By DANNY P. SMITH
Mississippi State's Catina Bett may have earned her first double-double of the season against Mississippi Valley State Monday night, but her coach Sharon Fanning-Otis knows her junior post player can get much better.
That's why Fanning-Otis wasn't satisfied with Bett's career-highs in points with 16 and rebounds with 10 in the 61-49 victory by the Lady Bulldogs at the Humphrey Coliseum Monday night.
On several occasions, Fanning-Otis subbed the 6-foot-5 Bett out of the game to have a teaching session on the bench during the game.
"I'm trying to talk about her size and there are too many moves going on at times," Fanning-Otis said. "(She needs to) just catch, pivot and shoot it when you have the size advantage. You have to get balanced, but take advantage of what you capabilities are.
"If it's a situation where people double team you hard, you've got to be able to pass to the open person. The other thing they've got to know each other. Catina has got to keep playing the game a little bit quicker and get better position. A couple of rebounds she had turned out to be jump balls and maybe one time there was a steal. I think she could have had 20-something (points) and 15 (rebounds) easily, but she's listening and that's important. It's important that we get better. She's definitely adding to our team."
It was only Bett's fourth game to play this year after transferring from the University of Kentucky last season.
Bett knows that her game is still a work in progress along with the rest of the team.
"I'm still trying to learn the system and be more of a post presence so I can help my teammates," Bett said. "I think it's just a fact of just believing. We know we have to work on some things over the break. We've got to believe in each other and not worry about what the paper, the media or everyone else says.
"We need to work on ourselves as a team. We know what we need to work on. We need to progress every day, working hard in practice and in games."
Along with Bett, there are several newcomers to MSU's squad this season and Fanning-Otis knows the players have to find ways to get past that.
"There's a lot of new faces," Fanning-Otis said. "They've got to get to know each other and that's on the court and off the court. We have a ways to go, but that's what it's about. It's working hard, learning a lesson, reflecting on the last game and try to get better the next game. The mental part is a huge part of it."
In the midst of the frustrations, the Lady Bulldogs did win to improve their overall record to 7-3.
MSU started fast against Mississippi Valley State in both halves. The Lady Bulldogs scored the first 11 points of the game before the Devilettes could get its first point of the game at the 15:40 mark of the first half.
In the second half, MSU scored the first seven points to stretch a 27-18 advantage to 34-18. The Lady Bulldogs only ended up outscoring Mississippi Valley 34-31 in the second half.
"It starts out, then you let up," Fanning-Otis said. "We're just not getting position. Our focus together just has to be better. It was disappointing from that standpoint.
"You always want to win a ballgame, but what I'm looking for is best effort and that's how I evaluate what we're doing and there were some places where we got better and others where we stayed where we were or became complacent."
Bett led three players to score in double digits for MSU as Mary Kathryn Govero added 15 points and Diamber Johnson chipped in 10 points.
The Lady Bulldogs used a total of 12 players in the game, but Ashley Newsome wasn't available on Monday after turning an ankle in practice Sunday.
Ka'neshia Smith led Mississippi Valley State with 12 points, while former East Webster player Courtney O'Briant played a season-high 14 minutes but didn't score for the Devilettes.
Mississippi State takes a Christmas break and will be back on the court on Dec. 26 for a couple of practice days before playing at the Christmas City Classic in Bethlehem, Pa., on Dec. 29-30.