Auburn won't be heading to the Southeastern Conference tournament because of a self-imposed postseason ban, so the season will end for the Tigers when they host Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon.
But the Bulldogs (14-12, 8-9 SEC) are going to the tournament and they're starting to look like a team that might be dangerous.
Mississippi State has won three of its past four games, and the one loss was a competitive one. Regular-season champion Alabama won that one, 64-59, last Saturday. The Bulldogs are coming off a 63-57 victory against Texas AM on Wednesday.
The late-season push has been fueled by the Bulldogs' defense.
"I'm really proud because we're a team that's growing and that has had growing pains," coach Ben Howland said. "It comes back to our defense holding another opponent to 32 percent. The last four games our defense has been absolutely fantastic -- the best it's been the entire season and I'm really excited about that."
In the past four games, the Bulldogs have allowed 32.7 percent shooting and an average of 56.3 points.
"Defense is not something you teach," forward Abdul Ado said. "It's something you have. It's a heart thing. It's a pride thing. So we take pride in that. We have a great defensive coach. When you have a guy like that and everybody else buys into the plan, everything goes well for you."
Auburn (12-14, 6-11) is coming off a 70-58 loss to No. 8 Alabama on Tuesday.
"I thought our kids really competed and played hard," Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said. "We won the battle of the boards. (Defensively) we gave ourselves a chance to win, but offensively we've got some limitations."
The biggest limitation is the absence of point guard Sharife Cooper, who has missed the past three games because of an ankle injury and is unlikely to play Saturday. In his absence, Auburn committed 23 turnovers against the Crimson Tide.
"I wish we would have gotten a win (against Alabama) and then win on Saturday so we could have ended perfectly, ready to go into the next season but that's not going to happen," said Jaylin Williams, who had 13 points against Alabama. "So we have to win this Saturday and we're going to be prepared for Mississippi State."
--Field Level Media