February 10, 2011 9:04:00 AM
Catina Bett is getting close.
As much as playing in 41 games at the University of Kentucky gave her a taste for life in the Southeastern Conference, the 2010-11 season has been one of adjustments.
Bett, who transferred from Kentucky and joined the Mississippi State women''s basketball team last season, didn''t become eligible until the start of the second semester. Since then, she has been learning and working herself back into the shape she knows it takes to compete in the SEC.
Bett''s work is paying bigger rewards of late. The 6-foot-5 junior center had 10 rebounds in a loss to the University of Alabama on Thursday. She grabbed a career-high 11 Sunday to help MSU beat Auburn for its first SEC win of the season.
Bett will try to continue to work toward becoming a consistent double-double performer at 7 tonight when she leads MSU (9-13, 1-9 SEC) against the University of Mississippi (10-12, 3-7) at Tad Smith Coliseum.
"I am getting close to (being able to deliver double figure points and rebounds every game)," Bett said. "I am going out and working hard every game with the mentality to do what I can I do. I feel I am working toward my goal and always performing and doing the best I can. I feel I am very close to that goal."
Bett played in 41 games in two years at Kentucky from 2007-09. While in Lexington, she averaged 2.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 0.6 blocked shots a game before being dismissed from the team due to disciplinary reasons. She was on hand last season to work with and to watch the Lady Bulldogs as they marched to the program''s first Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Without 6-5 post player Chanel Mokango, who was recently re-signed by the WNBA''s Los Angeles Sparks, Bett knew she would step in immediately when she became eligible. She has started 15 of 16 games and is fourth on the team in scoring (7.6 points per game) and second on the team in rebounding (6.2). She has scored in double figures four times and has grabbed 10 or more rebounds four times without a double-double. She is shooting 39.7 percent from the field, and leads the team with 26 blocked shots.
MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis has challenged Bett several times this season to be someone who delivers double-doubles. She has stressed Bett needs to simplify things in the post and to correct positioning to put herself in better spots to convert scoring opportunities.
Fanning-Otis has seen improvements from Bett in those areas, as well as better endurance. She played 36 minutes Sunday against Auburn, one off her season-high set in the first meeting against the Tigers. But Bett has played 30 or more minutes only four times, and has had four or more fouls in a game six times. She has fouled out of one game.
"I have seen better endurance and that''s important because this team needs better endurance and endurance is toughness," Fanning-Otis said. "You have to have a desire to want to be out there when the game is on the line. ... We are not going to have someone scoring 20 or 30 points every game, but we need to get more balanced and our post players have to hold their ground."
Bett wants to improve her conditioning, her quickness, and her strength. She said better upper body strength will help her be a presence around the rim, which will help create opportunities for the Lady Bulldogs'' perimeter players. She said she will continue to strive to do whatever she can to help the team win and to remain focused. She feels she has improved since her first game of the season Dec. 11 against Utah and that she has high hopes for the rest of the season and her senior year.
"I am going to do whatever I can do to leave here knowing I tried to be the best player I can be to help team accomplish a goal," Bett said.
Fanning-Otis said Bett''s knowledge of the game will help her reach her goals. She said she has noticed Bett have better footwork on defense and a willingness to mix it up in the paint. She said Bett''s increased productivity will be a key if MSU wants to realize her goal of being the league''s most improved team by the end of the season.
"If you get knocked down how quickly do you get back up," Fanning-Otis said. "If something happens, you have to get back and play through mistakes. The team that makes the fewest has a better chance of winning games. She is getting better at that, and we are getting better at that."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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