Mississippi State women's basketball coach Sharon Fanning-Otis and six seniors have their final regular season game at Humphrey Coliseum today.
With that realization, there is one thing Fanning-Otis wants out of the Lady Bulldogs as they get ready to play the Kentucky Lady Wildcats, the top team in the Southeastern Conference standings.
"We've got to remember the jersey we are wearing and who we are representing," Fanning-Otis said. "We have to play hard and play together. You have to play through frustration instead of it turning into a bad shot, turnover or poor defensive play.
"We have our final home game for our seniors and I hope we step up and play like a Mississippi State team in terms of effort and we have a chance to win any basketball game we play."
Diamber Johnson, Porsha Porter, Catina Bett, Ashley Brown, Danielle Rector, Judith Tabala will be the MSU seniors recognized prior to the 12:30 p.m. tip and Fanning-Otis will be honored after the game.
The Lady Bulldogs have a 4-11 record in the conference, but 14-14 overall and need a strong close to the regular season to make postseason play.
Fanning-Otis wants MSU to fight hard to make that happen.
"You have to punch and play hard for 40 minutes or you are not going to come out on top regardless of what the score is so we have to play hard," Fanning-Otis said. "All I'm trying to ask of this team is find a way to do that and finish in this last basketball game as we go into the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament."
Standing in the way of the Lady Bulldogs today is the probable No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament as Kentucky has records of 23-5 overall and 12-3 in the SEC.
MSU had a difficult time with the Lady Wildcats on the road, losing an 88-40 decision in early January.
Fanning-Otis said to have success against Kentucky, the Lady Bulldogs have to attack.
"When we played them there, we didn't have Porter in the game," Fanning-Otis said. "When you get back home, you still know that Kentucky has the best man-to-man, base-line to base-line defensive team in the league. They are going to play hard and when they do that, they are going to take some chances and you've got to find those holes, come to meet passes and have to reverse the basketball. You are going to have to attack the rim and do it for 40 minutes. You are going to have to go at people to win."
Throughout the SEC schedule, MSU has faced teams that have put up NCAA Tournament credentials.
Fanning-Otis knows it's never easy in the league and has tried to send that message to her players. "You have to have consistent effort for 40 minutes in this league," Fanning-Otis said. "There are too many good teams that are competing to get into the NCAA Tournament out of this league. We just have to play hard and that's what I'm challenging this basketball team with the whole year and that's the challenge as we finish."
The Lady Bulldogs have done some things better as the season has progressed in Fanning-Otis' eyes, but she wants to see more.
Despite the distraction of the past week of her announcing her retirement at season's end, Fanning-Otis doesn't want her squad to lose focus on the task at hand.
"Regardless of the situation, this has been an adjustment week and emotional week, but hopefully we can get past that and get ready for this last game," Fanning-Otis said. "Everyone needs their best effort down the stretch."