STARKVILLE, Miss. -- A week after having to overcome a fourth quarter deficit at Vanderbilt, No. 9 Mississippi State was in trouble once again Thursday at home against Auburn.
With freshman Rickea Jackson scoring 18 of her season-high 22 points in the second half, No. 9 Mississippi State rallied to beat Auburn 78-73 Thursday night.
It was a continuation of a week’s worth of less-than-stellar play for coach Rick Schaefer’s squad. It’s something he said he has sensed building.
“If I say I’m disappointed, I’d be taking credit away from Auburn. We were just standing around and (Auburn) played hard so it really makes you look bad,” Schaefer said. “I thought we played really uninspired and it’s been that way since the South Carolina game.”
Auburn, on the other hand, came out ready to play. The Tigers came in ranked 12th in the Southeastern Conference in 3-point shooting but made 5 of 6 in the first half.
With starting center Jessika Carter in foul trouble, Jackson made 10 of 14 shots from the field for the Bulldogs (19-3, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) .
“Coach Schaefer kind of got me fired up during the halftime talk. He just told me that I had to play harder and bring more energy,” Jackson said. “I knew I needed to do that for my teammates.”
Auburn (7-12, 1-7 SEC) led 40-33 at halftime and bumped that lead to nine points within the first minute of the second half. The Bulldogs quickly came alive with a basket and foul shot from Carter that sparked a 9-0 run and tied the game.
“We gave up 40 points in a half. It’s just awful,” Schaefer said. “We stood around and accommodated them in the zone. I was just disappointed. Sometimes you’ve got to grow up a little bit. You’ve got to own it. Either you’re going to grow, or you’re not.”
Mississippi State ultimately outscored Auburn 27-13 in the third quarter to take a 60-53 lead and Jackson had 10 points in that frame.
After leading the way in the third, Jackson came up big again in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs’ nine-point lead shrunk to two points on several occasions, but the freshman scored eight straight to help withstand the challenge.
“She killed us,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “Unique (Thompson) was right there, but Rickea Jackson was over there like she was playing in a video game. She really helped them a lot. She’s one of the best players here.”
The Tigers pulled to within 71-69 with 3:27 remaining before Mississippi State clamped down defensively. The Bulldogs didn’t allow a field goal for more than four minutes.
Thompson had a big night with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Daisa Alexander scored 20 points and hit 4 of 6 3-pointers.
Carter and Jordan Danberry had 13 points each and combined to go 10 of 14 from the field for Mississippi State. Danberry had six rebounds and five assists.
Auburn: The Tigers took No. 13 Kentucky to the wire last week before falling 68-61 and did the same to the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State: For the second time in three games, MSU went into the fourth quarter in a close ball game against a team with a losing conference record. The Bulldogs also struggled on the road at Vanderbilt last Thursday.
Mississippi State: Hosts Georgia on Sunday.
Auburn: Hosts Vanderbilt on Sunday