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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.

Friday, June 30, 2006

WNBA: Sun Drives Into a Shock Jam

By Mel Greenberg

_ People in these parts and from elsewhere usually find themselves involved with a series of decisions in trying to get to the shoreline on a Friday night, especially on a holiday weekend.

Make the right choice at the right time and one can usually dodge much of the traffic and get to a destination headache-free.

But if a decision results in getting caught in the crowd, it can be a tiring experience.

The Connecticut Sun, however, didn’t need to be behind the wheel Friday night to experience the down side of bad choices.

The WNBA’s Eastern Conference leaders ran into plenty of problems in the Mohegan Sun Arena against the nemesis Detroit Shock, which emerged with a 70-64 victory on the end of a back-to-back road trip that began Thursday night in Indianapolis with a 66-56 loss to the Fever.

“It seems like a couple of times every year I walk in here and say when you shoot 33 percent, I’m not sure how you can expect to win in pro basketball,” Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said after the loss. “We did, and we had a chance.

“We played even on the boards. We played even on turnovers. We played even on free throws pretty much. They shot a better percentage (37.9 percent) than us and we made mistakes. People were in the wrong spots, and we didn’t execute a couple of other times. And we wound up fighting the shot clock.”

The win made the Shock 2-0 here after rallying to a 77-73 overtime victory on May 27 and Detroit veteran Katie Smith was the common denominator in both wins.

Her three-pointer at the last second in the previous win sent that game into overtime.

On Friday night, Smith set up Deanna Nolan’s 13-foot jumper that snapped a 64-64 tie with 27.3 seconds left in the game.

After veteran Sun point guard Lindsay Whalen committed a turnover on the next position dribbing into heavy Shock traffic, Smith finished off Connecticut with four straight foul shots and was the game’s high scorer with 21 points.

“Our decision making, that’s the part that boggles my mind about tonight,” Thibault said of the Sun’s struggles against the Detroit defense. “The good thing is that we can go make up for this by getting a win (Saturday) night (at Indiana).”

Whalen also spoke of the Connecticut’s difficulty against Detroit.

“You see our percentage of shots,” the third-year veteran said. “That shows some rushed shots and shots we should not have taken. That all plays into making better decisions.

“We just had a night where things didn’t click, exactly. They’re (Detroit) a great defensive team and they’re going to make you adjust. You have to give them credit for staying in front of our people driving.”

The Sun will meet Indiana Saturday night as the four-team jam at the top of the East continues with Indiana at 12-5, a half-game ahead of Detroit and Connecticut (11-5).

Former University of Connecticut star Swin Cash made another return to the state of her collegiate glory and scored 15 points for the Shock. Nolan was also in double figures for Detroit with 11 points.

Cash’s former UConn teammate Asjha Jones led the Sun with 16 points, Katie Douglas added 15 points, and Margo Dydek scored 10.

“We were able to maintain our lead there,” Smith said. “We had some people step up in the second half. Mentally, we were a little more focused than we were last night. It was good to get back on the court right away after last night and have a chance to right away your wrongs.”

Shock veteran Ruth Riley, the star of Notre Dame’s 2001 NCAA championship squad, spoke of her teammate’s play against the Sun.

“Katie stepped up big time,” Riley said. “She was someone who could be counted on late in the game tonight. She hit a big three, all of her free throws and just played great down the stretch when we needed it.”

Smith was 3 of 6 on three-point attempts and was 6 for 6 from the line. On Friday night, she became the first WNBA player to reach 500 career points.

Previously as a member of the Minnesota Lynx (she was traded late last season), the former Ohio State star became the first WNBA player to reach 5,000 career points as a pro, but part of her total was acquired when she played in the former American Basketball League.

Lisa Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks recently became the first WNBA player to reach 5,000 with all her scoring in the league’s ten-year history.

Friday’s game was close throughout the night and Shock coach Bill Laimbeer expressed delight with the intensity of both teams and also the way Detroit was able to recover from the Indiana game.

“It was a very fine win for us,” Laimbeer said. “I thought we showed great heart tonight. That was a good performance by our ball club.

“Coming out of a loss is always tougher (in a back-to-back),” Laimbeer said. “Because if you lose two in a row … especially against the quality of teams we just played.

“But they keep sending us here (on back-to-back scheduling),” he said. “We don’t complain about it. We just take advantage of it.”

--- Mel


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