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.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

WNBA: Sun Dominates Boards and Lynx

By Mel Greenberg

— In the WNBA, games go on and teams run out of gas.

The Connecticut Sun, they just continue to run.

The defending Eastern Conference champions maintained a hold on first place in the current standings by racing from a 40-40 tie with five minutes remaining in the third quarter to an overwhelming 79-62 victory over the Minnesota Lynx Thursday night in the Mohegan Sun Arena.

“One thing about our team is when we get on a roll, we seem to have pretty long run some nights,” Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said of the 39-22 differential after the tie.

“Part of that is our conditioning,” Thibault added. “Part of that is because we’re playing at that fast pace. Teams that walk it up, can’t get long runs a lot of times. I think it’s because of the tempo we’re playing, we can get some of those runs.”

Minnesota coach Suzie McConnell Serio focused on a statistic beyond track meet basketball that led to her team’s demise.

“That was the difference in the game – the rebounding,” the former Olympic gold medalist and Penn State star said. “Getting outrebounded 50-31 makes all the difference in the world.

“We have that as an emphasis going into every game, taking control of the boards. We started out strong and made runs at them but they’re very talented.”

The inside force of 7-foot-2 Margo Dydek produced 16 points for the Sun (9-3), a scoring total matched on Connecticut’s perimeter attack by Lindsay Whalen. Ashja Jones, one of several former University of Connecticut stars on both sides Thursday night, added 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Katie Douglas, who helped keep Minnesota rookie sensation Seimone Augustus below her average, added 12 points, and veteran forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin had eight points and 10 rebounds.

Augustus, the overall No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft out of Louisiana State in April, had 15 points, well below her 23.0 average. Former Kansas State star Nicole Ohlde added 16 points to the Lynx total as Minnesota dropped to 5-7 overall.

Former Florida star Vanessa Hayden also addressed the rebounding issue from Minnesota’s viewpoint.

“What made the rebounding difference was their tenacity,” Hayden said. “They wanted it. They kept going after it. They outhustled us. There’s no other way to describe it, being outhustled.”

Minnesota jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first four minutes before Connecticut struck back with a 16-4 scoring burst through the end of the quarter to take the lead.

After an early 16-16 tie in the second quarter, the Sun were on the run again to a 34-24 lead before settling for a 34-28 advantage at halftime.

An Augustus lay-up off a fast break brought Minnesota to a tie at 34-34 early in the third quarter and a few minutes later after a brief Connecticut lead, the Lynx got back to the final deadlock at 40-40 when Ohlde hit a 12-foot jumper.

Dydek, a native of Poland who was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft by the former Utah Starzz eight seasons ago, seems to be on the way to finally be recognized as one of the league’s top post players.

“It helps when you have true centers to play against for parts of the game,” Thibault said of Dydek and the matchups with her defenders. “Their (Minnesota’s) post players and Charlotte’s don’t take you out to 18-feet all night.

“She is more aggressive, offensively. I think she is happy and life is good so she is being aggressive,” Thibault said.

Dydek concurred. “It’s my game. Last year, I didn’t know what to expect. So I was just setting a screen and trying to run the team offense. Each game is different depending on how they are guarding me.”

McConnell Serio talked about Douglas’ defense of Augustus.

“That’s what Katie is known for,” the Minnesota coach said. “As soon as the shot goes up, she’s trying to find Seimone, denying her the basketball, trying to make it difficult. And she doesn’t allow easy looks (at the basket).

“At times we played into their hands and allowed her to take Seimone away.”

Douglas spoke of guarding one of the league’s top rookies.

“She is extremely long, extremely quick, athletic and has a variety of moves,” the former Purdue star said. “She is a rookie but definitely doesn’t play like it. She is obviously their go-to player. I just tried to let her catch it a little outside her range and just try to play off that. She is going to be a really good player in this league.”

McConnell Serio said Connecticut seems even better now than when the Sun beat the Lynx in Minneapolis earlier this season.

“They’re very good,” she observed. “Nykesha Sales, I just have a lot of respect for her game and she only has five (points), and Taj, another very good player, only had eight.

“Two players who are very key for them, you contain those two, but Lindsay got into the paint and into the free throw line. They shot 17 fouls, we only shot five.

“And there’s definitely a comfort level playing at home,” McConnell Serio said. “I’ve seen it all over the league.”

-- Mel


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