JOHN L. PITTS: Ole Miss, State women still trying to find their identities

By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal

If there were scouts for the SEC’s elite women’s basketball teams in Oxford on Thursday night, they probably didn’t see anything to cause alarm.
Mississippi State beat Ole Miss 51-46, but the real takeaway seems to be that both coaches are still trying to figure out what kinds of teams they have.
There were times, as one sidelines observer said, when it looked like a hockey game, with waves of “lines” going on and off the court. That had predictable effects on the flow of play.
“We found a way to do it as a team,” Mississippi State head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. “Any road win is a good win.”
Her team (12-6 overall) already has two SEC road victories, having beaten a bad Alabama team by five points last week. And now her Lady Bulldogs are home for a pair of games, Sunday against Auburn and next Thursday against Arkansas. Fanning-Otis and her team could get above .500 in the SEC by this time next week – and that would be notable for a program that got off to a 0-9 league start last season.
The bill came due last season for MSU’s magical run to the 2010 NCAA Sweet 16.
This year, Fanning-Otis can put five capable seniors on the floor – forward Ashley Brown missed Thursday’s game with a sore wrist – but there were times at Ole Miss when the Lady Bulldogs had four freshmen in the game. Not at crunch time, though.
That’s when senior guards Diamber Johnson, from Pontotoc, and Porsha Porter took over. Here’s a guess that this team will go as far this season as they can take them.
“Those guys have got to lead,” Fanning-Otis said.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss could have gone to 3-1 in league play with a win. Instead the Rebels are 2-2 with No. 15 Georgia visiting on Sunday. The schedule – including six more road games antd a visit from Tennessee – suggests the Rebels (12-7) are at least another season from contending for their first NCAA trip since 2007.
“We just never played well as a unit,” said coach Renee Ladner, who gave three freshmen significant minutes.
MSU and Ole Miss meet again Feb. 12 in Starkville. Both teams have a half-dozen games to find themselves before then.
John L. Pitts ( is sports editor of the Journal.