Playing in Tad Smith Coliseum, located just under an hour away from her hometown, has been kind to Johnson. She is averaging 8.3 ppg in the arena behind a 42.1-percent field goal percentage that includes a 71.4-percent tally from three-point range.
Last season Johnson lit up the Lady Rebels for 15 points as Mississippi State claimed a 59-43 road win.
Mississippi State enters Thursday’s game 11-6 overall and 1-3 in SEC play, but Johnson believes this team has the tools to make a run.
“As a team, I feel that we’re in a better position this year,” Johnson said. “We have some things to work on, but we’re working hard and trying to have a good mindset.”
Johnson has taken to her role as the leader of this team, helping to develop the younger players and prepare them for the rigors of playing in one of the nation’s toughest basketball conferences.
“My team is looking for me to come through in the small things – not just scoring because some teams are going to crack down on that,” she said. “I just have to get to the point where I’m working hard on both ends of the floor and doing the little things. I am trying to step up as a leader.”
Johnson has shown that leadership with her play on the court. She has led the Southeastern Conference in scoring most the season, falling to second this week with a 17.2 ppg scoring average.
On Sunday, Johnson became the 21st Lady Bulldog to score 900-career points, and she can reach the prestigious 1,000-point milestone by averaging 8.0 ppg the rest of the season.
“Possibly reaching 1,000 points crossed my mind last year. I actually calculated it up just to see what I could do. At the beginning of the season, I set myself a goal of how many points I would have to get each game, but when I’m playing I don’t think about it,” she said. “I may check to see where I am after each game, but I let all of that go when it’s crunch time because it gets to be distracting. I am aware of it, and it’s a goal that I’m trying to reach.”
In addition to her point-scoring this season, she is also assisting her teammates, rating fourth in the conference with 4.5 apg.
The seventh player in school history to notch 900 points and 300 assists, Johnson stands ninth in MSU annals with 319 career dishes, 12 back of Marneisha Richard for eighth.
Despite her proficient scoring and passing, Johnson still sees room for her game to grow.
“I feel like I’ve done a good job, but I don’t feel like I’m where I need to be,” Johnson said. “Points- and assists-wise, I feel like I’m at a good point, but my averages could be higher in all aspects.”
Johnson and teammate Danielle Rector are the lone players remaining from MSU’s 2009-10 Sweet 16 squad, and she is trying her hardest to help lead her team back to the postseason in her Lady Bulldog swan song.
“This being my senior season is something I keep trying to remind myself of. This year I have to go out with a bang,” Johnson said. “I just want to leave her being remembered for something.”