. "The reason why I'm okay with being on the bench is because I know Dylan's behind me and I love when he's on the court because we have a great relationship. So watching him get a dunk, go and get a block and then get a dunk again, that just got me on my feet, makes me happy."

The Bulldogs weren't done yet. Hubbard hit two free throws and a layup to cut the lead to three before Baker-Mazara hit a clutch three from the corner to double the advantage.

"I was literally about to race and bro jumped and we just took a side dribble, shot it, and I've been practicing that shot my whole life," Baker-Mazara said. "So I was confident enough that I could hit it and it went in. So I felt like that gave us a big momentum, changed the game and all

Auburn used some clutch free throws in the last two minutes to pull away for the 73-66 victory.

"It was a rock fight because both teams were playing really, really physical," Bruce Pearl said. "That's Mississippi State's MO. Our MO is playing hard all the time, not always quite as physical. They beat us on the boards, but we hung in there. We hung in there. I thought that was really important."

State came out punching the Tigers in the mouth, holding Auburn to just four points in the first 5:48 to take an eight-point lead. A Chad Baker-Mazara layup gave Auburn its first lead of the game at the 8:44 mark. The two teams traded leads the rest of the half before a Jaylin Williams drive and bucket at the buzzer tied the game at halftime.

The Bulldogs took advantage of 11 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes, scoring 10 second-chance points. State committed 10 turnovers in the first half, while Auburn had eight.

Chris Moore was the one giving the halftime speech to his teammates.

"Came in here and C-Mo cursed us out and said, 'Look, pull your britches up,'" Cardwell said. "That's it. That's all it took, because at the end of the day we're 20 minutes away from making history. Why are we giving up rebounds? Like, why? That's what C-Mo pretty much said and we just stuck to the game plan."

Baker-Mazara led the Tigers with 14 points, while Jaylin Williams and Denver Jones finished with 13.

Auburn takes on the winner of the Florida/Texas A&M semifinal tomorrow at noon CT in the SEC Tournament Championship game.