State beats Auburn

Published 1:09 am Sunday, February 11, 2007

Charles Rhodes and Mississippi State weren’t letting this one slip away.

Rhodes scored 25 points and started a big second-half run with eight in a row, leading Mississippi State to a 91-83 victory over Auburn on Saturday that ended the Bulldogs’ nearly two-year Southeastern Conference road losing streak.

It was also a nice way to bounce back from an 80-79 loss at Alabama after allowing a layup in the final seconds.

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“I was concerned if our team could bounce back,” coach Rick Stansbury said. “I was concerned if we had enough toughness and maturity to respond to a very good Auburn team that desperately needed a win also.

“Our kids found a way to win.”

Powered by their two biggest stars, the Bulldogs (13-10, 4-6 Southeastern Conference) snapped a 12-game league losing streak on the road dating back to March 1, 2005.

Jamont Gordon scored 19 points and had six assists for Mississippi State, which had five players score in double figures and clamped down defensively after letting the Tigers (14-12, 4-7) shoot 68 percent in the first half.

“This gets the monkey off our backs,” said Rhodes, who had only eight points against the Crimson Tide. “We have been waiting on it for a long time.”

The Bulldogs have won 11 of the past 13 meetings.

Auburn took its biggest lead, at 57-49, early in the second half. Then, Rhodes, who scored the Bulldogs’ first eight points of the game, took over again.

He scored eight in a row and had 11 points during a 19-4 run that gave Mississippi State a 68-61 lead with 11:24 left that Auburn could never wipe out. Piotr Stelmach capped the spurt with his second 3-pointer of the season.

Stansbury liked seeing the big game from Rhodes in another tight situation.

“I was hoping we’d have it and we needed it,” the coach said. “To win on the road you need your best player to play like that.”

The Tigers, who have lost three straight games, cut it to 77-74 on Quantez Robertson’s drive with 3:09 to play but that was the closest Auburn could come.

Rhodes scored on a putback and Barry Stewart hit a 3-pointer from the left corner off a drive and dish by Ben Hansbrough, making it 82-75 with 1:52 left.

The Bulldogs made 7-of-9 free throws after that to maintain the cushion.

While Mississippi State solved its SEC road woes, Auburn never found an answer for Rhodes and Gordon. Rhodes made 9-of-14 shots and all seven free throw attempts.

“They had two players that just whipped us and controlled the game,” Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. “Gordon on the front was really good and Rhodes down low. I was worried about how we were going to try to defend them. Rhodes was a man among boys in there today. We just couldn’t stop him.”

Stewart finished with 12 points, Hansbrough had 11 and Dietric Slater 10 for Mississippi State.

Josh Dollard led Auburn’s five double-figure scorers with 17 points and eight rebounds. Barrett scored 15, Frank Tolbert 14 and Quantez Robertson 13.

Auburn’s leading scorer, Quan Prowell, had just six points, half his season average.

The Bulldogs scored 15 points on second-chance shots, compared to Auburn’s one.

“(The lead) evaporated quickly and we just couldn’t stop them,” said Robertson, who had six assists. “When they did miss one they got two and three attempts on the offensive glass. Rhodes is really good. He and Gordon just dominated the game.”

Reserve Archie Miaway, who had one basket in his first nine SEC games, scored 10 points, all in the first half.

The Tigers managed only a 47-43 halftime lead despite their hot shooting, then hit just 38 percent after the half.

The shooters cooled off, but Auburn also struggled defensively.

“We have to be able to guard the ball,” Lebo said. “All they did was look us in the eye and say were going to beat you one-on-one or throw it in to Rhodes. They street-balled us and whipped us.”