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Men's Basketball
NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 16 - Auburn’s Dylan Cardwell (44) during the game between the #12 Auburn Tigers and the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN on Saturday, March 16, 2024. Photo by Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers

Auburn defeats Mississippi State in a fiery, physical semifinal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (EETV) – Auburn’s first single-digit win of the season puts the Tigers in the SEC Tournament Championship for the fifth time ever. The Tigers outlast the Mississippi State Bulldogs, 73-66.

Bulldog Guard Josh Hubbard lead the game with 20 points despite shooting 1-8 from three. Auburn scored by committee with five players scoring ten points or more.

"Basically we knew it was going to be a dogfight. We played them twice. We already seen what they're capable of," Chad Baker-Mazara said. "So we just had to come out there and basically execute. Coach told us what it was going to be about. SEC tournament, not many foul calls. We knew it was going to be really a war down there."

A tight first half kept both teams knotted at 31. Mississippi State dominated on the glass with more offensive rebounds than Auburn had total rebounds (12-10). The Bulldogs hauled in 22 boards in total in the first 20 minutes.

Both teams struggled with turnovers with Auburn forcing three shot clock violations on the Bulldogs. The Tigers also forced a lot of one-on-one play on defense leading to just two assists for Mississippi State.

Auburn turned the ball over 15 times in this game with nine in the first half, but as the game progressed, the Tigers stopped giving the ball away.

"I thought down the stretch obviously we didn't turn the ball over late, and we made our free throws," head coach Bruce Pearl said. "Got the ball to Jaylin Williams, Chad Baker-Mazara, and they did a great job closing it out."

Auburn started the second half on a 12-4 run. Auburn never led by more than nine points in the game. With 6 minutes left, Mississippi State got hot and went on a quick 7-0 run to cut the lead down to one.

“It’s a game of runs,” Dylan Cardwell said after the game.

Cardwell was able to set another run for the Tigers with three crucial possessions where he got a dunk, blocked a shot and dunked again to spark a 6-0 run for Auburn.

“To be honest, that was really a game changer,” Baker-Mazara said. “I feel like that gave us a spark. It helped get the crowd involved, too. It was a really big play. He came in, basically came in clutch, and turned the whole momentum around.”

The Bulldogs, again, cut the Tiger lead to just 4 when DJ Jefferies threw the ball out of bounds for an extremely costly turnover with 30 seconds left.

Auburn held on to win to move onto the championship game.The Tigers will face Florida. The Tigers lost to the Gators in Florida, 81-65. The Championship game is slated for noon CT.