Auburn breaks losing streak at Mississippi State

Published 8:24 pm Saturday, February 28, 2009

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — A machine is at its best when all of its parts are performing with efficiency.

Auburn played that way Saturday night, defeating Mississippi State 76-58 behind a balanced offensive attack.

Frankie Sullivan scored 14 points and Lucas Hargrove and Rasheem Barrett each scored 12 points. Brenden Knox chipped in 10 points.

“We got something from everybody tonight,” Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. “I liked our balance. Both teams are similar. Whoever was going to be able to make shots was going to be the one who won it. They didn’t shoot the ball very well at all, and we drove the lane and made some baskets.”

The Tigers (19-10, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) shot 49 percent from the field and hit nine 3-pointers in its second win over Mississippi State (17-12, 7-7) this season. They have won six of their past seven games and moved into second in the SEC Western Division.

“In previous years we were always at the bottom of the SEC,” Hargrove said. “We were always just playing to be playing. Now we are playing with postseason hopes.”

Sullivan was 4 of 5 from the field, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. Hargrove finished 6 of 10 and Barrett was 5 of 9.

Mississippi State opened on a 7-2 run, but Auburn countered with a 15-1 run and never trailed again. The Tigers led 38-21 at halftime.

“We came out flat in the second half,” Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado said. “The effort just wasn’t there at all.”

Varnado was 6 of 11 from the field and had 14 points and nine rebounds to pace the Bulldogs. Dee Bost had 12 points, all in the second half. Phil Turner also had 12 points and Barry Stewart and Ravern Johnson each chipped in 11.

The Bulldogs have lost three consecutive games and five of their past six after starting 6-2 in the SEC.

“This is first time all year I’ve gone into the locker room and felt like we didn’t leave it all on the floor,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “They played like they wanted it more than us, and it showed. And being young is no excuse. When you don’t play hard, you’ve got no chance.”

The Tigers scored 21 points on 18 turnovers.

“We had a lot of deflected balls in the game,” Lebo said. “I thought our quickness was a factor.”