No. 22 Auburn rallies to beat Mississippi St 76-68
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By DAVID BRANDT
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) Auburn basketball is on such a roll that guard Bryce Brown is having a hard time keeping track of how many games the Tigers have won in a row.
"It's 14, right?" Brown asked. "We're just trying to enjoy this as much as possible."
Indeed, it's been 14 straight wins for No. 22 Auburn, and the latest 76-68 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday put the Tigers into sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference.
This one wasn't easy.
Auburn (16-1, 4-0 SEC) rallied from a 13-point deficit early in the second half to get the hard-fought road win over Mississippi State. Brown led the Tigers with 23 points while Mustapha Heron and Desean Murray both added 14.
It's the program's longest winning streak since the 1999-2000 season, when the Tigers also won 14 in a row. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl is proud of what his team has accomplished so far, but is also trying to guard against complacency.
"We have 14 games left - we could win them all or we could lose them all," Pearl said. "I told the team, the team that wins this league might not be the best team in the league. It's the team that can get ready to play night in and night out."
Auburn came into the game averaging more than 87 points per game, but struggled to make shots in the opening half. Mississippi State led 35-24 at halftime with Auburn shooting just 26.7 percent from the field.
"Our guys got a little rattled," Pearl said. "We didn't look like a team that had won 13 or 14 in a row. But we were still within range and then at halftime we regrouped and we were accountable."
The Tigers recovered, hitting six of eight 3-point attempts to turn a 13-point deficit into an 11-point lead with 6 minutes left. Brown hit several tough shots during the run and Murray had steals on back-to-back possessions that led to four quick points.
Brown finished 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
"Bryce Brown took over offensively," Pearl said. "He was feeling it."
Mississippi State (13-4, 1-3) had one more run remaining. Quinndary Weatherspoon made a 4-point play after sinking a 3-pointer while getting fouled and then converting the free throw. That pulled the Bulldogs within 67-65 with 2:58 left but they couldn't get any closer.
"That is a very tough loss and in this league it stings," Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said.
Mississippi State was led by Weatherspoon's 14 points. Freshman Abdul Ado had 10 points and 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double. Aric Holman had 11 points while Nick Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters both scored 10.
"We've just got to come out better in the second half and not be so nonchalant," Quinndary Weatherspoon said. "We've got to come out like we play in the first half."
AUBURN ON A ROLL
This is Auburn's first 4-0 start in SEC play since the 2002-03 season. It's the first time the Tigers have won four straight SEC games at any point since a five-game streak in 2009.
Auburn: This one was tough, but Auburn kept rolling with a hard-fought road win. The Tigers showed they can win a difficult road game even when their shots aren't always falling.
Mississippi State: It's a frustrating loss for the Bulldogs, who have now lost three straight. Mississippi State was in control the entire first half, but once Auburn got going the Bulldogs didn't have an answer.
Auburn travels to face Alabama on Wednesday.
Mississippi State hosts Vanderbilt on Tuesday.
More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25 .
Updated January 13, 2018