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The women's basketball coaches at Mississippi State and LSU want to see the same thing out of their teams as the Southeastern Conference season progresses.
Neither the Lady Bulldogs of coach Sharon Fanning-Otis, nor the Lady Tigers of coach Van Chancellor have gotten off to the kind of starts to the conference schedule as they would like.
LSU (11-6 overall) lost its first two SEC games before defeating Alabama handily at home Sunday 72-43, while Mississippi State (8-6) was edged by Arkansas at home the same day 61-56 after being down by 13 points at halftime.
Chancellor understands what it's like to see a team come back on his Lady Tigers.
After having a 23-7 lead on the road at South Carolina, LSU suffered a 63-61 loss in what Chancellor calls the most frustrating game he's had since returning to college coaching.
Chancellor said the Lady Tigers must play better in crucial situations as they go back on the road tonight against the Lady Bulldogs in Starkville. The tip at Humphrey Coliseum is set for 7 p.m.
"We've been a basketball team that's been inconsistent all year," Chancellor said. "We'll take three steps forward and one step backward.
"We've had spurts where we've played 25 minutes as good as I've seen us play, then about 5 to 10 minutes not very good. When we get those situations, they really hurt us."
As for MSU, Fanning-Otis is trying to mix in several newcomers like Catina Bett, Darriel Gaynor and Ashley Newsome with veterans like Diamber Johnson and Mary Kathryn Govero. Bett, Gaynor and Newsome have only been practicing with the team since December.
Fanning-Otis said the goal for the Lady Bulldogs is "to be the most improved team in the league by the end of the season," but she knows it will be a challenge with so many new faces.
On-the-job training is usually not recommended in the SEC.
"The thing with this league and this schedule is a team presents itself a little bit differently," Fanning-Otis said. "Our team has got to get on a consistent work-ethic basis together. Whatever the circumstances are, we want all of these players to be able to step up with a level of confidence.
"Sometimes when you are learning things and you are new to it, like with Darriel, Catina or Ashley (Newsome), it's something we are still learning and they have to gain confidence. Confidence comes through experience and sometimes through success. With us, it's going to have to come through some hard knocks and for them to be able to step up and be tougher. If we are becoming a more tougher basketball team, we're going to improve much more quickly."
Fanning-Otis says the formula of "play hard, play smart and play together" will work and that MSU must do that for 40 minutes.
Some of the areas where she wants the Lady Bulldogs to concentrate on are taking better care of the basketball and managing the halfcourt game in terms of setting screens and using those screens.
Mississippi State only averages 58.9 points per game and gives up 55.1 points per outing. Johnson averages 11.4 points per game and Govero scores 11 points per contest.
On Wednesday's SEC women's basketball teleconference, all of the coaches sounded like a broken record talking about consistency, adversity and focus.
"That's what we're all striving for," Fanning-Otis said. "Somehow you've got to win at home, then you have to win your share on the road if you are going to be in the top half of this league."
Chancellor noticed how the Lady Bulldogs played near the end of the Arkansas game and it causes him some concern.
"I see Arkansas up on Mississippi State Sunday and then had to fight for their lives at the end to win," Chancellor said. "You've got to stay there and realize when you are on the road in the Southeastern Conference, no lead is safe. In this league, when you get on the road, you had better get ready to play for 40 (minutes)."