STARKVILLE — Shooters lose all sense of the moment when they”re in a zone.
Part of it is the concentration it takes to navigate around screens and into seams in the defense.
The other half of the equation is catching the basketball in rhythm and balanced so they can be a threat to pass, to shoot, or to take it to the basket.
Mary Kathryn Govero did all of those things so well Friday she didn”t realize she notched a career high in points.
Coming off a four-point effort in an exhibition victory, Govero poured in 28 points to help the Mississippi State women”s basketball beat the University of South Carolina Upstate 87-53 in its season opener at Humphrey Coliseum.
Govero, the only senior with basketball experience on the roster this season, was 11 of 20 from the field, including 4 of 10 from 3-point range. She added five rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes.
“I was (more aggressive on offense), but I thought we did a better job executing offensively, going through plays, setting screens,” Govero said. “We added a couple of new plays we tried out tonight and were able to create some shots. Diamber (Johnson) and the other guards did a good job of recognizing mismatches.”
Porsha Porter (14 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four steals), Katia May (13 points), and Johnson (career-high tying 11 points) also reached double figures to help the Lady Bulldogs win their seventh straight season opener.
The victory was especially pleasing because Govero, one of only two returning players with significant playing experience from MSU”s run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament last season, bounced back nicely from a seven-shot effort in a 75-42 exhibition victory against the University of Montevallo on Sunday. The Falcons face-guarded Govero the entire game, which made it difficult for the senior guard to find her rhythm.
Govero didn”t have that problem Friday night. She hit her first field goal with 14 minutes, 40 seconds remaining in the first half on a dribble pull-up. She then converted the three-point play and was off to the races in search of a career high. When she finally notched it in the second half, she didn”t know she had eclipsed her previous best of 22 points.
Johnson, who had 21 points against Montevallo, sensed Govero was looking for her shot more and was more than happy to try to get her the ball.
“Last game, I don”t think we helped her out by setting her screens, but today she seemed like she was ready for her shots,” Johnson said. “She came through and wasn”t hesitating. Once she got hot, we started running plays for her and she was ready to come off of it and she was hitting.”
Govero admitted the Lady Bulldogs, who feature five new junior college players and four freshmen in the mix this season, are still working to get on the same page. The addition of several new plays to the offense could make the adjustment tougher as players search for their comfort zones and try to learn the tendencies of their teammates.
Johnson said an aggressive Govero will create offensive opportunities for other players.
“Her working harder coming off screens, like she did today, is going to help her because if she can do that they are going to focus on her,” Johnson said. “We showed today we still have a lot of other people who could do that, so she opens up a whole new game for us.”
MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis expects that kind of effort from Govero every night. She said Govero comes ready to play every game and that she capitalized on USC Upstate”s decision to play off her and to switch on screens.
The result was a shooter who found her rhythm, as evidenced by her trademark ability to step into her shots, which helped her drain four treys.
“Mary Kathryn”s aggressiveness is really important for us this season,” Fanning-Otis said.
MSU never trailed and led by as many as 18 in the first half before taking a 40-24 halftime lead. It stretched its lead to 36 points twice in the second half.
The Lady Bulldogs forced 24 turnovers and turned them into a 34-6 edge in points off those mistakes.
Ashley Brown had a team-high 13 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end, for MSU, which will play at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Tulane.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.