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<p>K.D. Johnson (0) goes up for a contested layup against Mississippi State on March 3.&nbsp;Credit: AU Athletics&nbsp;</p>
K.D. Johnson (0) goes up for a contested layup against Mississippi State on March 3. Credit: AU Athletics 

Auburn clinches a share of the SEC regular-season title with 81-68 overtime win over Mississippi State

The No. 5 Auburn Tigers traveled over to Starkville, MS to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Humphrey Coliseum. Auburn came into this one looking to bounce back after a tough loss against Tennessee in Knoxville last Saturday. Mississippi State came into this one off a 74-69 win over the Vanderbilt Commadores at home on Saturday. The starting five for the Tigers tonight included K.D. Johnson, Zep Jasper, Allen Flanigan, Jabari Smith, and Walker Kessler. The starting five for the Bulldogs included Shakeel Moore, Iverson Molinar, D.J. Jeffries, Garrison Brooks, and Tolu Smith.

Jabari Smith got Auburn started offensively with a three-pointer from Jabari Smith. Dylan Cardwell was the next Tiger to score, hitting a lay-up. He would also tack on a steal at the 14:45 mark, which would set Zep Jasper up for a three pointer to put Auburn up 10-2. Wendell Greene JR. also wanted in on the fun and hit a three-pointer of his own. Devan Cambridge assisted an electrifying Dylan Cardwell dunk on the next possession and the Auburn dominated crowd blew the roof off. Zep Jasper hit another three-pointer at the 10:33 mark to bring Auburn’s lead to 13. Jaylin Williams was the next Tiger to arrive at the three-point party, hitting one at the 8:36 mark. Just when the energy from the Auburn faithful started to die down a little bit, Jabari Smith fired them up with a huge dunk. Jabari Smith followed that up by hitting a three-pointer then a dunk on the next possession. With 3:29 left in the first, Auburn held a 37-20 lead. At the end of the first half, Auburn was up 40-28.

Auburn’s leading scorer in the first half was Jabari Smith who had 14 points. K.D. Johnson and Zep Jasper led Auburn in assists with three apiece. Jabari Smith also led the Tigers in rebounds with six. Mississippi State’s leading scorer was Tolu Smith with eight points. Shakeel Moore was their leader in assists with three. The Bulldog’s leading rebounder was Garrison Brooks with six.

Allen Flanigan got the scoring started for Auburn in the second half with a lay-up. Mississippi State led a comeback, cutting Auburn’s lead to six with 14:45 left to play. A mid-range jumper from Devan Cambridge at the 13:14 mark got the Auburn crowd back into it. That didn’t last for long as Mississippi State was able to take a 50-49 lead. Auburn would reclaim the lead with a Devan Cambridge three-pointer at the 4:39 mark to make the score 57-56. Jabari Smith hid a big one from mid-range to tie the score at 61 with 0:51 to play. 40 minutes was not enough, this game required more time. 

K.D. Johnson had a good drive to the basket to give Auburn a 63-62 lead. Walker Kessler forced a steal that would turn into a three-pointer from K.D. Johnson. Auburn had a four-point lead for the first time in what felt like forever. K.D. Johnson went to the line and tacked on two more. Walker Kessler made a crucial block which set K.D. Johnson up for an easy lay-up which he got fouled on and hit the free-throw. With 2:30 left in the overtime period, Auburn led 71-64. Jabari Smith hit an off-balance mid-range jumper to give Auburn a seven-point lead. On the next possession Zep Jasper got fouled and tacked on two more at the line. Auburn had a nine-point lead with 1:30 to play. A big dunk from Jabari Smith put Auburn up 12 with 0:21 to play, locking up the game and the SEC regular season Championship. Auburn won 81-68.

Jabari Smith was asked about K.D. Johnson’s play tonight. He answered, “We love his confidence. It gives us a lot of opportunities”. He was also asked about what it meant to win this and the regular season title. He said, “It feels great, like hard work is paying off.” 

K.D. Johnson was asked about his overtime performance. He said, “Everyone was picking me up and I decided to turn it on for my team.” He was also asked about what it means to get this win. He said, “It means a lot. We love our fans and wanted to win it for them”.

Jabari Smith was Auburn’s leading scorer with 27 points. Wendell Greene JR. led Auburn in assists with seven. Walker Kessler and Jabari Smith were the top rebounding Tigers with 10 each. Tolu Smith led Mississippi State in points, scoring 22. Shakeel Moore led them in assists with four. Andeerson Garcia led the Bulldogs in rebounds with 13.

During his statement, Bruce Pearl said, “This is one of the best regular season wins I’ve had.” He said, “It was awesome to see the fight they had on the road and how bad they wanted to win this championship”. I personally asked Coach Pearl about the road support from the students tonight and emphasized that I was asking live from the bus full of students who made the trip. He told me to tell them that "they are champions and they better be in class tomorrow.”

Auburn will be back in action this Saturday as they welcome the South Carolina Gamecocks into Neville Arena for the first time. Tip-off is at noon.

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