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Fanning-Otis wants Mississippi State to show fight

March 1, 2012

Sharon Fanning-Otis is not bowing out without a fight.

She doesn't want her team to do so either.

There's potentially just one more game for Fanning-Otis to coach with the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs, but she's not thinking in those terms.

If there is a postseason run to be made, Fanning-Otis wants the Lady Bulldogs to seize the moment.

It starts today when Mississippi State plays the Vanderbilt Lady Commodores in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament. The tipoff from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., is set for 2:30 p.m.

"It's something that takes a lot of endurance," Fanning-Otis said about winning four-straight games in the SEC Tournament. "I remember an Auburn team a few years back when Tiffany Woosley was the point guard and Joe Ciampi was there as coach. They went through and won four games when they didn't have a chance to go to the tournament. Our (Mississippi State) men a few years ago went to the NCAA Tournament and didn't have a chance and won (the SEC Tournament)."

Fanning-Otis said the key to having success in a tournament is take one at a time and she has tried to prepare the Lady Bulldogs for that.
"The will to prepare to win has to be greater than the will to win," Fanning-Otis said. "That's when you train hard. It's another thing we're trying to get these young ladies to learn. You have to train so the game should be an easy thing to do, but again it's a mindset and a heart thing."

MSU stands as the 10th seed for the tournament with records of 14-15 overall and 4-12 in the SEC. Seventh-seeded Vanderbilt is 21-8 overall and 9-7 in the league.

The Lady Bulldogs lost a 65-59 decision to the Lady Commodores in Starkville and was one of the more competitive games MSU has played this season.

MSU senior guard Diamber Johnson enters the SEC Tournament with confidence.

"We're not doubting ourselves," Johnson said. "We've been playing a lot of games with a lot of energy, but coming down the stretch in games it's been a struggle. We feel like we can be in games against any team we have. I don't think anybody is ready to go home after the first game. We feel like we can go in there and shake some things up."

Johnson, Porsha Porter and Kendra Grant are expected to start at guard for the Lady Bulldogs, while Catina Bett begins at center and Ashley Brown starts at forward.

Porter, Johnson, Bett, Brown, Danielle Rector and Judith Tabala are the six seniors for MSU and Fanning-Otis wants them to experience the type of run in the tournament she is looking for.

"You want to leave with a punch, do the best you can and accept the challenge," Fanning-Otis said. "Catina Bett, who has transfered in (from Kentucky), was able to have another opportunity in the league here. It has been a challenge for her life and has been here a year and a half. She has tried to be a real mentor, a teacher and an upperclassman here as a senior and I appreciate her effort.

"Porter just keeps everything running, is sort of that 'energizer bunny' type, and I appreciate all that she does to lead."

Porter is the second-leading scorer for the Lady Bulldogs with 13 points per game, but has been the top scorer over the last five games at 13.4 points per outing.

Johnson's scoring average of 14.7 points per game leads MSU, but her production has dropped off down the stretch of the season.

Her game may be in a slump, but Johnson insists she's not pressing.
"If my shots aren't falling, I'm not going to force anything," Johnson said. "I'm still trying to let the game come to me and still trying to get my teammates involved. Even if I wasn't hitting, I'm going to try and feed off that and knock down more shots. Hopefully, it will come back for the SEC Tournament."

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