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No. 21 Auburn sets season high from deep, holds off Miss State for 69-63 win

Updated: Jan. 14, 2023, 11:02 p.m.|Published: Jan. 14, 2023, 9:50 p.m.
9–11 minutes

Auburn’s first and last baskets of the first half against Mississippi State encapsulated the kind of night it was at Neville Arena — in more ways than one.

The first make was a Jaylin Williams 3-pointer from the left wing, the last an Allen Flanigan stepback triple from the right wing. Both came with the clock winding down — Williams’ with the shot clock dwindling amid a slow start for the Tigers, Flanigan’s to beat the game clock at the end of the half. It was the kind of tough shot-making the Tigers needed against one of the nation’s stingiest defenses, and it was the kind of perimeter shooting Bruce Pearl’s team has been lacking for much of the season.

Read more Auburn basketball: Rewinding Auburn’s 69-63 win against Mississippi State

Allen Flanigan is getting back to his old ways

Auburn basketball to honor Mike Leach before hosting Mississippi State

Both helped contribute to a 69-63 win Saturday night against the Bulldogs, as No. 21 Auburn extended its home winning streak to 28 games while picking up its third straight win in SEC play.

“I don’t think I can even begin to explain that (game),” Pearl said.

Auburn shot 11-of-25 from deep. That included five made 3-pointers from Williams, who had a season-high 21 points and was one made 3-pointer shy of his career high, while Wendell Green Jr. drained a deep 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 2:13 to go to snap a 4-minute, 38-second scoring drought and give the Tigers a new season-high for makes from deep. Green’s long-range bomb came after the Bulldogs got within four points -- the closest they got in the second half -- and was part of a late surge from the starting point guard, who scored 11 of the Tigers’ final 12 points and helped them stave off the Bulldogs down the stretch while finishing with 17 points.

“Mississippi State is so big, so long, so athletic,” Pearl said. “The closer you get to the basket against them, the better you don’t look. So, we had talked a lot about just getting some open shots, and taking those open shots.”

It worked out well for Auburn.

Here are AL.com’s key takeaways from Saturday’s win, which pushed Auburn to 14-3 overall and 4-1 in SEC play:

The Jaylin Williams show

After Auburn’s season-ending loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year, Pearl spoke about how he wanted to make Jaylin Williams a linchpin of the 2022-23 Tigers. Saturday night against Mississippi State, Williams again showed why.

The junior stretch-four turned in his best game of the season, scoring a season-high 21 points while shooting 8-of-15 from the floor, including 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. He added seven rebounds and a pair of assists before fouling out with 2:34 to play and Auburn ahead by five. Williams finished three points—and one made 3-pointer—shy of matching his career high in scoring and made 3-pointers in a game, both of which came against Ole Miss two years ago.

“My teammates trust in me,” Williams said. “They always tell me to shoot the ball. Sometimes I take off on some shots and drive, or like. pass it. I mean, but they trusted in me. They kept telling me to shoot the ball. I just continue to shoot, and then it was falling.”

Williams stole the show in the first half, when he scored 15 points — a career high for a first half — and added three boards and an assist. In that first half, Williams shot 6-of-9 from the field and 3-of-5 from deep. He opened the game with that 3-pointer to beat the shot clock for Auburn’s first points, and then he made one on a stop-and-pop from the top of the key in transition to give the Tigers an early 8-4 lead.

“I told him I was trying to get him the ball,” Green said. “He had my first two assists of the game, so I was just telling him keep shooting. I’ve been telling him that since I met him: ‘We need you to shoot the ball. We need you to play like this. Just open it up for everybody.’ And that’s what he came out and did. I didn’t have the best offensive night. Our other leading scorer, Johni Broome, didn’t have the best offensive night.

“Somebody stepping up, and he can do it every night. So (I’m) just telling him to continue today and you can carry us every night for all I care.”

It wasn’t just his offense, though. Immediately after that transition 3-pointer, Williams drew a charge on the other end of the court. Still, it was his offense that shined brightest, as he got deep in his bag — 3-pointers, his signature baby hook and even a floater off a mean Euro-step while scoring 12 of Auburn’s first 15 on the night In the second half, he also whipped a no-look pass from the perimeter to Dylan Cardwell in the paint. Cardwell slammed home the dunk to give Auburn a 12-point lead with 12:15 to play.

“One of the best games I’ve ever seen him play,” Pearl said. “Everyone will point to the five 3′s but it was as hard and as physical as I’ve ever seen him play. The kid, Cameron Matthews, is one of the biggest, strongest athletes in college basketball. He’s just a monster man, and Jaylin did everything he possibly could physically to keep him at bay and keep him off the glass. If you want to give anybody credit for us winning this game, give it to Jaylin Williams.”

A defensive slugfest

For as unforgiving as Mississippi State’s defense is — the Bulldogs entered the night eighth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom — Auburn’s defense showed it can go blow for blow on that end, too.

Auburn held Mississippi State to just 63 points, the ninth time the Tigers have held an opponent to 63 points or fewer this season. Mississippi State shot just 37.5 percent overall against Auburn, including a stunning 0-of-18 performance from 3-point range. Mississippi State also went 0-for from deep in last season’s overtime meeting with Auburn. Much of the Bulldogs’ damage came in the paint, where they scored 40 of their points on the night, including all 22 of their points in the first half.

Even when the Bulldogs got within five with 9:02 to play, the Tigers didn’t allow another made basket for nearly 2 ½ minutes. That included a possession in which Mississippi State missed three shot attempts — two from beyond the arc — before Auburn corralled the ball, which led to a thunderous transition dunk by Allen Flanigan to push the lead back to seven.

Auburn forced 16 turnovers for the game and finished the night with 10 steals, the fifth time the Tigers have had double-digit steals this season and the first time in SEC play. It would have put Mississippi State away wit a bit more ease had it not been for late fouls and turnovers that sent the Bulldogs to the free-throw line down the stretch. Mississippi State attempted 12 free throws over the final 2:34 of the game, making nine of them, while Auburn committed three turnovers in the final 1:14 -- including two on inbound passes after Williams, the usual inbounder for Auburn, fouled out late.

After neither team attempted a free throw in the first half, the two sides combined for 41 attempts in the second half, with Mississippi State going 21-of-28 from the line. Fortunately for the Tigers, the Bulldogs also made just one of their last six shot attempts over the final 5 minutes of the game.

“I’ve never been in a game where there weren’t any free throws taken in the first half, then the second half, like you said, there’s 41,” Pearl said. “It’s just different. So, we got to do a better job of defending without fouling, and do a better job ourselves being able to get to the foul line.”

Another solid night for Allen Flanigan, except in one area

Allen Flanigan continued his stretch of impressive play, and it’s safe to say the Tigers’ senior wing is fully back to his old self. Flanigan registered his fourth straight game in double-figure scoring —extending the best stretch of basketball he has had since late in his sophomore season—and once again filled the box score for Auburn.

Flanigan finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists. That included his buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close the first half, as well as the aforementioned thunderous dunk in transition that provided an answer after Mississippi State got within five in the second half.

Though Flanigan was responsible for seven of Auburn’s 20 turnovers against a pesky Mississippi State defense, his overall performance provided the kind of solid effort the Tigers needed from him on a night that they were without starting wing Chris Moore, who was out due to the right shoulder injury he sustained in the opening minutes of Tuesday’s game at Ole Miss. With Moore sidelined, Flanigan drew his second start of the season—his first since the Colgate game in early December—and followed through in a relatively big way for the Tigers.

“It means a lot because Al is a great scorer and he’s a great defender,” Williams said. “I feel like he’s very underrated when it comes to rebounding. He’s very explosive, one of our best athletes. (For) him to come in, accept his role coming off the bench -- well, with Chris (injured) he started tonight, but the past few games. Learning, being in the gym all the time. I mean, this is all on Al. This is the Al I know that plays this well.”

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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Takeaways from Auburn basketball’s 69-63 win vs Mississippi State

Jeremy Robuck
~3 minutes

The Auburn Tigers took on the Mississippi State Bulldogs Saturday night in Neville Arena. Auburn showed class with their warmups paying tribute to the late Mike Leach. The Tigers led most of the game. The Bulldogs mounted comebacks toward the end of each half, but ultimately Auburn prevailed in a lively exciting game. Here are a few takeaways from tonight’s game.

Jaylin Williams had himself a game

Williams scored over 20 points tonight and hit 5 three’s. He was amazing. He was the difference. It was great to watch him display such confidence out there. Williams was the best player on the floor tonight and carried Auburn offensively early. It’s also worth saying that Allen Flanigan had a great night. He hit 2 of his 4 three pointers tonight scoring 10 points. It’s great to see the veterans stepping up and being efficient scorers.

Auburn is on a roll at home

The Tigers have the nations 2nd longest home winning streak at 28 games. They have not lost at home in over a year. The only team that has a longer streak is Gonzaga. Obviously, the Zags are playing lesser competition in their gym. To be clear, Neville Arena is awesome. It is an intimate environment, and there is not a bad seat in the house. Over one thousand students are right next to the floor. It’s loud. It’s fun. The Tigers also thrive on emotion and are just tough to beat at home.

Turnovers are a problem 

Auburn had 18 turnovers tonight. When the Tigers limit turnovers they usually win the game, but they have been a problem this year. There are nights where Auburn looks out of sync on offense. When this happens, turnovers usually ensue. The Tigers play style is exciting to watch, but wild and free running of the floor can have it’s downsides. Auburn could stand to be more disciplined and mature at times. If they can mature and limit turnovers down the stretch, watch out for them in March.

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Rewinding No. 21 Auburn basketball’s 69-63 win against Mississippi State

Updated: Jan. 14, 2023, 9:44 p.m.|Published: Jan. 14, 2023, 7:16 p.m.
6–7 minutes

Welcome back to -- the 90s?

They’re turned back the clock at Neville Arena, with a throwback 90s night as No. 21 Auburn held off Mississippi State, 69-63, Saturday night.

Read more Auburn basketball: Allen Flanigan is back to his old ways, and No. 21 Auburn may need him even more vs. Miss State

Auburn basketball to honor Mike Leach before hosting Mississippi State

Wendell Green Jr. ‘feeling good’ about his game, and suddenly, so is No. 21 Auburn basketball

It was the Tigers third straight win overall since a road loss at Georgia a week and a half ago, and the 28th consecutive win at home for Bruce Pearl’s team, which has the nation’s second-longest active home winning streak (behind only Gonzaga). Jaylin Williams had a season-high 21, while Wendell Green Jr. scored 11 of Auburn’s final 12 points on a night the Tigers set a season-high with 11 made 3-pointers.

Below is a blow-by-blow recap from Neville Arena. Stay tuned to al.com/auburnbasketball for full postgame coverage.

FINAL: Auburn 69, Mississippi State 63

-- Wendell Green Jr. has scored 11 of Auburn’s last 12 points. Tigers up 69-60 with 25.8 seconds to go.

-- Wendell Green Jr. buries a 3-pointer with 2:13 to go, which ends a lengthy drought for Auburn and gives the Tigers a new season-high with 11 made 3-pointers.

-- Jaylin Williams fouls out with 2:34 to play. He has 21 points and seven rebounds.

-- Auburn 57, Mississippi State 52 (3:38) | Under-4 timeout: Auburn hasn’t scored in 3:13 and has three turnovers during that stretch. Lead is down to five.

-- Zep Jasper with a 3-pointer, and Auburn’s lead is back to 10 with 6:47 to play. It’s 57-47, Tigers, who have matched their season-high in made 3-pointer (10).

-- Auburn 52, Mississippi State 45 (7:42) | Under-8 timeout: Allen Flanigan with a thunderous dunk in transition to push the lead back to seven after Mississippi State got within five, which was the closest the Bulldogs have been all half. That’s also four straight games in double figures for Flanigan.

-- Auburn 47, Mississippi State 35 (11:51) | Under-12 timeout: Auburn is 9-of-19 from deep tonight, its most made 3-pointers in SEC play this season and one shy of the team’s season-high of 10 made triples.

-- Auburn 45, Mississippi State 32 (13:10): Jaylin Williams now has 21 points and five made 3-pointers. K.D. Johnson just buried his first 3-pointer since the Georgia game, and Auburn has its largest lead of the night.

-- Auburn 37, Mississippi State 28 (15:28) | Under-16: Jaylin Williams with a pumpfake, then a sidestep before draining a 3-pointer, his fourth of the night. Williams has 18 points, approaching his career-high.

-- Another tough basket inside through contact for Johni Broome to put Auburn up 34-24.

-- Johni Broome with a tough basket inside on the opening possession. He gets fouled, but he misses the free throw. That was the game’s first free-throw attempt.

HALFTIME: Auburn 30, Mississippi State 22

-- Allen Flanigan hits a stepback 3-pointer to beat the buzzer at the end of the half. Much-needed basket for Auburn, which made just three of its final 12 shot attempts in the half. Flanigan has eight at the half, while Jaylin Williams has 15.

-- Mississippi State did not score over the final 4:04 of the first half, with four turnovers and three missed shots during that stretch. All of the Bulldogs’ first-half points were in the paint.

-- Neither team attempted a free throw in the first half.

-- Auburn 25, Mississippi State 22 (3:36) | Bulldogs timeout: All of Mississippi State’s points so far have come in the paint, including eight second-chance points on seven offensive rebounds.

-- Allen Flanigan drains a corner 3-pointer to snap a 4-minute, 9-second scoring drought for Auburn. It’s 25-18 Tigers.

-- Auburn 22, Mississippi State 16 (6:41) | Under-8 timeout: Auburn in the middle of a 2:34 scoring drought after opening up its largest lead of the game at 22-12. Since then, two straight baskets for Mississippi State, which is feasting in the paint. All 16 of the Bulldogs’ points have come in the paint.

-- Auburn 15, Mississippi State 8 (11:46) | Under-12 timeout: Jaylin Williams has 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting. His last basket was on a nasty Euro-step drive into a floater. Auburn now 6-of-12 from the field and 3-of-6 from deep, while Mississippi State is shooting just 4-of-11 overall and 0-of-3 from beyond the arc.

-- A baby hook and then another 3-pointer, and Jaylin Williams has 11 of Auburn’s first 13 points as the Tigers lead 13-6. Williams finally misses a shot on his fifth attempt (and fourth 3-point attempt).

-- Auburn 8, Mississippi State 4 (15:16) | Under-16 timeout: Jaylin Williams with six points early here for Auburn on a pair of made 3-pointers. The last one was a stop-and-pop at the top of the key in transition. He followed it up by drawing a charge on the other end. Auburn is just 3-of-7 from the field early, but Williams is 2-of-2.

-- Mississippi State gets on the board first with a Cameron Matthews dunk after Auburn fails to score on its first two possessions of the night, but then Jaylin Williams drills a 3-pointer late in the shot clock to make it 3-2, Tigers.

PREGAME

-- Auburn lineup: G Wendell Green Jr., G Zep Jasper, F Allen Flanigan, F Jaylin Williams, C Johni Broome

-- Mississippi State lineup: G Dashawn Davis, G Eric Reed Jr., F D.J. Jeffries, F Tolu Smith, F Cameron Matthews

-- Auburn will be without starting wing Chris Moore, who injured his right shoulder in the opening minutes of Tuesday’s win at Ole Miss. Moore did not participate in pregame shootaround and instead sat on the bench with his right arm still in a sling.

AL.com will update this post.

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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