STARKVILLE — Embarrassing.
Catina Bett knows no other word than that one to describe the feeling she and her teammates felt Sunday during and after an 88-40 loss to the No. 11 University of Kentucky at Memorial Gymnasium.
The senior center acknowledges MSU (10-5, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) was in a tough spot without senior Porsha Porter, the team’s second-leading scorer, who didn’t make the trip due to an illness. But Bett admitted the Lady Bulldogs should have delivered a better showing, especially in a regionally-televised game.
“That was a tough loss, a hard and embarrassing loss,” Bett said. “I think we’re responding pretty well to it. We went into (Tuesday’s) practice with a lot of excitement and weren’t down about anything. We’re just going to take that loss and throw it against the wall and learn from it.”
MSU will try to take the lessons learned from its latest loss and put them into action at 8 tonight (Fox Sports South) when it takes on the University of Alabama (10-7, 0-3) at Foster Auditorium. The game also can be heard on ESPN “The Team” 103.1 FM.
MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said Wednesday she anticipates and hopes Porter, who averages 14.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 3.6 steals in more than 31 minutes per game, will be back in the lineup tonight. Porter scored only two points in 24 minutes Thursday in a 53-48 loss to LSU at Humphrey Coliseum.
Fanning-Otis has tried to find positives in the loss to Kentucky, but she also hopes it serves as a reminder of how hard the team needs to play to realize its potential.
“I hope it has a positive impact and sticks in their craw relative to what they want to be the next time we face them,” said Fanning-Otis of the rematch between the teams Feb. 26 in Starkville. “You have to be ready to play the next one you have to play.”
Bett said the Lady Bulldogs know what they did wrong and caused a lot of their own problems because they were rushed and had too many turnovers.
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said ordinarily the absence of one player wouldn’t have that much of an affect on the outcome of a game. But he said Porter would have given MSU another ballhandler and an explosive player who could have helped slow Kentucky to start the game.
Still, Mitchell said an awful lot went right for his team, which was 16 of 27 from 3-point range and forced 29 turnovers, and not much went right for MSU.
“Coach Fanning is one of the best coaches, and I have learned a lot from her when I was a high school coach in Mississippi,” Mitchell said. “I know she will get any difficulties they’re having corrected. … They have some excellent players, and having Porsha back will really help them.”
Fanning-Otis wants to see better intensity and better execution from the Lady Bulldogs. She said the team has “to learn from the past, not live in it” as it tries to win its fifth straight game in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“One thing doesn’t set you back or one thing doesn’t take you where you want to be,” Fanning-Otis said. “We’re hoping to really be able to regroup this week and have everybody in the lineup.”
Bett feels the team hasn’t lost the chemistry and optimism it had before the start of the season and needs to regroup from an “off” game.
“If anything (the loss to Kentucky) will draw us closer together because we don’t want that again,” Bett said. “We know we have the potential and what we’re capable of. The reason I said it was embarrassing is because we didn’t represent our team or school well based on what we know we can do well. To go out and perform that way, we didn’t do our jobs. For us to do our jobs. we have to consistently do our jobs.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.