STARKVILLE, Miss. — Lamar Peters knows how to distribute the ball to his teammates. He's also smart enough — and getting good enough — to know when he should just keep it and let the 3-pointers fly.
The junior point guard scored a career-high 27 points to lead No. 22 Mississippi State over McNeese State 90-77 on Tuesday night. Peters finished 9 of 16 from the field, including 8 for 13 from 3-point range.
Peters has had an up-and-down shooting touch throughout his career. He said that can change if he'll be disciplined enough to make good decisions.
"When I take a good shot," Peters said, "I'm a good shooter."
Peters' big night helped offset a Mississippi State defense that didn't have its best performance.
The Bulldogs (7-1) needed a 19-0 run early in the second half to finally take control of a game that was much more competitive than anticipated.
McNeese State (2-6) had a 42-39 halftime lead and briefly stretched its advantage to four points in the opening minutes of the second half.
"They made a couple tough shots and were way more patient than we expected," Peters said. "They came out grinding the clock and got the ball to their shooters. I want to give credit to them, they played good.
"We just had to go into the second half with a little more energy."
The Cowboys went cold about the time the Bulldogs got rolling and the game flipped in a hurry. McNeese State coach Heath Schroyer was called for a technical foul in the middle of the run, which didn't help the Cowboys.
When Mississippi State's flurry was finished, McNeese State's 50-46 lead had become a 65-50 deficit in less than six minutes.
"When you play a really good team, you have to really value and execute great possessions," Schroyer said. "Whether you score or not, you want to run clock or get fouled. We came down four straight times and took a couple ill-advised shots."
The game was tight throughout the first half, with neither team leading by more than seven. Mississippi State had a small advantage through most of the opening minutes before McNeese State went on a 15-7 run to take a three-point halftime lead.
The Cowboys shot nearly 66 percent from the field before halftime and outscored the Bulldogs 28-8 in the paint. Malik Hines led McNeese State with 14 points in the first half and finished with 24 on 9-of-14 shooting.
PERRY KEEPS IMPROVING
Mississippi State coach Ben Howland had rave reviews for freshman forward Reggie Perry, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in just 18 minutes.
"He's really going to be a good player," Howland said. "He's getting better right before our eyes. I'm so excited about his growth as a player."
McNeese State: The Cowboys put a scare into Mississippi State. The most impressive part of the first-half performance was how McNeese State bullied a bigger Mississippi State team in the paint. The competitive game should give the Cowboys some confidence.
"I thought our guys really competed and executed really well," Schroyer said. "We obviously stepped up and made some shots."
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs struggled defensively throughout most of the game and Howland was obviously frustrated with his team. The good news for Mississippi State is Peters continues to play well. When he's a 3-point threat, the Bulldogs are difficult to handle offensively.
McNeese State returns home to play North Carolina Central on Dec. 13.
Mississippi State faces Clemson in New Jersey on Saturday.