Peters leads State into tough test against Cincinnati

Mississippi State's Lamar Peters (1)

Staff Writer

Lamar Peters has come a long, long way from the freshman kid who once couldn’t get up from a nap in time to go play.

Mississippi State’s now-junior guard, fresh off being chosen a Southeastern Conference Co-Player of the Week on Monday for his efforts last week, is playing at the top of his game. Tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Humphrey Coliseum, Peters leads the No. 18 Bulldogs (8-1) into battle against Cincinnati (9-1). In the process, Peters will look to continue the upward trend he’s been on of late as his career continues to blossom.

“I thought all of this work, all of this expectation, all of this anticipation and all of this anxiety – I thought he came out and was really pressing (to start this season),” MSU head coach Ben Howland said of Peters. “He’s finally letting it just come to him. The game is moving slower and he’s not missing.”

Peters enters Saturday night’s affair having made a whopping 16 3-pointers over his last two contests. He made eight treys against McNeese State on December 4, then did the same last weekend against Clemson. Before those two games, only four times in MSU history had a player made eight 3-pointers in a single contest.

All the long distance shots have helped give Peters a total of 55 points over his last two outings, but he hasn’t only been a scoring threat. He’s also distributing the basketball. He’s had five or more assists in each of his last six games. In all, he’s second on the team in scoring, averaging 14.2 points per outing. Only Quinndary Weatherspoon (16.8 points per game) has been better. Peters leads the Bulldogs in assists.

This is the same Peters that two years ago, in his freshman season, overslept for a game. That night two years ago, Howland sent a manager to check on Peters and when it was determined he’d overslept, Howland instructed Peters not to even bother showing up to the Humphrey Coliseum.

These days, Peters has been showing up in a big way for the Bulldogs. MSU’s Aric Holman says it has been a blast to see Peters mature into the player he now is.

“It’s a process,” Holman said. “Everybody’s process is different. He’s growing up and he’s becoming a man in his own shoes. He’s understanding things and he’s working harder than ever.”
Peters continues to try and hone his craft. Howland said that Peters put up 150 3-point shots in practice on Wednesday. He made 137 of them.

The Bulldogs can only hope he saved a few for Saturday night’s game as Cincinnati is dangerous, particularly defensively. Every point could be critical for MSU.

“They’re really aggressive in pressuring the ball,” Howland said of the Bearcats. “They do a phenomenal job of contesting every shot you take.

“Every possession is a battle. I thought that (CBS Sports Network analyst) Steve Lappas made a great comment watching one of their games that I was listening to in preparation for ours. He said, 'They play every possession like it’s life or death.’ I can’t think of a greater compliment to pay a team with how hard they play, with how physical they are, with how tough they are, how they hustle and how they work.”
Cincinnati averages giving up just 56.4 points per game. The Bearcats have held opponents to only 38.2 percent shooting.

Three Cincinnati players average scoring in double figures. Those are Jarron Cumberland (15.3 points per game), Tre Scott (10.9) and Keith Williams (10.7).

However defense is certainly the calling card of the Bearcats.

Luckily for the Bulldogs, they have a team with enough offensive firepower to give themselves a fighting chance, and they’re led by an electric point guard out of New Orleans in Peters who is continuing to come into his own.

“Me and the team are so proud of him right now for the strides he has taken over the past two or three years,” Holman said of Peters.