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By DANNY P. SMITH
Mississippi State women's basketball coach Sharon Fanning-Otis does not want her team looking at Xavier University's record or its ranking.
The Lady Bulldogs try to put those things out of their mind when they play the Lady Musketeers today at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The tip is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Xavier (9-0) is ranked No. 9 in the latest Associated Press poll and have several All-America candidates on the squad.
"They are a very good basketball team with great experience and great size," Fanning-Otis said. "They do a great job of changing defenses, they guard you hard and get around the rim. It gives us a good challenge and an idea of what the league is going to be like, going against a top 10 team."
In a 65-52 victory over Middle Tennessee State on Dec. 9, there were five Lady Musketeers who scored in double digits. Senior Megan Askew had a career high 17 points.
Senior Ta'Shia Phillips leads the Atlantic-10 and is sixth nationally in rebounding at 11.7 boards per game. She also averages 14.8 points per outing and hits 61 percent from the field, which is a conference-best and ranks eighth nationally. Senior Amber Harris ranks second in A-10 and 18th nationally in scoring at 19.8 points per game.
Fanning-Otis was pleased with several areas of MSU's 50-40 victory over in-state rival Southern Mississippi Wednesday night.
The Lady Bulldogs (6-2) held the Lady Golden Eagles to 21.3 percent shooting, forced 22 turnovers, out-rebounded their host 43-39 and got 24 free-throw attempts.
All of those points were positive in Fanning-Otis' mind, but now knows her squad must move ahead.
"I challenge us to get better," Fanning-Otis said. "We have to find a way to win this game, regardless of where a team is ranked. You have to go into games to win."
MSU is paced in the scoring department by junior guard Diamber Johnson. The Pontotoc native averages 13.6 points per game.