December 3, 2009 11:38:00 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Incomplete.
On paper, the statistics from the Mississippi State women''s basketball team''s 85-52 victory against Southern Miss reflect an impressive evening.
Mary Kathryn Govero had a career-high 21 points to lead four double-figure scorers, and the Lady Bulldogs (5-3) had their best shooting percentages from the field (53.3 percent) and free-throw line (87.5) of the season.
In the MSU locker room after the game, though, coach Sharon Fanning-Otis had an extended conversation with her team. The topic: How to play together and hard for 40 minutes.
The postgame chat could be construed as a common move by a coach striving to maximize her players'' skills.
But after watching Southern Miss (3-4) win the rebound battle (33-32) and outhustle MSU for parts of the game, Fanning-Otis wasn''t pleased and made sure her players know there is plenty of work to be done if the team is to reach its potential.
"Let''s don''t forget it''s a ''W'' " Fanning-Otis said. "It was sloppy, yes, and was it how we want to play? No. In the first half, we were letting people do what they did the best. It is just unacceptable relative to how we are attempting to play."
Fanning-Otis was pleased the Lady Bulldogs forced the Lady Eagles into a season-high 27 turnovers. They parlayed that into a 33-16 edge in points off turnovers. She also liked the 62.1-percent shooting effort (18-for-29) in the second half, but she felt the team was lacking in several areas after losses to Texas, Rutgers, and Southern California last weekend at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
With the start of the Southeastern Conference season six games away, Fanning-Otis said the Lady Bulldogs need to play with more urgency.
"We better get our hard hats on, we better practice harder, and get to know each other better as a basketball team and improve," Fanning-Otis said.
That''s why Fanning-Otis talked the players longer than usual after the game. The players said the coaches discussed numerous issues that need to be corrected.
"(The talk was about) selling out, working hard every second of every day in practice, and just coming together as a team," said senior guard Alexis Rack, who tied for game-high honors with 21 points and had nine assists. "The coaches said we look separated on the court.
"I feel we are not on the same page. I guess we just have to work on it in practice. SEC time is coming up quick, so we need to get together quick."
Govero isn''t sure if the players aren''t on the same page, but she said everything the Lady Bulldogs do from here on out has to be all out.
"I don''t think we are at that level in practice where we need to be every day," Govero said. "Starting (today), we have to pick it up, stay on each other to improve in practice, which will carry over into the games."
Fanning-Otis said the members of the media didn''t have enough time to listen to all of the points she discussed with the players in the locker room after the game, but she listed a few of them. She said the players likely were a little mentally fatigued coming back late from a long trip and returning to class to prepare for exams. Still, she didn''t want to make any excuses.
"(It has to do with) passion and how they''re going to play together very, very hard," Fanning-Otis said. "But you''re always trying to teach how are you going to be able to put aside other things and it is going to be toughness and discipline and continued preparedness to have a focus that you have to have to execute. We have to get our focus. I felt we just did not play with the energy that we are going to need to win ballgames."
Senior guard Armelie Lumanu has 16 points and senior guard/forward Tysheka Grimes added 12. Senior center Chanel Mokango had eight points and eight rebounds, but senior backup Rima Kalonda didn''t score in 11 minutes.
"Chanel has to get tougher physically," Fanning-Otis said. "Teams are going to come and punch you in the teeth early and are going to be in your face and they''re going to be really physical with you, especially if they feel like that is a problem for you. She has to get mentally and physically stronger. She has to get the mental aspect that when you touch a basketball it is your basketball. She can alter shots, and she just has to play harder."
The Lady Eagles also outrebounded the Lady Bulldogs on the offensive boards (16-12) and often seemed a step quicker and hungrier even after they lost senior guard Candace Rucker to an apparent shoulder injury in the first half. Rucker, the team''s fourth-leading scorer (9.7 points per game) had six points in nine minutes and didn''t return.
A driving layup by Lumanu with 7 minutes, 15 seconds to play in the first half snapped a 21-all tie and sparked 15-2 run that helped the Lady Bulldogs build a 36-23 lead with 1:41 left before halftime.
Leading 38-28 at halftime, MSU led by double figures throughout the second half. A jump shot by freshman Ashley Jones with 7:41 to go extended the lead to 63-43 and the Lady Bulldogs continued to pull away.
Still, the 33-point victory wasn''t reason to celebrate. Govero said it is always better when you can learn lessons while winning, but she said the team isn''t where it wants to be.
Rack said the Lady Bulldogs will continue to try to deliver consistent 40-minute efforts.
"We just have to shake this slump," Rack said. "(Today) will be a new beginning. Scratch what happened in the past and just look for the future and work hard."
NOTES: Rack has 1,332 career points and is nine shy of passing Laura Springer (1,340 points, 1978-81) into seventh place on the school''s all-time scoring list. ... Grimes has 915 points and is three points away from moving past Jemmye Ann Helms (917, 1992-97) into 18th place on the all-time scoring list. ... The 14 free throws (16 attempts) were the second most MSU had made in a game this season. ... Rack''s nine assists were the most by a Lady Bulldogs this season. She also scored in double figures for the 22nd game in a row. ... MSU returns to action at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 when it plays at Louisiana Tech. The Lady Bulldogs will play host to Samford at 7 p.m. Dec. 14.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.