(Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The Mississippi State Bulldogs don't expect it to be easy tonight when they take on rival Ole Miss in Oxford.
MSU's chances at a victory are improved if it does the job in certain areas.
"Any team can be beaten any night when you do those little things," State senior point guard Diamber Johnson said. "That plays a major part."
The Lady Bulldogs and Lady Rebels take the Tad Smith Coliseum floor at 7 p.m., one night after the men clashed in Southeastern Conference action.
Mississippi State's women are 11-6 overall and are off to a slow start at 1-3 in the SEC.
The conference mark doesn't rest well with the Lady Bulldogs, but head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis hopes there are lessons learned in the process.
"I know some of the losses are very tough for us right now," Fanning-Otis said. "We have another opportunity to find a way to win on the road and that's what we have to step up and do."
Fanning-Otis has things she would like to see her team do better.
Some of the points of emphasis are playing better defense, rebounding better, and taking better shots.
Mississippi State committed 22 turnovers in Sunday's 68-51 loss to Georgia so taking better care of the basketball stands at the top of the list of concerns.
"We'll evaluate it, the players will see it a little bit more and feel the effort and teamwork that has to be there," Fanning-Otis said. "Hopefully, we'll learn and get better at the execution of it and take better care of the basketball.
"When you play hard, play together, play smart, slow down just a little bit and go fast when you need to, you start to understand the difference in that," Fanning-Otis said. "You have to learn how to attack and those are lessons we have to teach, learn and emphasize."
Georgia held Johnson to 10 points, but she still averages 17.2 points per game that's good for second in the SEC.
Johnson was one of three Lady Bulldogs to score in double digits against Georgia, but the 12 points by fellow senior Porsha Porter was the highest total.
"Every team in this league has athletes and they are going to swarm you," Fanning-Otis said about the struggles against Georgia. "Hopefully, we all learn from this and get better balance."
Ole Miss, which has records of 12-6 overall and 2-3 in the league, is led in the scoring department by Nikki Byrd with 13.8 points per game, while Valencia McFarland scores 13.7 points per outing.
This will be the first experience in the rivalry for players like MSU freshman Kendra Grant.
She is looking forward to the experience.
"I know they are our rivals and I'm pretty sure the crowd is going to be crazy, but we've just got to make sure we are on the same page, play our game and not play into their hands," Grant said.
With Oxford less than a two-hour drive from Starkville, Fanning-Otis believes there should be a good group of Lady Bulldog fans in attendance.
"It's close enough for a lot of people to come see this basketball game," Fanning-Otis said. "We really need a great crowd in Oxford. It makes a difference to us."
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