WNBA: A Temple Moment As Sun Rule Sky
UNCASVILLE, Conn.- The Temple women's basketball program got 11 seconds of fame late in Tuesday night's WNBA game between the Connecticut Sun and Chicago Sky at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Connecticut, looking more like the Sun team that has dominated the regular season in recent campaigns, had already wrapped up a 74-56 triumph over the second-year Chicago Sky in a match featuring two teams with playoff aspirations.
Sun coach Mike Thibault went deep into his bench to send rookie Kamesha Hairston, Connecticut's first-round pick, into the fray.
Already on the floor for Chicago was second-year pro Candice Dupree, the sixth overall pick a year ago who is quickly becoming one of the WNBA's high-profile players.
With little chance to catch Connecticut, Dupree was sent to bench soon after Hairston got to defend against her for a play.
But that moment marked the first time two former Temple products of Dawn Staley's program competed against each other.
"We didn't get here until late (Monday night), so we didn't get a chance to go out, but I talked to Kamesha a little before the game," Dupree said. "But it was good to see her get a couple of minutes near the end."
Hairston, who has been used sparingly, was hoping to catch up with former Temple teammate Dupree afterwards Tuesday night, but acknowledged, "I guess she's not in a very good mood right now."
Former University of Connecticut star Asjha Jones limited Dupree to four points on a 1-for-6 effort from the field. The former three-time Atlantic Ten tournament most valuable player entered the contest averaging 17.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
WNBA veteran Stacey Dales, a teammate of Dupree, praised her development.
"Candice always takes her time," Dales said. "That is something rare and unique in Candice's game. She's got the best hands I've ever played with. I used to say that about (Chamique) Holdsclaw (when the two were with the Washington Mystics), but it's Candice now. She can catch a ball on a dime. She's just smooth. And when she's in a flow, nobody can stop her."
Dupree, a two-time All-Star, was part of WNBA history last summer in another Temple moment when she got to play against Staley, her former coach, who was then finishing up her career with the Houston Comets as a three-time Olympic gold medalist and All-Star point guard .
Although not seeing the playing time of her last collegiate season when Hairston dominated Temple, at least life with the Sun is back on the wnning track she enjoyed with the Owls.
"That West Coast road trip has made the difference," Hairston said. "We were on the road for nine days and bonded. We got some kind of chemistry and we came together are now playing good."
The Sun win Tuesday night kept them in the hunt for second place, now occupied b the Indiana Fever whom Connecticut will host Saturday night.
It also added a little more distance from fourth place where a three-way fight exists among Washington, Chicago, and the New York Liberty for the final playoff spot.
New York lost at home to Los Angeles, 73-63, while Washington also lost, enabling the Sky to hold down its fourth place slot despite the loss to the Sun.
"Right now, it looks like it could be anybody's championship," Hairston said.
Although the Sun and Sky each scored a lowly 10 points in the fourth quarter, the action featured Connecticut dominating the offensive rebounding in the final period, 6-2.
"I guess our best offense was the prevent," Thibault said.
Chicago won here earlier in the season when the Sun seemed more headed for the draft lottery pick competition than the post-season.
"I'm just really impressedwith how the Sun is playing right now," Chicago's Overton said. "From the get go, they played a lot harder than we did. They got to all the loose balls and all the long rebounds. When teams do that to us, we've got problems."
Katie Douglas, a contender for MVP honors in the league, had a game-high 18 points for the Sun, while Jones scored 16 points with nine rebounds, Lindsay Whalen had 10 points, and Evanthia Maltsi, the native of Greece, scored 13 off the bench.
Jia Perkins had 17 points for the Sky, and Dales scored 10 points.
Despite the loss, Dales likes Chicago's postseason prospects.
"We feel like we're a playoff team, although we performed poorly tonight," the former Oklahoma star said. "We have to defend. We have to rebound. If we do those things and play together, team basketball, we can make the playoffs."
Staley Best of Philly
Meanwhile, Staley picked up another honor in her native city when it was announced by Philadelphia Magazine that the Temple coach was named the best (local) college coach for its Best of Philly edition.
Each year the magazine accepts nominatioans for various categories and then its staff makes the picks. Staley has quickly found success as a coach, leading Temple to five NCAA appearances in her seven seasons as coach of the Owls.
She's also gaining accolades in her new role as an international coach after playing for USA Basketball for over a decade. Late last month, Staley led a young USA team to the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
The former University of Virginia star is also an assistant on the Women's Senior National Team, inherently the future Olympic team, to Anne Donovan of the WNBA's Seattle Storm.
Early next month that squad will practice for three days at Temple prior to playing an exhibition game against the Australian National Team in Trenton, N.J., and also another here at the Mohegan Sun Arena.