Falling down by as many as 16 points in the first half, the Bulldogs stormed back and made it a competitive finish, before falling 74-65 to Auburn in the final Southeastern Conference regular season contest for both teams at the Auburn Arena.
MSU (13-16 overall, 5-11 SEC) earns the No. 12 seed in the SEC Tournament and will face Alabama at 5 p.m. CT Wednesday in Duluth, Ga. The game will be broadcast regionally by Fox Sports Net South and may be heard locally through the Bulldog Sports Network on WNMQ-FM (103.1).
MSU were playing fresh off a 50-38 upset win over No. 11 Georgia in the Humphrey Coliseum Thursday night. However, the Bulldogs could not build on that momentum.
"We just weren't ready to play," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. "You don't have to blame anyone, or look any further than me. We came out and weren't ready to play when the lights came on. We haven't had a good practice the last couple of days, which is typical of a young, inexperienced basketball team coming off a great win.
"I give Auburn a lot of credit. They really executed and forced us into 31 turnovers."
After allowing 38 points total to Georgia, MSU gave up that many in the first half Sunday. Auburn shot 55.6 percent from the floor in the first half and blitzed out to a 40-24 halftime advantage.
MSU began the second half with a 12-2 run. A 3-pointer by Jerica James, followed by two free throws by James, had the Bulldogs within 42-36 with 16:20 left in the contest.
A jumper in the lane by Martha Alwal had MSU within 44-40 with 14:13 remaining.
An old-fashioned 3-point play by James brought MSU within 48-45. Auburn (16-13, 5-11) finally righted the ship and scored the game's next eight points. A 3-pointer by Blanche Alverson ran the Tigers' advantage to 56-45 with 9:38 left.
Still, MSU hung tough and closed within six on two occasions in the final 6:46.
"We obviously struggled against their zone press most of the day," Schaefer said. "I think that was the key, and our inability guard Alverson on the perimeter. Those were really the biggest disappointments for me. Again, that's my inability in preparing this team, and we just have to find a way to bounce back."
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 25 of 48 shots from the field (51.2 percent), 3 of 8 shots from 3-point range (37.5 percent) and 12 of 14 shots from the foul line (85.7 percent). The Tigers hit 25 of 52 shots from the field (48.1 percent), 6 of 13 shots from 3-point range (46.2 percent) and 18 of 23 shots from the foul line (78.3 percent).
MSU held a 30-26 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 13 assists and 31 turnovers, while the Tigers had 22 assists and 23 turnovers.
Alverson paced Auburn with 32 points, while Tyrese Tanner added 19 points.
Now, all thoughts turn to the postseason.
"We're going to embrace that opportunity and go do it," Schaefer said. "We're excited about it and look forward to playing on Wednesday, when no one else is playing. I'm sure Alabama will be ready for us, and it will be a great opportunity for both teams."