AUBURN, Alabama (Ticker) -- Timmy Bowers and Mississippi State are proving to be the class of the West Division in the Southeastern Conference.
Bowers scored 17 of his career-high 25 points in the first half as the 19th-ranked Bulldogs took over first place in the West with a 63-46 victory over Auburn.
Mississippi State (17-5, 7-4 SEC West) moved a game ahead of Auburn with its seventh victory in eight games. It set up Sunday's showdown at East Division leader Kentucky, which has won 15 straight.
"We knew if we won tonight, it would be a huge step towards winning the West," Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said. "Any time you can win on the road in this league, especially against someone you are fighting for first place with, you deserve a lot of credit.
"This was a huge win for us, and hopefully, it can help us going into Rupp Arena on Sunday."
Bowers drained a pair of 3-pointers and had two more baskets to spark a 13-2 tear that gave Mississippi State a 23-11 lead with more than five minutes left in the first half. Bowers made 9-of-13 shots, four from beyond the arc.
"I just kept shooting and my shots fell tonight," Bowers said. "My teammates were telling me to keep shooting, so I continued to shoot the ball."
But the story of the game may have been the Bulldogs' stifling defense, which held Auburn to its lowest point total of the season.
The Tigers have lost five of seven after opening SEC play with a 4-0 record.
Auburn shot 33 percent (19-of-57), including a dismal 25 percent (7-of-25) in the first half. Marquis Daniels led the way with 17 points but was harassed into missing 12-of-19 shots.
"Our team came out not to lose as opposed to not playing to win," Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said. "You just can't play that way. Playing like that, shots aren't loose enough and the defense goes soft."
Mario Austin collected 14 points and 12 rebounds for Mississippi State as he won his head-to-head matchup in the middle with Auburn center Kyle Davis, who blocked six shots. Davis finished with seven points and 11 rebounds.
Austin's effort helped Mississippi State hold a 40-30 edge on the glass.
"I am happy with the way that we played inside," Austin said. "Rebounding against them is tough because they have some big guys. I thought that I came out and made the big plays when I needed to."
Mississippi State held a 35-19 halftime lead before Auburn scored the first 10 points of the second half to climb within six points.
A jumper by Branden Vincent with 15:49 left finally got the Bulldogs on the board in the second half. Austin made two at the line and Ontario Harper drilled a 3-pointer for a 13-point bulge.
Daniels' basket with five minutes left cut the Tigers' deficit to 50-41, but they managed only two baskets the rest of the way as the Bulldogs closed the game with a 13-5 burst.
"We set the tones on both ends of the court," Stansbury said. "We shot well and defended well, and if you do those things most of the time, you are going to come out on top."
The Bulldogs shot 54 percent (15-of-28) in the first half and limited the Tigers to five assists. Auburn was 4-of-21 from beyond the arc and shot a pathetic 19 percent (4-of-15) at the foul line.
"We have to be more aggressive," Ellis said. "This was a two-team race. This league has no mercy on any team. Mississippi State is too good. If you play tentative, they are going to bury you."
Daniels provided a bright spot with a steal, the 190th of his career to become the school's all-time leader.
Marco Killingsworth was the other Tiger in double figures with 11 points.
The loss was a damaging one for Auburn, which plays three of its final five games on the road. The Tigers close the season with a visit to Mississippi State on March 8.