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.

Monday, June 26, 2006

WNBA: Mystics' Simple Plays Beat Sun

Guru's Note:

Due to our Sunday night stint on the sports desk here in Philadelphia, our Washington colleague Jonathan Tannenwald filed Sunday's game story between the Mystics and Connecticut Sun.

By Jonathan Tannenwald

WASHINGTON
_ Just over halfway through the second quarter Sunday night in the Verizon Center and with his team trailing the Washington Mystics by 12 points, Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault barked out the following order to his players: “MAKE SIMPLE PLAYS!”

Given that the Sun is in first place in the Eastern Conference, and came to Washington with five road wins under its belt already this season, it might seem surprising that the team was having trouble with such things as completing layups after driving to the basket.

But the Sun was indeed struggling, not least because the Mystics came out of the gate at full blast and with every intent of pounding the ball inside whenever possible.

And while Connecticut was able to claw its way to a 59-59 tie late in the third quarter, Washington seized control of the game back from there.

Thanks to a career high 25 points, ten rebounds and five assists from center Chastity Melvin, along with 16 points from point guard Nikki Teasley, the Mystics never gave up the lead and closed out a 87-80 win over the Sun.

“We knew with Delisha [Milton-Jones] out that we had to step it up as a team together, and I’m really proud that they all stepped it up,” Mystics coach Richie Adubato said.

Indeed, this was Washington’s first win since losing Milton-Jones to a sprained MCL on June 17.

But Melvin’s effort went a long way in making up for Milton-Jones’ absence, as did 10 points and a career high nine rebounds from forward Nakia Sanford.

“Chaz Melvin was terrific today on the offensive glass, the defensive glass and the low post, and she made a lot of big plays for us,” Adubato said. “I thought ‘Kia’ had her best game since I’ve been here.”

Mystics guard Alana Beard, who scored 15 points on the night, was happy to not be the center of attention.

“That was truly tremendous – Nakia Sanford and Chastity Melvin did an unbelievable job,” Beard said. “They did exactly what coach wanted them to do as far as pulling (Margo) Dydek out and attacking the goal aggressively,” Beard said of dealing with the Connecticut 7-fot-2 center.

Overall, Washington outscored Connecticut 48-34 in the paint.

On the defensive side, the trio of Melvin, Sanford and Crystal Robinson held Dydek to 3-of-8 shooting and forward Katie Douglas to 3-of-9 shooting. Furthermore, the Mystics outrebounded the Sun by a 36-28 margin.

“I was very proud of the energy and the intensity we played with our defense tonight.” Adubado said. “And to outrebound them was a terrific effort.”

This game was also the second of three over four days against Eastern Conference powers Detroit, Connecticut and Indiana, giving all four teams a chance to measure themselves as June comes to a close.

“Everybody’s fighting for home-court advantage, everybody’s fighting to make the playoffs,” Adubato said. “I think Connecticut is the premier team and Indiana, Detroit and us are going to be fighting it out for that home-court advantage” in the first round.

Thibault’s estimation was also simple.

“The conference is really good,” he said. “Indiana, Washington and Detroit have all been playing well and now New York’s starting to play good. So it’s going to be a dogfight.”

Nonetheless, Beard issued the following warning to the rest of the East while reflecting on Melvin’s night: “If she can bring that every single night, we’re going to be a dominant team,” Beard said.

Notes: As she has so often this season, Mystics guard Laurie Koehn left her mark on the game with a lone three-pointer with 7:31 remaining in the second quarter.

This prompted Thibault to shout, “Who’s guarding her?!,” which prompted a round of laughter from those members of the media seated within earshot of Thibault on press row.

Though Koehn, a former Kansas State star, was only averaging 2.7 points per game coming into Sunday night’s contest, Thibault is not the only coach in the league who has struggled with that question ... The announced crowd of 7,216 included University of Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese and a few of her players from the NCAA women's champion Terrapins, who were honored in a halftime ceremony.

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