AUBURN, Ala. -- Frankie Sullivan scored 16 points and Kenny Gabriel added 15 points and nine rebounds to help Auburn hold off a comeback attempt from Mississippi State (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today) in a 65-55 victory on Saturday night
The Tigers (14-12, 4-8 Southeastern Conference) snapped a three-game losing streak. The Bulldogs (19-8, 6-6) have lost three in a row, including a pair of two-point overtime defeats, and cut an 11-point halftime deficit down to three before getting turned back by Auburn.Varez Ward added 10 points and nine assists for the Tigers, who shot 47.2 percent (25 of 53) while holding Mississippi State to 35.2 percent (19 of 54).Arnett Moultrie -- who spent two seasons under Auburn coach Tony Barbee at UTEP -- had 16 points and 11 rebounds but was 6-of-15 shooting.Dee Bost added 11 points for the Bulldogs, who made five 3-pointers in 22 attempts.The Bulldogs played without starting forward Renardo Sidney, who sat out with back spasms. In his absence, the Tigers scored on plentiful drives and outrebounded Mississippi State 36-31.Mississippi State opened the second half on a 9-3 run to cut into an 11-point halftime deficit. The Bulldogs eventually whittled it down to 53-50 on a pair of free throws by Moultrie with 5:01 left.Then Sidney's replacement, Wendell Lewis, missed a pair of free throws and Bost couldn't sink a potential tying 3-pointer.Rob Chubb rebounded a missed shot and passed back to Gabriel, who drove for a basket and a foul, then hit the free throw to push it to 56-50 with 3:13 remaining.The Bulldogs didn't make another field goal until Auburn had put the game out of reach.The Tigers, the SEC's 11th-best foul shooting team, made 7 of 9 free throws over the final 1:15 to avoid giving Mississippi State an opening. They've won four in a row at home against the Bulldogs, whose NCAA tournament hopes absorbed another hit.The pace was more to Auburn's liking than in a 91-88 loss to Mississippi State two weeks ago.Auburn's biggest run came in the first half that gave the Tigers the lead for good.The Tigers scored 16 straight points en route to a 21-4 spurt that turned a seven-point deficit into a 30-20 lead late in the first half. The Bulldogs went 6:05 without scoring.Mississippi State blew a chance to close the gap. The Bulldogs missed three straight baskets inside on their final possession and coach Rick Stansbury drew a technical after no foul was called.Sullivan hit 1 of 2 resulting free throws with 10 seconds left and Ward drove for a layup and a 35-24 halftime lead at the buzzer.