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.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

WNBA: Fever Chills Mystics' Home Streak

Guru's Note: (We were going to double dip Tuesday night with ourselves handling either Dawn Staley's Connecticut farewell trip, barring a WNBA championship round matchup with the Sun, or a quickie to New York for the Charlotte game, while Jonathan Tannenweld was going to cover the Washington-Indiana matchup.

Jonathan's half of that became true.

We didn't make it due to having to take care of some personal housekeeping details adminstratively in the home office as the Inquirer goes into transition this week from the former Knight-Ridder ownership to the current two-day McClatchy ownership and then on to the locally-owned Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC group.

Despite the recent intense rain in the nation's capital, Jonathan was able to get a chauffeur-driven Metro to the Verizon Center to keep his end of the deal.

While we have your attention, the Dawn Staley page or pages at Philly.com may begin rolling this week. We'll let you know.

And in another note, we regret to inform that "teen-age" is no longer an appropriate discripton of someone else who has contributed to the Guru's blog.

That's because that individual (hint: K.B.) had a birthday this month and reached age 20.

And with that, on to Tuesday's game.

By Jonathan Tannenwald

_ Two days after making a statement to the Eastern Conference by beating the first-place Connecticut Sun, the Washington Mystics made a statement of a very different sort by suffering its first home loss of the season, 74-67, to the third-place Indiana Fever.

The Mystics’ struggles started early, as they fell behind by 16 points twice in the first quarter.  Indiana made eight of 15 field goal attempts and four of seven three-pointers in that span, while Washington shot only 3-for-10 from the field and 0-for-2 from behind the arc. 

Just as importantly, Mystics forward Nakia Sanford committed two fouls in the first 3:07 of the game.

For a team severely lacking frontcourt depth, this was the last thing Washington could afford when having to deal with the Fever’s frontcourt tandem of Tamika Catchings and Tamika Whitmore.

“We don’t have a rotation of four – we have a rotation of three, with [Latasha] Byears, Sanford and [Chasity] Melvin,” Mystics coach Richie Adubato said. “If you take Sanford and Melvin out, we had to play Byears at center for a long time and we had to move Crystal Robinson to the power forward. We even had to play Tamara James at power forward.”

It surprised almost no one, though, when the Mystics rallied in the second quarter and closed out the half down only 28-25. 

The third quarter was the most even of the game, with Washington outscoring Indiana 18-15 to tie the score at 43-43. 

The Mystics’ comeback was due in part to its making more shots and in larger part to the box-and-one defense they used to contain Catchings, who was held scoreless in the second quarter and scored only one point in the third.

The third quarter was punctuated, though, by a technical foul assessed to Adubato after he stormed onto the court and almost made it to the center circle to argue loudly with referee Bryan Enterline, who assessed him the penalty.

Adubato said after the game that he had good reason for his antics.

“I had to get the fans into the game, so that’s why I went after the official,” he said. “After that, the fans got into the game, which usually results in a lot of energy and adrenaline flowing with your players. That’s when we went ahead... but I also wanted to wake them up to the fact that we had everyone sitting on the bench, and they had everyone playing.”

That burst of energy did not last, though.

Washington took its first lead of the game just over 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, but after tying the game with 6:28 remaining, the Fever went on a 7-0 run and never looked back.

This was due in large part to Whitmore, who scored 11 of her team-high 22 points in the final period.

“It’s one of those feelings where you just don’t want to lose,” Whitmore said.
To Crystal Robinson, however, her team’s defense was more of a reason for the result than Whitmore’s scoring.

“We just broke down,” Robinson said.

Mystics guard Alana Beard wasn’t happy either, even though she recorded her first double-double as a professional with a game-high 24 points and 10 rebounds.

The loss came at a particularly bad time for Washington, which now hits the road for games at Houston, Los Angeles and Phoenix in a three-day span starting Thursday.

“A loss is never the best way to go into anything,” Robinson said. “It’s definitely a wake-up call – we have to turn it up a couple of notches.”


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