Auburn 92, Miss. State 82: Chris Denson, KT Harrell lead Auburn past Miss. State

AP Sports WriterFebruary 15, 2014 

Mississippi St Auburn Basketball

Auburn guard Chris Denson (3) scores against Mississippi State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/AL.com, Julie Bennett) MAGS OUT

JULIE BENNETT — AP

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn's prolific scoring duo Chris Denson (Shaw) and KT Harrell racked up points and free throws.

Denson scored 30 points and Harrell rebounded from a rough game with 26 to lead the Tigers to a 92-82 victory over slumping Mississippi State on Saturday in a game that was controlled by strong foul shooting and huge performances from the Southeastern Conference's No. 2 scoring tandem.

It's the most combined points they've had in a game this season.

"It's more of a team effort," said Denson, who scored 25-plus points for the fourth consecutive game. "It's always great when the dynamic duo goes off, though."

As a result, the Tigers (12-12, 4-8) snapped a two-game losing streak and matched their season-high in points.

Harrell rebounded in a big way from a 2-of-15, seven-point performance in a loss to No. 14 Kentucky. Denson said he sent him a text message after that game telling Harrell not to worry about it and "we need you."

"He took it very hard and he said he promised he'll never play that way again," Denson said.

Allen Payne added 14 points and Tahj Shamsid-Deen had 10.

The Tigers made 37 of 41 free throws in the game to hold off the Bulldogs (13-12, 3-9) after building a 21-point lead.

They hit 11 consecutive free throws over the final 2:33 in a game when six players fouled out.

Trivante Bloodman had 18 points, nine assists and six rebounds to lead Mississippi State, which has dropped seven in a row since beating Auburn in Starkville on Jan. 22. Bloodman made 14 of 15 free throws.

"It was a very intense game," Bloodman said. "We had a lot of players that were in foul trouble, so I had to get the ball and attack."

Gavin Ware had 15 points, Roquez Johnson 14 and I.J. Ready 12.

Denson was 10 of 11 from the line for the Tigers and Harrell made 13 of 14 attempts. Harrell didn't score in the first 10 minutes but still had 14 points by halftime.

"It felt good," he said. "I'm a really confident person so I knew I had a bad game. It's not about one game defining you, it's how you bounce back that defines you. I came in focused and ready to play."

Denson, who had just nine points in the first meeting, scored 20 in the second half.

The Tigers scored 30 points off Mississippi State's 21 turnovers.

Much of the game was spent at the line, where Mississippi State was 29 of 36. Auburn had four players foul out and Mississippi State two and the officials called 59 total fouls.

"I thought we were settling too much for jump shots early in this game, and early in the second half I just told those guys to attack the basket and don't settle," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "They got aggressive and that's why they got to the foul line so much."

Bulldogs leading scorer Craig Sword had eight points before picking up his fifth foul with 2:34 left after making two straight baskets.

Auburn led by as many as 21 points early in the second half. The Bulldogs came to within nine points a number of times after that but could get no closer until Jacoby Davis's 3-pointer cut it to 88-80 with 33 seconds left.

The Bulldogs made only one field goal over the final 12 minutes of the first half. The Tigers scored the last 10 points before halftime and closed on a 27-6 run to build a 40-25 lead.

"We just didn't have enough depth there in the first half with everyone in foul trouble, and that's what really hurt us in the first half," Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said. "We had a lot of bad combinations out on the floor. We just couldn't find a way to score."

MISSISSIPPI ST. (13-12)

Thomas 1-7 1-2 4, Borchert 1-4 1-2 3, Bloodman 2-3 14-15 18, Ware 5-7 5-6 15, Sword 4-9 0-2 8, Davis 2-5 2-2 8, Moore 0-1 0-0 0, Ready 4-6 2-2 12, Cunningham 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 5-8 4-5 14. Totals 24-50 29-36 82.

AUBURN (12-11)

Dixon-Tatum 2-3 0-0 4, Harrell 6-11 13-14 26, Payne 4-7 6-6 14, Denson 10-17 10-11 30, Shamsid-Deen 3-9 2-4 10, Wade 1-2 0-0 2, Thompson 0-1 0-0 0, Canada 0-1 6-6 6, Granger 0-0 0-0 0, Atewe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-51 37-41 92.

Halftime--Auburn 40-25. 3-Point Goals--Mississippi St. 5-17 (Ready 2-3, Davis 2-4, Thomas 1-4, Bloodman 0-1, Johnson 0-1, Sword 0-1, Moore 0-1, Borchert 0-2), Auburn 3-13 (Shamsid-Deen 2-7, Harrell 1-4, Thompson 0-1, Wade 0-1). Fouled Out--Atewe, Dixon-Tatum, Ready, Shamsid-Deen, Sword, Wade. Rebounds--Mississippi St. 26 (Bloodman 6), Auburn 31 (Atewe 8). Assists--Mississippi St. 19 (Bloodman 9), Auburn 13 (Payne 4). Total Fouls--Mississippi St. 31, Auburn 28. A--6,890.

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