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.

Friday, July 28, 2006

WNBA: Sun's Whalen Stops Monarchs

By Mel Greenberg

_ Heart-stopping moments were plentiful Friday night for the local populace here at the Mohegan Sun casino-entertainment complex.

About an hour before the WNBA game between the Connecticut Sun and Sacramento Monarchs, players on a win streak at the slots got a scare when the screens suddenly went dark during a brief power outage caused by area thunderstorms.

Fans inside the Mohegan Sun Arena began to get the same queasy feeling as the nearby gamblers when Connecticut’s offense also went dark late in the game after the home team had built a 16-point lead.

However, some energy still existed to Connecticut’s attack.

Lindsay Whalen hit a 25-foot three-pointer, beating the shot clock, to give the Sun a 74-65 lead with 1 minute, 5 seconds left to play. The play became even bigger seconds later when Sacramento’s Nicole Powell countered with a trey of her own.

But that was all the defending WNBA champions would get as Connecticut held firm to claim a 75-68 triumph. The victory extended the Suns’ win streak to six games _ they’re 20-6 overall _ and held their first-place lead to 1 1/2 games over the Detroit Shock in the Eastern Conference.

The Shock beat the Seattle Storm, 77-67, in a late Friday night game in Seattle.

Although the Sun locker room was filled with focus statements of “just another game to keep ahead of Detroit,” the crowd of 7,558 felt the joy of some revenge against the Monarchs, which ousted Connecticut, 3-1, in last season’s best-of-five championship series and also beat the Sun in Sacramento, 69-63, on July 15th.

The Monarchs (16-11) suffered their third straight loss, the longest series of setbacks since the 2004 season, and dropped their second-place lead in the Western Conference over Houston to just a game. They also fell 5 ½ games behind the idle Los Angeles Sparks (22-6).

“Obviously, it’s a great win beating a good team and making up for our game a couple of weeks ago,” Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said. “I know they scored 21 in the fourth quarter (21-12), but Powell had about half of them with a hand in her face.

“She made good shots to keep them in it and our defense kept us in it because our offense started to struggle,” Thibault said.

Connecticut led the entire first quarter to take a 23-21 lead at the end of the period. After trailing briefly early in the second, the Sun began to surge near the end of the half and went to the break with a 44-36 lead.

An 8-0 run midway through the third quarter enabled the Sun to mount a 55-42 lead that widened further to 17 points late in the period before the finished the period ahead, 63-47.

Powell, a former Stanford star, got hot in the final period, scoring 11 points, and she was 3 for 3 on three-point attempts. The performance enabled the Monarchs to reduce the Sun advantage to four points, twice, the last at 65-61 with 3:41 to play.

But Taj McWilliams-Franklin countered with a pair of lay-ups around Powell jump shot to keep Connecticut ahead.

She finished with a double double at 15 points and 14 rebounds.

“It’s the same story (every game),” McWilliams-Franklin said of the Sun effort. “That’s how our system works. Anyone of us could hit a million shots. KT (Katie Douglas)’s getting the passes, she’s getting the shots and she’s making the plays right now.”

The former Purdue sensation who was the MVP of the All-Star upset by the East in New York earlier this month had a game-high 19 points, and Whalen finished with 17 points.

Powell had 17 points for Sacramento, and Erin Buescher, who was tough in the paint early in the game, scored 13 points. DeMya Walker added 15 points, and Rebekkah Brunson scored 10.

“We hoped to get one of these three and we didn’t get any of them,” Monarchs coach John Whisenant said of the losing streak. This is a good basketball team that we played. We’ve got seven games left and we’ve just got to tend to our own business and wish these guys (Connecticut) good luck.”

Here is casino-land, that’s a commodity that the Sun has held in bunches since 2003 when they were transformed under the Mohegans from existence as the former Orlando Miracle in Florida.

- Mel


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