By DANNY P. SMITH
Mississippi State women's basketball coach Sharon Fanning-Otis likes the things Catina Bett can give the Lady Bulldogs.
When it comes to understanding and communicating the game, Fanning-Otis said Bett knows how to do that.
Bett, a transfer from the University of Kentucky, played her first game in a maroon and white uniform Saturday afternoon and contributed seven points and three rebounds in 19 minutes of play as MSU defeated the Utah Utes 61-52 at Humphrey Coliseum.
"For the most part, I think it was a great start for her," Fanning-Otis said.
"She understands the game and you could see that on a couple of rolls to the basket. She's at the right place at the right time.
"I do believe on a couple of the isolation things that she took really good shots, had good looks and I think she has the ability to help us."
By adding Bett to the mix, she's added to the rotation at center that includes starter Judith Tabala and Danielle Rector.
Bett does believe she adds a post presence and wants to do more to help the Lady Bulldogs in that regard.
"I don't feel like it was my best performance, but it was my first game back," Bett said. "There were some jitters, but I feel like I helped the team out as much as I could when I was in the game."
Bett entered the game at the 17:30 mark of the first half with MSU down 5-4 and immediately forced a turnover on the Utah end of the court.
Porsha Porter came down and hit a three-point field goal for the Lady Bulldogs to put them on top 7-5. That was a start of a 10-0 run that ended with MSU establishing a 14-5 advantage.
Bett scored on a layup at the 4:22 mark of the first half.
Diamber Johnson had 13 points in the first half as the Lady Bulldogs secured a 33-21 lead.
"It helps to have a post presence," Johnson said of her getting open shots. "It helps with passing the ball in and getting a lot more help."
In the second half, Bett benefitted from a couple of nice assists from Johnson and Porter to get into the scoring action herself.
Bett's basket after a Johnson assist gave MSU its largest advantage of 55-38 advantage with 5:13 remaining in the game.
Johnson led the Lady Bulldogs with a career-high 24 points, while Porter also had a career-high with 15 points.
Fanning-Otis said Porter brought her practice performance to the game.
"There were a lot more positive things in practice this week," Fanning-Otis said. "She was more focused, positioning was better and balance was better. She was guarding harder."
Ashley Brown got another double-double for MSU with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
"She makes a lot of effort plays so she continues to play really hard," Fanning-Otis said.
Mississippi State (5-2) travels to Hattiesburg Wednesday night to take on Southern Mississippi. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Fanning-Otis, who wasn't completely satisfied with the focus and toughness of her squad at times against Utah, does see things developing in a positive way.
"I see improvement and I see us understanding the game better," Fanning-Otis said. "I see the better recognition of the various and many sets. I see us understanding angles, positioning better and being able to communicate the game better."