January 26, 2018 10:12:31 AM
STARKVILLE -- Lamar Peters was as much of a guaranteed starter as there could be for the Mississippi State men's basketball team after its first three games. He was averaging 12.3 points per game on 38 percent shooting and 4.6 assists per game.
Then came his three-game suspension for a violation of team rules. He hadn't started since; that changed Tuesday.
Peters got his first start in 14 games in MSU's loss to Kentucky. His reinsertion into the lineup gives MSU a different dynamic as the Bulldogs host Missouri (13-7, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) 7:30 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network).
Peters filled into the starting spot that previously belonged to sophomore guard and Starkville native Tyson Carter, but MSU coach Ben Howland said the move had more to do with the former than the latter.
"It's something I thought would be good for us in terms of running the offense and Lamar's been playing really well, it's nothing Tyson hasn't been doing," Howland said on the SEC teleconference Thursday. "Lamar's been an effective point guard when he's been in there.
"We got off to a good start, we had the lead, up 15-10, and he made some smart decisions in transition. I was pleased with his play."
Peters responded to being returned to the starting lineup with nine points, five assists, a steal and just two turnovers in a season high 33 minutes. It was the continuation of a better streak of games for Peters: he shot 32 percent from the field in his first three SEC games but has shot 41.4 percent (17-41) in his last four, and has done so while taking two shots per game more from the first three to the last four.
Peters also went from two steals in his first three SEC games to eight in his last while improving his 3-point shooting percentage from 20 percent in the first three to 35 over his last four. None of it is lost on his competition.
"I think the thing that comes to mind when you watch him is speed and toughness," Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said on the SEC teleconference. "He gets the ball, he wants to get the ball on the floor and he looks comfortable doing it. I think he has the attributes for that position, directing traffic and putting guys in position to make plays. He's tough to go against."
The bigger result of the move is increased minutes for the backcourt trio of Peters with the Weatherspoon brothers, junior guard Quinndary and freshman guard Nick. They are the top three on the team in assists and three of the top four in steals, two of many reasons why Howland wanted to see them together more.
"They can all handle the ball and they all do a good job of being able to penetrate and make plays out to the perimeter along with finishing," Howland said. "Defensively, it's a real good group because we're able to pressure the ball and do a good job of trying to create havoc with our defense thanks to the quickness and strength all three of those guys display."
If all goes well, more of that trio could be a much needed spark for MSU and its four consecutive losses to teams ranked in the top 60 by Ken Pomeroy's advanced numbers (Missouri ranks 46th.)
"It's been two tough road games where we've had a chance to win but couldn't quite get over the hump," Howland said, "and now we're hoping to get back home here and get some momentum against a really good Missouri team."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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