Mississippi State cruises to 81-62 win over Alabama
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Lamar Peters embraces the role of the point guard and loves to be the guy who sets up the offense, distributes the basketball and plays great defense.
Scoring is secondary. But if the shots are there, he's happy to take them.
"My main focus is trying to get the team going," Peters said. "I'm the quarterback out there so I've got to get these other guys going. But when I see I can knock down shots to help us out, I'll do that too.
Then he grinned and added: "I like scoring."
Peters, a 6-foot junior, scored at least 20 points for the first time in Southeastern Conference play, shooting 7 of 15 from the field, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range. His energy seemed to flow through the rest of the offense and the Bulldogs were consistent the entire night, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field.
"For me, this is the best game we've played since I've been the coach at Mississippi State," Mississippi State's fourth-year coach Ben Howland said. "Because of how we played, how hard we played defensively. It's the best game. I hope we can build on this."
Mississippi State (17-7, 5-6) was in dire need of a win after losing the first two games of its current homestand to LSU and Kentucky. The Bulldogs came out hot from the start, pushing to a 22-10 lead by midway through the first half and taking a 43-30 advantage into halftime.
"We just had to get back on the winning side," Peters said. "Coach has been emphasizing our defense and showing us the film. We hadn't been helping each other a lot - letting everyone play one-on-one."
Weatherspoon had another efficient outing while passing 1,800 points for his career. The senior finished 8 of 10 from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. He also had a team-high six assists.
Mississippi State freshman Reggie Perry added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Alabama (15-9, 6-5) won the first meeting between these two teams 83-79 in Tuscaloosa, but struggled in the second matchup on the road. The Crimson Tide never led and finished with 18 turnovers. Freshman Kira Lewis Jr. led Alabama with 17 points. Tevin Mack added 13.
Mississippi State had a 28-5 advantage in points off of turnovers.
"It just wasn't one of our better nights on the road," Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. "Whenever you turn it over 18 times on the road, it leads to 28 points and another game where we got outrebounded, you're going to have a tough time winning. Give (Mississippi State) credit."
Alabama: It's usually been a struggle for the Crimson Tide on the road, and Tuesday's loss was no exception. Alabama had several sloppy turnovers that resulted in easy Mississippi State buckets, which was too much for the Tide to overcome.
"Whenever you turn the ball over like that, it's hard to get your defense set," Johnson said. "Mississippi State's a fast team. Nick Weatherspoon and Peters, those guys in a foot race, they're pretty fast like our guys. It looked like we were playing catch-up most of the night."
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs earned a little momentum heading into a two-game road trip against Arkansas and Georgia. Mississippi State had good balance in Tuesday's win, with Peters, Weatherspoon and Perry all contributing important plays.
Alabama returns home to host Florida on Saturday.
Mississippi State goes on the road to face Arkansas on Saturday.