Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Sun Shines At Night Over Storm

By Mel Greenberg

UNCASVILLE, Ct. _ The Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm had their first meeting Tuesday night here since the Storm thumped the Sun in the third and deciding game of the WNBA playoffs in Seattle last fall to become champions of the women’s professional basketball world.

In the months that followed, free agency cut into some of the Storm’s depth that helped produce a title.

Connecticut, meanwhile, was out to obtain what coach Mike Thibault considered the missing piece to his roster, a sizeable center who might have made last October’s result more favorable to the Sun.

He found the commodity in 7-foot-2 Polish center Margo Dydek, who he acquired in a deal on draft day in April when Thibault gave up the Sun’s first-round pick to the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Connecticut’s addition was a factor in the 81-69 victory Tuesday night in the Mohegan Sun Arena as Dydek blocked shots (5), dominated the backboards (14 rebounds), and scored 11 points as the Sun (4-1) as the Sun topped the Storm, 81-69.

The victory extended Connecticut’s win streak to four games after an opening day road loss to the Detroit Shock.

That was the same day Seattle suffered an embarrassing loss to the Los Angeles Sparks at home as the Storm were given their championship rings before the contest.

Seattle (4-2) had won four straight since then.

“I don’t know what you say other than it’s a great regular season win,” Thibault beamed of a game in which the Sun led by as many as 19 points at 63-44 with 14 minutes, nine seconds left in the second half.

“I thought we played, for two-thirds of the game, as well as we can play,” Thibault said. “We got a little sloppy at the end. We need to play a little better with a lead, but it’s nice to have a lead.”

Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who once played for the Philadelphia Rage in the defunct American Basketball League (1996-98), scored 19 points for the Sun and the veteran has become the inspirational leader of this outfit.

“I’ve already touted her for an MVP candidate, but it’s a little early in the season for getting into that,” Thibault praised McWilliams-Franklin, who is more comfortable in not having to be a one-woman defense in the paint now that Dydek is here. “I don’t see anybody in the league playing better than her right now.

“I always maintained since I came here (2003) that you’re never going to be great until your best players are your best workers. And we finally got to that point.”

A balanced Connecticut attack had Katie Douglas with 20 points, Lindsay Whalen with nine points and eight assists, and Nykesha Sales with 15 points.”

Thibault also spoke of how Dydek’s presence has changed things for the Sun, who were struggling this time a year ago before launching a run to the playoffs and title round at midseason.

“When you have someone in the post position that’s bigger and has good skills, it changes the dynamics of the game,” Thibault said. “What’s interesting is that she’s only scratched the surface. So I can’t wait to see her develop as the season goes on.”

Lauren Jackson, who already has one regular season MVP trophy in the WNBA, led Seattle with 20 points, but was bumped around a lot by the Connecticut defenders.

“Having Margo inside is a huge difference,” Jackson said of Connecticut's re-vamped attack.
“She’s playing unbelievable basketball. I’ve never seen her play like she is.”

Former Connecticut star Sue Bird suffered a broken nose late in the game, catching an elbow by teammate Jackson, and finished with 12 points.

Bird received a loud ovation from the crowd of 7,080 during the opening lineups, but as was also true several weeks ago here when former UConn star Diana Tarausi was introduced with Phoenix, the Sun was clearly entrenched in the hearts of the fans here the rest of the way.

Foie Gras, Geno?

Speaking of Huskymania, Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma is appearing here Wednesday morning to announce some business venture with the casino-entertainment officials.

It is known Auriemma has been interested in opening a restaurant.

If he launches such a venture, it will give him an opportunity to serve something on a platter other than the head of the opposition, a frequent occurrence in Connecticut’s success in NCAA competition since 1995.

Ah, we can see the menu item now: Tennessee Demi Glas

Volunter-land, by the way, is our next stop this weekend in Knoxville for the annual Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

-Mel

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