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By DANNY P. SMITH
Mississippi State junior center Catina Bett cares.
As the losing streak for the Lady Bulldogs grew to four games with Thursday night's 72-55 home loss to LSU, Bett was noticeably disappointed.
"It's more emotional because I'm tired of losing," Bett said. "We all know what we've got to do and that's just win. After a while, you've got to get in your head that you are tired of losing."
MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis is looking for players who will step up and make the sacrifice it takes to be a better team.
Even though Bett has only been able to practice and play with the team since December, Fanning-Otis has challenged the Gadsden, Ala., native to improve quickly.
"This is a team where I thought we could get on her back in the post and score some points," Fanning-Otis said. "You have to have the endurance of it and have to have the toughness. You are going to get hit and it's going to be physical. You've got to go to the free-throw line and make them pay when they do that.
"We have to get tougher as a basketball team and Bett is one of those people. As she gets tougher, the team is going to get better and she has to be able to score around the rim. She's got to make her presence known in there."
It's the hope of Fanning-Otis that Bett and the other players go out and have "one better possession than we had yesterday and one more minute that has more effort."
The next chance for the Lady Bulldogs to make progress comes at noon today against the Kentucky Lady Wildcats in Lexington. The game is set for Fox Sports Net television.
Bett has averaged 7.7 points and 5.6 rebounds in the nine games she's played for MSU this season.
The transfer from Kentucky is concerned about improving those numbers along with the records of the Lady Bulldogs (8-7 overall, 0-3 Southeastern Conference).
"I'm tired of losing and whatever it takes," Bett said. "I've been working hard in the gym on different moves. I don't just want to be a set back to the basket post player. I want to be able to step out and be more versatile."
MSU opened the conference schedule with a 65-44 loss at Vanderbilt.
Now that the Lady Bulldogs have dropped two SEC home games, Fanning-Otis knows the importance of each opportunity.
"We just have to be ready to win a ballgame," Fanning-Otis said. "It's going to take a consistent work ethic for 40 minutes and you have to learn the game as you go along. (While you are) sitting on the bench, you see things. There's a time out, you hear things. You have to go out and get a little bit better position whether it's offense or defense.
"It doesn't matter where the game is played, it doesn't matter the time it's played and it doesn't matter the opponent. We've got to get better every basketball game and we have another opportunity to do that at Kentucky."
Until Thursday night, the Lady Wildcats were also a team searching for success within the league.
Kentucky (12-4, 1-2) had lost three-straight games, including two SEC outings, before defeating South Carolina 66-48 at home.
Coach Matthew Mitchell, a native of Louisville, said the Lady Wildcats have learned something through some adversity.
"Hopefully we have identified some areas where we can progress and still feel like we can have a good team and a good season," Mitchell said. "Our team really does better when we've had a chance to practice some. Last week was one game right after the other and we spent a lot of the time focused on the opponent and didn't have a lot of time to focus on ourselves.
"I think you saw a lot of fundamental breakdowns both offensively and defensively. Our transition defense has to get better because Georgia scored a lot in transition on us. We have to get better with transition defense and offensive execution with people doing the little things that can help you get some buckets."
Victoria Dunlap, Kentucky's All-American candidate in the post, scored 20 points in the post against South Carolina, while freshman Bernisha Pinkett had a career-high 18 points.
As a former Lady Wildcat, Bett has more of a reason to be motivated for today's game, but doesn't want to place emphasis on one game more than the other.
"It's another game and I'm just taking it as they come," Bett said. "Of course, I want to win, but we'll see when we get there."