Mississippi State tries to ‘stop the bleeding’ against Auburn

NCAA

Mississippi State tries to ‘stop the bleeding’ against Auburn

Mississippi State collected a pair of three-game winning streaks in the early part of the season, but times have grown leaner since the calendar flipped to 2021.

The Bulldogs’ 72-51 home loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday marked their sixth defeat in the past seven SEC games, and the past three losses have come by an average margin of 17 points.

To the Bulldogs’ Iverson Molinar, Tuesday’s game at Auburn against a team with an identical record is the time to push through and beyond the misfortune.

“We have to keep pushing,” Molinar said. “We have to stop the bleeding, and we have to stay positive.

“I try to stay positive myself,” he went on. “I’m trying to not let my inner emotions affect my teammates. I always have a smile on my face when I come to practice. During film, tell them what we did right, and what we did wrong. No beating around the bush. I tell them straight up.”

Molinar scored 19 points for the Bulldogs (11-11, 5-8 Southeastern Conference) against Vanderbilt, but while he made 9 of his 13 shots, the rest of the Bulldogs were a mere 13-for-39.

Mississippi State must improve its shooting stroke and find an answer for the Tigers’ JT Thor, a 6-foot-10 freshman whose late surge helped Auburn (11-11, 5-8 SEC) erase a 14-point, second-half deficit in an eventual 82-80 road loss to Kentucky.

After shooting 0-for-7 from long range in the past three games, Thor was 8-for-11 from the floor, including 5-for-6 from deep, scoring a team-high 24 points to go with nine rebounds. He scored 16 points in the final 8:18.

“I think it was just trying to let the game come to me,” Thor said after the career-best performance. “Just trying not to put pressure on myself to make plays and let the game come to me. If you’re open, shoot it. Don’t care about makes and misses.”

Tigers coach Bruce Pearl lauded Thor’s determination on the heels of extended struggles. Thor averaged 4.7 points over his last three games before Saturday, and now averages 9.4 for the season.

“It tells you he’s got the ability. It tells you he’s got the confidence. He’s got the poise,” Pearl said. “He’s so coachable, so accountable. If he doesn’t get a rebound or misses a situation, it registers pretty quick with him. He’s got that next-level stuff. I’m proud of him, and I guarantee you his teammates are thrilled for him because he’s a hard worker and he’s very unselfish as a person and as a player.”

–Field Level Media

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