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, July 24, 2007

WNBA: Mohegan Like Home to Detroit

By Mel Greenberg

UNCASVILLE, Conn. - The defending WNBA champion Detroit Shock exhibited several associations with aspects of the city they call home Tuesday night in a pulsating 92-88 victory over the Connecticut Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

In the parlance of the Motor City, words like "clutch" and "automatic" came to mind in a different sense as former Georgia star Deanna "Twitty" Nolan got a Detroit franchise high 36 points for the visitors,who stopped the revitalized Sun's win streak at six.

The game was nationally-televised on ESPN2 in front of a vocally home crowd of 8,192.

It was the most individual points ever allowed by Connecticut during the regular season, breaking the mark of local heroine Diana Taurasi, who had 35 with the Phoenix Mercury on June 16, 2006.

And, if one turns to the music associations, Nolan's performance wasn't the only record of sorts spun on the same floor that has hosted performances by such Motown stars as Janet Jackson.

Connecticut's point guard Lindsay Whalen also set a career high with 33 points, while Katie Douglas contributed 27 points for the Sun. Whalen was 13-for-18 from the field with her shots made setting a franchise record.

It was a close game most of the night as has become befitting of one of the most intense rivalries in the league. But in the third quarter, the Sun went into eclipse, fading from a 50-43 advantage with 7 minutes, 56 seconds left in the period to a 69-61 deficit at at the close of the quarter.

Nolan had 15 points in the period, tying Taurasi for the most points by a visiting player in any quarter against the Sun.

Considering that Detroit was without all-star center Cheryl Ford, and the Shock has had a comfort level winning games here, one expected to Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer to be in full gloat in the post-game interview.

However, it was more of a modified stance, especially when approached about center Katie Feenstra's one-on-one defense of Connecticut's Margo Dydek.

The former Liberty college star had 19 points and shutout Dydek.

Ironically, in 2005, Feenstra was picked eighth overall by the Sun in the WNBA draft and then quickly dealt with Connecticut's 2006 first-round pick to San Antonio for Dydek.

Detroit acquired Feenstra this past offseason in a deal with San Antonio that sent Ruth Riley to the Silver Stars.

Asked whether he had any inclination that Feenstra would outscore Dydek, 19-0, Laimbeer chuckled and responded, "No. But I thought she could outscore Margo.

"Feenstra's been playing real well, lately," Laimbeer said. "Everything's coming together for her on all the stuff she's been working on. She's one of the hardest workers we have. We noticed it two games ago. We didn't really notice it last game. But today was a culmination of that."

Despite it's deficit at the start of the fourth quarter, Connecticut fought back to a tie four times in the period, before the Shock drove from a 79-79 deadlock to a six-point lead near the two-minute mark.

Laimbeer giggled a little more one asked about his team's 9-out-of-10 run against the Sun.

"Do you think they can beat you," Laimbeer was asked by a local columnist.

"Yes. Anybody can beat anybody," Laimbeer said.

"We thought that's as pretty good as they can play," he continued with an observation that differed with Connecticut coach Mike Thibault's assessment of the action. "They played well. They shot well. Lindsay Whalen's been picking it up and shot tremendous, today."

Then laughter grew a bit louder as he noted, "But we have Deanna Nolan, too. Some of those shots (16-for-23) were really sweet, just like the best player should be. Nobody got stop it. She could do what she wanted to do on a basketball court. And we missed (finding) her a bunch of times, too.

"We have lots of weapons, there's no question about it," Laimbeer said. "We just have to get Cheryl back and put it all together and we'll be even better than we are right now."

Then he addressed why Detroit has such a comfort level in this place.

"It's a nice crowd, a nice atmosphere," Laimbeer said. "We are not the most loved team in the league for a multitude of reasons -- for myself, for (assistant coach) Rick (Mahorn), or our attitude as how we carry ourselves as players, our physical style of play, our championship.

"Put everything together and people want to see us lose. And this place seems to be a little bit more of an atmosphere to thrive in. Because it's fun to come here and play."

Meanwhile, Connecticut can shake off the loss and continue its goal of solidifying a playoff when the Sun host the New York Liberty on Thursday and then travel to New York on Sunday.

Connecticut is currently holding third place ahead of New York in the race for four playoff berths in the Eastern Conference.

-- Mel


Anonymous Nancy said...

I think it's "Tweety" Nolan not "Twitty" - unless you meant that sarcastically.

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