STARKVILLE — “Horrible.”
Catina Bett doesn’t mince words when asked to describe her performance in the Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s first five games.
Bett, a 6-foot-5 center, is in her third season with the program. The transfer from the University of Kentucky arrived at Starkville in 2010 and was on hand to witness the Lady Bulldogs’ march to the program’s first trip to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
Last season, Bett transitioned back into action after missing the first six games due to NCAA transfer rules. Her time on the floor was her first action since 2008-09 when she averaged 2.4 points and 3-0 rebounds as a sophomore at Kentucky. Bett showed flashes of being a dominant post player, averaging 7.4 points and 6.0 rebounds.
Bett entered this season focused on playing an even bigger role. As a senior, she realized she needed to do more to help MSU get back to the NCAA tournament after a 13-17 finish last season.
So far, though, Bett hasn’t found her rhythm and is averaging 5.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in only 17.6 minutes per game. She has played more than 20 minutes once — 23 against Xavier — and hasn’t reached double digits in scoring or rebounding this season.
Bett hopes she will be able to get back on track at 1 p.m. Saturday when MSU (4-1) plays at Savannah State.
“As far as me being a veteran in the game and knowing what I can do, I haven’t really helped my team as much as I should have,” Bett said. “I am trying. I am always trying. If you do bad in one game, you want to try to make up for it in the next game. I haven’t really got in the flow of things, but it is coming. I know it is. My teammates count on me, and I thank God for them because they are still trying to push me.”
Bett said her frustration has gotten the best of her at times this season. MSU’s 64-47 victory against Mississippi Valley State proved to be a perfect example. In the first half, she ran the floor and Shamia Robinson rewarded her with a pass for a layup. She was then active on the block, missing a hook, rebounding the shot, and missing again. Later in the half, though, she committed her first foul after MVSU made a 3-pointer. She responded by keeping her hands up on an inbounds play, getting a steal, and then feeding Martha Alwal for a layup. Less than 30 seconds later, she was whistled for her second foul when she didn’t react quick enough to a loose ball in the lane and had to leave the game with 9 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the half.
“I have been in foul trouble pretty bad, which is not normal,” Bett said. “I would agree I am probably fighting myself because I want something so bad and it is not really carrying over on the court.”
The pattern continued in the second half, as Bett scored on an offensive rebound putback to give MSU a 44-38 lead with 13:16 to play. Already with three fouls, Bett went to the bench for the under-12 minute television timeout thinking “she can’t do nothing” and muttering to herself. As she sat down, she received encouragement from MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis, who said, “You can do it.”
Bett scored on a layup from Jerica James with 11:09 to go, but picked up her fourth foul when she went up in the air to try to block a shot by Brittney Lakes. She said she has to have a positive attitude so she will be able to work with Alwal and classmate Ashley Brown to solidify the Lady Bulldogs’ post rotation.
“I don’t need to say that word (can’t) at all because when you do say it it carries over mentally,” Bett said.
Fanning-Otis said Bett has to believe in herself because the coaches and players know she can do more when she is on the floor. She said she needs to improve her footwork and her positioning to avoid fouls and to improve her chances to score.
“We need her to be able to dominate against a team with that kind of size,” Fanning-Otis said. “I think she does understand basketball and she has moves. We got into foul trouble, so she didn’t play as many minutes, but she will be in a rotation more than that if she doesn’t get into a foul situation.
“Can’t doesn’t come out of your mouth. You have to believe and expect. Whatever it is, you have to expect you can get it done, and you have to keep telling yourself I know I can, I will, I will.”
Bett admits she probably is thinking too much about her play. She said she has watched film of herself in an attempt to figure out what is going wrong and what she needs to do differently. Despite the struggles, she said she won’t stop trying because she knows she can be a consistent contributor.
“I am not being as physical as I need to be under the basket (when receiving the ball),” Bett said. “There are a lot of things I need to improve on, and nobody else can do it by myself.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.