Mississippi State’s Lamar Peters drives past Georgia’s William Jackson II in their game Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville. Peters had 20 points and four steals in the 72-57 victory. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
February 3, 2018 10:36:40 PM
STARKVILLE -- Lamar Peters' speed is no secret to anyone. Mississippi State's men's basketball coaches certainly know it about their sophomore guard, and the film makes it clear to their competition in the Southeastern Conference.
MSU told Peters to put that speed to use Saturday against Georgia; Peters said coaches told him, "I was quicker than all their guys." Georgia coach Mark Fox wasn't surprised to see him try it.
"I think the only surprise we had was that our defense, which has been good, was as ineffective as it was," he said. "We weren't surprised at that, we just didn't stop."
Peters once again proved why MSU coach Ben Howland put him back in the starting lineup three games ago with Saturday's 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting as MSU beat Georgia (13-9, 5-5 SEC) 72-57. The three-game winning streak makes MSU 17-6 overall and 5-5 in conference off yet another impressive offensive performance.
"You see him really growing as a player," Howland said of Peters. "Tonight he got to the rim so easy; they're trying to plug ball screens and you can't stay in front of the kid. He needs to keep driving, driving, driving because nobody can stay in front of him.
"I don't care how you play it, he's going to get to the rim if he has that focus."
That focus showed itself immediately. The call on MSU's first possession was for a high ball screen for Peters; he said he generally likes to read the opposing forward involved in the pick-and-roll to see what his next move will be. When he looked, all he saw was a crease in the lane; he took it and scored.
There were times when he created those seams on the other side of the halfcourt line.
"It's one thing to get four steals, but I think three of them turned into layups in the open court by pressuring, really being out there and being active," Howland said.
Despite handling the ball as often as he did, Peters had just four turnovers in 32 minutes. He's had as many or more turnovers in fewer minutes four times this season.
MSU shot 50.9 percent from the field (27-53) for the third time in a row, a feat it had not accomplished in any conference game before this streak. Peters certainly helped that, but he wasn't alone.
Thirteen of Peters' 20 points and 12 of his 17 shot attempts came in the first half, yet MSU scored 35 second-half points compared to 37 in the first half. In that void -- including the first 10 minutes of the second half in which Peters was scoreless -- junior forward Aric Holman stepped up to score all 12 of his points. Holman bounced back from a rough first half that started with three consecutive missed 3-pointers to both add points in the second half and help MSU contain Georgia's Yante Maten. Maten entered the game as the SEC's leading scorer (19.6) and second leading rebounder (9.0) but MSU held him to 13 and seven.
Second-half efficiency also helped freshman guard Nick Weatherspoon get to 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon had 14 points on just seven field goal attempts; making seven of his eight free throw attempts helped.
Of the three wins leading into Tuesday's pivotal matchup with Alabama, this one may have been the most impressive: Georgia never led in the game and never cut MSU's 16-point halftime lead to less than 11. It was one of the better showings of a now 15-1 home record for the 7,775 in attendance, 600 more than the season average to date.
"We had a pretty big crowd today and they affected the game," Holman said.
MSU outrebounded Georgia 37-20, 12-6 in offensive rebounds, but did not rely on a feature rebounder. Holman and Quinndary Weatherspoon had eight each, in addition to six from freshman forward Abdul Ado, who made all three of his field goal attempts on his way to seven points and two blocks.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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