February 12, 2011 11:21:00 PM
AUBURN, Ala. -- A Kodi Augustus dunk gave Mississippi State its biggest lead of the day in the second half against Auburn on Saturday night.
But an Augustus technical later in the half seemed to breathe life into a Tigers squad that looked to be limping its way to yet another Southeastern Conference loss.
Auburn used tenacious defense to overcome a 19-point deficit and pull out its first home SEC win of the season, 65-62 against Mississippi State.
The Tigers (9-15, 2-8 SEC), who trailed 51-32 with 11 minutes, 24 seconds to go, reeled off a 17-0 run in a span of 3:53 to take a 62-58 lead on a Josh Wallace three-point play with 26 seconds left.
The run started on two Earnest Ross free throws that resulted from a technical Augustus drew after hitting a shot and shouting with 4:21 left in the game.
The free throws by Ross, who led Auburn with 21 points, cut the lead to 58-47, Rob Chubb made a hook shot, Kenny Gabriel converted a three-point play, then coaxed a steal on the Bulldogs'' next possession that led to a dunk, putting Auburn on its way to the win.
"I just kept telling the guys, when you get the opportunity to contribute offensively, you''ve got to contribute," Tigers coach Tony Barbee said. "Finally, we were able to get some tough ones to go in. We started attacking the rim, and then some guys made some plays down the stretch, both offensively and defensively."
Mississippi State (13-11, 5-5) turned the ball over five times and didn''t get off a shot during Auburn''s run, with its only scoring opportunity coming when Dee Bost missed the front end of a one-and-one.
"We just tried to put a lot of pressure on them," Gabriel said. "We just kind of got an advantage by running people at the ball, running into the passing lanes and trying to force turnovers."
Gabriel sank a 3-pointer after the missed free throw to put Auburn ahead 59-58 with 1:18 to go. Then, after a Bost turnover, Wallace drove to the hoop, drew contact, hit a layup and polished off the three-point play.
Auburn used three free throws to offset two Bost layups over the final 26 seconds, with Ross'' two free throws with 3.5 seconds to go providing the final margin.
Bost''s desperation halfcourt heave at the buzzer missed, giving Auburn its second conference win and sending Mississippi State to its first loss in three games.
The Tigers'' comeback ranks among the biggest in program history, up there with a 22-point comeback against Louisville in 1995 and a 19-point rally against LSU in 1999.
"It is a disappointing loss, not just because it is a loss, but because we played so well for about 35 minutes and those last five minutes we just melted down," Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said. "We had absolutely way too many turnovers, too many unforced turnovers."
A jumper by Renardo Sidney keyed an 11-0 Bulldogs run in the first half, giving them a 24-13 lead with 5:46 left in the half. They extended their lead to 19 points, 51-32, on a dunk by Augustus with 11:24 to go in the game.
Bost scored a game-high 22 points for the Bulldogs, with his 4-of-8 performance from beyond the arc leading a 9-of-24 day from 3-point range for Mississippi State.
But eight of those baskets came in the first half, as the Bulldogs shot only 1 of 9 after the break.
Sidney added nine points and 13 rebounds, but he and Augustus, who also finished with nine points, both watched the end of the game from the bench after fouling out down the stretch.
Ross led Auburn with 21 points and seven rebounds, and Gabriel added 18 points.
Chubb and Mississippi State''s Ravern Johnson returned from two-game suspensions Saturday.
Chubb, whose suspension stemmed from a Jan. 30 arrest on charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, attempting to elude a police officer and resisting arrest, scored six points in 16 minutes.
"I''m disappointed in the decision he made," Barbee said. "But at the same time he''s a college kid, and what most college kids do is make dumb decisions. That doesn''t mean you throw him under the bus and forget about him."
Johnson, who was suspended for sending "inappropriate tweets" after a loss to Alabama, as well as violating a class attendance policy, scored two points on 1-of-6 shooting in 19 minutes.