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 06, 2006

WNBA: Mystics Blitz Comets

Guru's Note:

Jonathan Tannenwald, a recent graduate of Penn who helped us down here, where he lives, last summer, was on hand Tuesday night to help report this story.


By Mel Greenberg

WASHINGTON
_ Houston Comets all-star point guard Dawn Staley made her final regular appearance as a player in the nation’s capital Tuesday night and wound up with her teammates buried in a rush hour attack by the Washington Mystics.

This was no slowdown, however. Quite the opposite. The speedy Mystics raced from a 5-5 tie early in the first quarter to never trail again on the way to a 93-79 triumph.

By halftime Washington held a 55-44 lead off some sizzling shooting, missing only 11 shots.

The victory also stopped Houston’s five-game win streak.

The Mystics, especially with the addition of point guard Nikki Teasley on the perimeter and substitute forward Latasha Byears adding some inside muscle, have become a scoring machine with points reaching the 90s in all four wins _ a first for the franchise that joined the league in 1998.

Alana Beard topped Washington with 22 points, Chasity Melvin scored 14 points, DeLisha Milton Jones had 12 points, and Teasley had 11 points and connected on 3 of 5 attempted treys.

Houston, which was without all-star veteran Sheryl Swoopes because of a back injury suffered in Sunday’s game against Minnesota, also had a balanced attack with four players in double figures.

Roneeka Hodges made up for Swoopes’ absence with 21 points, and she was 5 of 7 on three-point attempts. Tina Thompson added 19 points, Dominque Canty scored 17 points, and Michelle Snow scored 12. Staley had a pair of assists in 20 minutes.

Several months after the University of Maryland, located across the border in College Park, captured its first NCAA women’s title, talk is starting to focus on the Mystics capturing the pro women’s basketball championship.

“Are you asking me can they win it all?” Houston coach Van Chancellor said. “Yes they can.

“They are just really hard for us to defend,” Chancellor said. “They just shoot the ball well. Coach (Richie) Adubato really runs some good stuff. They run it. They run it through.

“I want to give them all the credit,” Chancellor said.

He noted that the Mystics blasted Houston’s ability to defend after the Comets had held opponents to a 64.3 average before Tuesday night.

“I can’t remember the last time the Comets gave up 93,” Chancellor. “They didn’t miss many shots tonight, so they didn’t have many offensive rebounds for second chance points. They’ve executed as well as any team I’ve seen offensively in a long, long, time.”

Chancellor refused to used Swoopes’ absence as a reason for Houston’s problems.

“I don’t want to take anything away,” Chancellor said. “But at the same time you can’t win one of the premier defensive players in this league and not have that affect you. But I don’t think that would have meant the difference in the game. I don’t think she could have guard Milton, Melvin, Beard, (Crystal) Robinson, and Teasley at the same time.”

Adubato, however, said Washington was able to advantage of Swoopes' absence.

"We got a break with Swoopes not being here," Adabuto said. "Obviously Sheryl Swoopes on this team (Houston), this is a very good team.

"That’s why they lost their first and won five in a row. We got a break tonight, we got a break against Detroit, and I’ll take it any time we can get it," Adubato added.

"’m not one of these coaches that has to worry about who’s here and who isn’t here. We’ve got to play against who’s here and we’ve got to do the best we can."

Chancellor said the Mystics speedy offenses are not necessarily a result of the new rule that reduced the shot clock from 30 seconds to 24.

“They don’t need a 24-second clock the way they play,” Chancellor said. “The way they get up and down, they just play. We’ve coached against him (Adubato when he was with the New York Liberty) in playoffs and everything.

“I don’t think nobody is better that Richie is with his offensive sets,” Chancellor said. “He’s an excellent coach there.”

Teasley, who came back to her home area from the Los Angeles Sparks in an offseason trade, said the Mystics this season remind her of the two Sparks title teams in 2001 and 2002.

“When we won with L.A., we were pretty athletic and pretty fast up and down the floor, but definitely you see some comparisons with this team,” Teasley said. “We’re just all excited and playing for each other. It tends to be fun to watch.”

Beard gushed over the Mystics versatility.

“One through 11, everyone can score,” the former Duke star said. “We had 25 assists on 22 baskets, that just shows a sign of a good team.”

She also talked about Teasley’s showtime behind-the-back passes and other skills.

“Hey, it’s contagious,” Beard said. “Nikki Teasley brings all that stuff in so everybody wants to look like Nikki Teasley.”

Adubato said the high-octane attack by both teams was not caused by mediocre defenses.

“You had two good defenses, but had them playing against two individual teams that were on fire,” the veteran coach said. “That’s why you have these numbers, it wasn’t for lack of hustle, or lack of pride in your defense, both teams were just shooting well.”

The Mystics's 4-1 start is quite different than last season's early struggle to a 2-5 record.

"We made some additions," Adubato said. "Obviously Byears was a good addition, Crystal Robinson was a good addition, Teasley was a good addition. And now we rebound better because Nakia Sanford’s playing better so we have Sanford and Byears coming off the bench along with Melvin up front. And we’re better defensively... and DeLisha Milton is a much better 4 than she was a 3, as you can see."

"And then I think individually, we’re better defensively," Adubato added also addressed the reduction of the shot clock to 24 seconds in terms of his team.

It helps us better defensively," Adubato said, "but it hasn’t helped us offensively. The one negative that we have is that we don’t get into our offense fast enough, so we can’t get into our second, third and fourth options. That’s an area we have to work on."


Staley talked about her last regular Washington visit before the game, but noted that the two could meet again here before the dust settles.

“Someone told me it was going to be a Houston-Washington final,” Staley said.

“But as far as some great memories here, the fans were always appreciative of good basketball. Always. No matter who was coming in here, they love their Washington Mystics, but also the opponents who come in here and play good basketball. They clap and they cheer although they love the Mystics.”

-- Mel

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