Dec. 13, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Mo Bennett isn’t about finding the easy way to do things.
She prefers the winning way.
That’s harder and takes longer, but it’s what makes the senior guard a key component to the identity of the 2011-12 Georgia Tech women’s basketball team and a great representative of this year’s senior class, which is pushing to become the winningest senior class ever, passing last year’s group.
“We’ve won every year that we’ve been here and we refuse to be the senior class that lets it go backwards,” she said. “So we constantly tell our teammates every day, we may have lost or we didn’t play as well but that game doesn’t matter. We have to take what we’ve learned from it and move on and get better because when ACC comes, that’s when it’s time to put it all out there. We want to reach the [NCAA] Tournament this year so we pretty much just focus. You can’t look at what’s happened or what you don’t want. You have to focus on winning and getting it done.”
Regardless of what it takes. No detail is too small and no task too menial for Bennett.
“Mo Bennett does all the intangibles,” said head coach MaChelle Joseph. “She does things that nobody else wants to do. She’ll dive on the floor after a loose ball. She’ll set a great screen. She’ll rebound. One of the things Mo’s done consistently for us since she’s been here is rebound the basketball. Mo Bennett has come up big in some big games. She’s always been one of those players that’s your glue. She keeps everything together with her hustle points and doing all the intangibles.”
Bennett put it all together on Sunday afternoon in the 58-47 victory over Middle Tennessee State and showed that she can score the basketball, recording her first double-double of the season, scoring 10 points (on 5-for-8 shooting) while pulling down 10 rebounds (four offensive, six defensive).
The offensive outburst might not have been expected but isn’t surprising considering the urgency Bennett put on the game. The Jackets had lost three of four, including a stinging loss to rival Georgia a week earlier.
“We needed to go out and get a win,” she said. “We try to never to lose two in a row and even if we do lose two in a row, to bounce back. The loss to Georgia hurt a little bit because it was our rival. But coming back out and focusing on the next game, we just knew we needed to get a win. That’s all we were focused on. Coach always tells us ‘You can’t control what happens. Just control how you respond to it.’ Coming out and getting a win was all we were trying to do.”
For Bennett, every day is like trying to break a losing streak. That’s the kind of urgency she plays with every time she walks onto a basketball court, even the practice court.
“I honestly don’t remember a practice where Mo came in and didn’t give her all,” said senior center Sasha Goodlett. “She comes in, she works hard, she challenges us. When she gets in at practice, you know Mo is there. She’s our get-up. Whenever we seem sluggish in a game or something, all it takes is for Mo to come in and give us that instant spark that we need.
“Hopefully she’s teaching the younger players like Sarah Hartwell and Dawnn Maye that you have to set yourself on fire,” Goodlett added. “You have to be that spark for your team whenever your team needs you. She’s showing that by example.”
It’s an example that Bennett saw from her predecessors, specifically co-captain Deja Foster.
“I look back on Deja last year,” said Bennett, “She did the exact same things. She wasn’t going to go out and get you a double-double every night, but she always brought her intensity and her energy every night. That’s something you can control. So I try to be a spark for my teammates all the time.”
“We’ve come to rely on that,” said Joseph. “That’s one of the things she’s been most consistent with is her work ethic and her energy level that she brings every day.”
As Bennett showed against the Blue Raiders, she has the ability to beat teams in a number of ways. But she prefers to stick with her tried-and-true formula.
“Every day Coach [Joseph] tells me to focus on what I do best and that’s rebound and playing defense,” said Bennett. “She told me the scoring will come as long as you do what you’re supposed to do, play your role. That’s why I’m the spark off the bench.
“We had that discussion before the [MTSU] game,” she continued. “I told her, ‘You can count on us. Our senior class is going to step up’ because we needed this win. I pretty much just went out and focused in on doing what she asked me to do, which was play defense and get rebounds and I came up with a double-double.”
When the next double-double for Bennett comes is anyone’s guess.
When her next all-out, throw-her-body-all-over-the-court effort comes is easier to predict. The Jackets practice this afternoon.