March 1, 2009
STARKVILLE -- The Auburn men''s basketball team blindsided the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday night.
To coach Rick Stansbury''s disappointment, the Bulldogs didn''t respond.
Mississippi State didn''t play as well as it needed in a battle for second place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division and dropped a 76-58 decision before a crowd of 7,134 at Humphrey Coliseum.
"(Auburn coach) Jeff (Lebo) did a better job of getting his team ready to play this game than I did," Stansbury said. "I thought Auburn played with more passion, more toughess, and more togetherness. That''s the reason they''ve won six out of seven now. They are playing well. Everything you had to do on the road, I thought Auburn did it. We didn''t have it."
Mississippi State (17-12, 7-7 SEC) had many things work against them. The most glaring statistic was a 35-percent shooting effort (20 of 57) from the field, including 30 percent (9 of 30) from the 3-point line.
Sophomore guard Phil Turner, one of the team''s most talkative members, was at as loss for words to describe what happened.
"There''s not much I can say," Turner said. "I don''t know what to tell you. We knew how big the game was coming in. Sometimes it just doesn''t fall that way."
Junior center Jarvis Varnado (team-high 14 points) couldn''t figure out why the Bulldogs came out flat after a good week of practice.
"We were really pumped up," Varnado said. "It was real frustrating (the way the game played out). I was trying to get everybody up, but Auburn came in ready to play and we didn''t."
Ravern Johnson''s missed dunk with 14 minutes, 32 seconds left to play in the first half was an indication things weren''t going well for the Bulldogs.
Johnson, one of MSU''s best 3-point shooters, had only nine points. He was 3 of 13 from the field and 2 of 10 from 3-point range.
After the game, Johnson went straight to the dressing room without shaking hands with the Auburn players.
"He''s no different from anybody else," Stansbury said of Johnson''s reaction. "It frustrates everybody. It''s part of being tough enough to overcome it. They did not play bad on purpose, but you''ve got to figure out what you''ve got to do to play better.
"All you ever ask as a coach or teammate is to leave it between those lines. I don''t think we left it between the lines tonight, and it''s my job to get them to do that."
The Bulldogs built a 7-2 lead on a basket by Barry Stewart, two by Varnado and a free throw by Turner.
Stansbury didn''t see a lot of life from his squad as it tried to build on the lead.
"It was like running in quicksand the rest of the night," Stansbury said.
Johnson and Stewart missed back-to-back 3-pointers, Varnado missed a jumper, and Johnson missed his dunk to help the Tigers take advantage.
Auburn took an 8-7 lead on a jumper by Rasheem Barrett at the 14:19 mark and MSU didn''t lead again.
The Bulldogs trailed 38-21 at halftime and never could get the momentum back.
"There was never that change of emotion to change the outcome in the second half," Stansbury said. "I just never felt like we had it."
Turner and Dee Bost had 12 points each and Stewart added 11 points.
The Tigers'' bench outscored the Bulldogs 36-0. Franklin Sullivan had 14 points to lead the Tigers (19-10, 8-6).
"I have no answer for why," Stansbury said. "The biggest thing was our passion and energy, which would lead to more baskets everywhere.
"We''ve had some tough losses, but I haven''t gone in a locker room too many times this year where I felt like our kids didn''t leave it on the floor. (Auburn) played like it meant more to them than it did us."
Mississippi State will try to bounce back on Wednesday night when it plays host to Florida in its final regular-season home game.