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By DANNY P. SMITH
The Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs saw the scenario in last Sunday's exhibition game against Montevallo where they were able to win with senior Mary Kathryn Govero, the lone returning starter from last year's team, only scoring four points.
Even though MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis probably doesn't mind seeing that as long as her squad keeps winning games, she understands that Govero has to be a part of the success in moving forward.
Govero was shut out of the scoring column in the first half of the 75-42 win against Montevallo, but did hit two shots in the second half.
Fanning-Otis saw other Lady Bulldogs like Diamber Johnson, Porsha Porter, Ashley Brown and Judith Tabala step up and scored in double digits.
When MSU takes on the University of South Carolina Upstate to open the 2010-11 season today, Fanning-Otis expects improvement across the board. The 4 p.m. tip starts a doubleheader day at Humphrey Coliseum with the men playing Tennessee State at 7 p.m.
"What we'll do is see if we can get better," Fanning-Otis said. "We got better (last week) from a practice standpoint and we got better in the second half (Sunday). What are we going to look like (today)? Is our intensity, our communication or our understanding going to pick up? Are we going to play harder and smarter together every possession? Are we going to know defensively where the ball is?"
Fanning-Otis wants to see the fundamentals of the Lady Bulldogs improve as they start understanding roles and the system better. There are 11 newcomers to the squad this season.
The main point of emphasis Fanning-Otis pointed to was the execution and setting sharper screens with better timing and spacing. She also expects better communication on defense and working harder to get offensive rebounds.
As far as successful screens, Johnson knows that will be important for getting teammate Govero more open looks.
"Setting up, getting it to her earlier and hitting the screens at the right time and the right place will help her," Johnson said. "That's what she was struggling with (against Montevallo) because they were guarding her."
There may be an opportunity that freshman forward Cardecia Williams gets on the floor to contribute in today's opener. She missed the exhibition game due to an injured pinky finger.
It could be up to two more weeks before Darriel Gaynor can get back into a practice rotation after having knee surgery.