(Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Faster and stronger. That's how Mississippi State point guard Diamber Johnson describes women's basketball in the Southeastern Conference.
As the Lady Bulldogs open SEC play against the LSU Lady Tigers tonight at Humphrey Coliseum, Johnson has been trying to send a message to her younger teammates about how tough it's going to be.
"We're going to have to be mobile with it, more patient and get on the same page," Johnson said about what MSU needs to do to have success when it tips off against LSU at 7 p.m.
The Lady Bulldogs completed the non-conference slate with a 10-3 record and just finished a difficult road trip to close 2011.
After losing a decision to Oklahoma State in the Peppermill Classic in Reno, Nev., MSU women's coach Sharon Fanning-Otis watched her team rally against the host team Nevada to pull out a victory.
Fanning-Otis said it's going to take a consistent effort to get the results the Lady Bulldogs are looking for in the SEC.
"So much of winning is a mindset and something you have to be very persistent with," Fanning-Otis said. "You have to get yourself ready. That's what we're trying to talk about with this team and convince them of that. It's tough to do that because everybody can play and everybody works hard, but it has to be a consistent effort."
Fanning-Otis said winning will take care of itself if MSU plans to be the best it can be on game day.
She can live with the result if the Lady Bulldogs leave it all on the court.
"I want 100 percent effort," Fanning-Otis said. "I want you to be prepared, work very hard and do it as a team. With that, you'll improve and your abilities will get you where you need to be.
"When you have effort and desire, you can make a lot of things happen. You have to learn the game together and you have to be persistent."
Fanning-Otis said each game in the league brings its own set of tests.
As far as the LSU Lady Tigers are concerned, they bring a physical and experienced squad to Starkville.
Nikki Caldwell has taken over the coaching duties from Van Chancellor in Baton Rouge, but Fanning-Otis said don't expect very many changes.
"LSU comes in with a group of returning players and some seniors who have been there," Fanning-Otis said. "Even though they have a new staff, they know how to play together. They have great size and they have brought in some kids to help them."
With the SEC being highly competitive year-in and year-out, Fanning-Otis hopes coming off tournament activity in Nevada will serve MSU well.
"It gave us a challenge with travel and playing back-to-back, but hopefully, we learned a lot and it will sink in about how hard we have to play," Fanning-Otis said.
Johnson leads the Lady Bulldogs by averaging 18.3 points per game and only needs 150 more points to reach the 1,000 mark in her career.
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