January 12, 2013 10:53:41 PM
STARKVILLE -- A year ago, Sharon Fanning-Otis emphasized the importance of doing the little things to make sure the Mississippi State University women's basketball team had success on as many possessions as possible.
Fanning-Otis' breakdown of categories like field goal percentage defense, rebounding margin, and assist-to-turnover ratio often was the first subject she discussed when she broke down a game.
Vic Schaefer has put his stamp on MSU's program since he was hired in March 2012, but he also values taking care of the basketball and getting the most out of every possessions. On Thursday, Schaefer attempted to drive that point home by talking about a poem -- "It's Only One Possession" -- in the team's locker room. He said the message in the poem is that it doesn't matter when a player doesn't do something they're supposed to because it can have devastating ramifications at the end of the game.
That poem proved to be prophetic, as MSU lost to the University of Florida 61-55 at Humphrey Coliseum. Despite delivering one of its longest and most intense efforts of the season, the little things added up to drop the Bulldogs to 8-8 and 0-3 n the Southeastern Conference.
"Tonight was a night where everybody in here thinks we played the best game we have played all year. That needs to translate into a victory," Schaefer said Thursday. "You hate to let one get away. As good as they played in spurts, I thought we handled them at times. We're not going to light the world on fire offensively, but we have got way too many deficiencies in that area."
MSU will try to bounce back at 2 p.m. today when it takes on LSU (10-6, 1-2) at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. LSU, which is coming off a 63-54 loss to the University of Arkansas on Sunday, has won the past five meetings in the series.
MSU lost its SEC home opener despite getting 21 more shots from the field than Florida. The Gators balanced that discrepancy by going 25 of 39 from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs were 6 of 7 from the line.
A 47-30 rebounding deficit also negated MSU's second positive assist-to-turnover ratio (13-to-10) of the season, and its 22-7 edge in points off turnovers.
"I can't sit here and be satisfied with losing by six to Florida when we fouled them for their last six points," Schaefer said Thursday. "It is not in my makeup. Yes, we played hard today, I am proud of them for competing, and I think they feel pretty good about how hard they played, but I don't think they're very happy about losing. At the end of the day, I'm not. They didn't bring me here (to lose), and they're not writing me a check every two weeks to lose. I am disappointed in the outcome, and I feel completely and totally responsible. It is my job as a head coach to teach better and to coach better and get those kids home."
A closer look at Thursday's game shows several teaching points for Schaefer and his coaches. The Bulldogs allowed Jaterra Bonds to drive the lane for the go-ahead basket with 4 minutes, 6 seconds to play. Nearly two minutes later, Kayla Lewis beat MSU down court and took a lob pass for a layup that helped the Gators hold on.
MSU also had a missed box out late in the game and at least two possessions in which it didn't take an open shot on the first look. By the time the Bulldogs opted to shoot, the defense had recovered in time to force a miss.
Without senior guard Darriel Gaynor (leg) and freshman forward Sherise Williams (stress fracture in her foot) and with redshirt sophomore Carnecia Williams limited due to sickness, MSU nearly made up for its lack of depth with a spirited effort.
"That was one of the things we really preached in our game plan (that) we have to ready for their best effort, and their best effort, that is what it looks like," Florida coach Amanda Butler said. "It is a lot of energy, it is very aggressive. I think they play very fearlessly. I thought they did a great job on defense, especially in the first half, of really speeding us up."
But Schaefer isn't interested in a 20- or 30-minute effort. He also doesn't want to single any players out because the poem stresses that every player can find one thing in a game that they could have done that would have made a difference. If that had happened Thursday, Shamia Robinson's hook shot with four minutes, 30 seconds to play might have given MSU a bigger lead instead of giving it its only lead of the evening.
Schaefer highlighted the poem's message again Saturday as MSU traveled to Baton Rouge, La. He said he has had the poem a long time and that he typically gives it to his players during the season. With a young team that has only two players with significant experience from last season, Schaefer said he will continue to emphasize and to stress and to preach about the importance of "It's Only One Possession."
"It magnifies it in close games. There is no question," Schaefer said. "I think you can say that (it applies) to four games we have had. You can say that about Thursday. The crux of the poem is it is not OK and you can't just brush it off and say it is only one. You can't say, 'I only screwed up once', or you can't say, 'It's early. I will make it up down the stretch.' The whole point is you can't say that."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.