Playing a couple of days after losing his father, Mississippi State freshman guard Lamar Peters (1) scored 14 points in Mississippi State’s 67-59 win over Texas A&M at Humphrey Coliseum. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch
January 14, 2017 9:59:38 PM
STARKVILLE -- Ben Howland embraced Lamar Peters as the two walked off the Humphrey Coliseum court Saturday afternoon.
The Mississippi State men's basketball coach wanted his freshman point guard to know how proud he was of him, especially after what Peters dealt with the last few days. Peters' father, Walter Sterling, passed away at 44 Wednesday night.
Peters put aside his emotions and scored 14 points as MSU beat Texas A&M 67-59 for a third-straight Southeastern Conference victory.
"I hugged him and kissed him on the ear and said, 'Your dad would be really proud of you right now,'" Howland said. "I can't tell you how it's been for him. I lost my father and I know how traumatic that was for me and I think anybody who's lost their dad or their mother would relate to that. For him to be able to handle all this and kind of have it as a motivation to do well, it was good."
Peters didn't go into detail about his father when asked about the emotions he was feeling. Rather, he talked about what he needed to do as a teammate.
"I just wanted to come out, play my same game, be aggressive, control the tempo as the point guard of the team, get the guys going and just play hard for my team," Peters said.
The New Orleans, Louisiana, native was 1 of 7 from the field and 1 of 5 from 3-point range, but he was a perfect 11 of 11 from the free throw line. He had a career-high five steals and Howland was impressed with how Peters affected the game both offensively and defensively by not knocking down shots.
Peters made two free throws late to push the Bulldog lead to 63-59. Texas A&M's starting five featured two 6-foot-10 and two 6-foot-9 players. But that didn't seem to bother Peters, as he cut and slashed into the lane all game long looking for contact as he put up shots.
"When you're playing basketball and you're out there in big situations, you can never doubt yourself," Peters said. "You've got to have confidence. You've got to have that confidence booster -- just never doubt yourself. I felt like I had times where I could make plays and I've got players around me that can make plays for me too. When it comes to the end of the game, be ready to make a big play. That's my mind-set at all times."
After back-to-back road wins at LSU and Arkansas, Howland tweeted, "Hope to see you Saturday in THE HUMP!!"
The fans listened. MSU announced an attendance of 8,588 -- a season-high -- as MSU won it's first SEC home game of the season.
"What a great environment, what a phenomenal crowd," Howland said. "I'm just so excited about the students, the energy in the building because it really made a difference for us to beat these guys. Our home-court advantage was huge.
"I think we had a couple thousand more fans than we would have if we didn't sweep our road trip. They should be excited about these kids -- I know I am."
The student section was nearly full even with Monday being a holiday.
The fans didn't have much to cheer about early on as the Bulldogs fell behind 10-0 and couldn't get any shots to fall. Peters made three free throws with 12 minutes, 25 seconds remaining in the first half to get MSU on the scoreboard and Aric Holman dunked with 12:05 left for MSU's first basket.
Peters appreciated the crowd, especially because of the slow start.
"That was big for us," Peters said. "The crowd got our defense fueled up and defense can help give you a shot. Shots weren't falling, but we laid our hats on defense. Thanks to the crowd, we just came out there and got it done."
Q's second half
MSU's leading scorer Quinndary Weatherspoon struggled in the first half.
The sophomore guard/forward, who leads MSU with 17.9 points per game, failed to score in the first half on 0 of 3 shooting.
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said they had a specific gameplan to focus on Weatherspoon early to try and put MSU behind.
"He's such a good player and I've got a lot of respect for him," Kennedy said. "We knew he would get going a little bit. I thought we did a good job in the first half, but they wore us down on the perimeter with our lack of guard depth. I thought their athleticism wore us down."
Weatherspoon scored MSU's first points of the second half (a 3-pointer) and went on to score 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting.
Howland said it was a team effort for Weatherspoon's poor performance in the first half.
"I think it's just getting into a rhythm and letting the game come to him a little bit," Howland said. "He's done that before. Part of it though -- it's not much Q -- it's our team. We've got to get him open."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.
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