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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.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

WNBA: Vintage Langhorne Helps Washington Snap Loss Streak

By Mel Greenberg

WASHINGTON - Appropriately for Memorial Day Weekend, the secretary of defense was in the house Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center where the Washington Mystics came off a three-game losing streak -- all on the road -- and stopped the Connecticut Sun 69-65 in a WNBA game between Eastern Conference contenders.

No, not that secretary of defense. This was the one who helped nearby Maryland win the Terrapins' only NCAA women's basketball title in 2006.

That would be Crystal Langhorne, the third-year pro and native of Willingboro, N.J., outside Philadelphia who dominated the boards with a WNBA career-tying 16 rebounds and also scored 17 points for the Mystics who are now 4-3.

A week ago, Washington was dominated by Connecticut 80-65 , starting the three-game slide that included an 81-75 loss at the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday night.

The Sun, who fell to 3-2, came into Sunday's game off a red-hot 105-79 thumping of the Minnesota Lynx at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

"It felt so good to be back," Langhorne said Sunday. "We had a pretty rough West Coast stretch. But we're going to be pretty much home the whole month of June.

Washington gets a chance to make a playoff-contending statement with six of the Mystics' next eight games in the nation's capitol beginning with Saturday's visit from the Atlanta Dream.

The two trips will be visits to the Chicago Sky.

But enough of the future for the monent with Langhorne's performance on the boards to savor from Sunday.

"They said I was like a grown woman," said Langhorne who had to battle Sun rookies Tina Charles and Kelsey Griffin, the two first-round draft picks from UConn and Nebraska, respectively.

"I was just trying to hustle and get rebounds," Langhorne said. "It was hard for me to get the ball in other possessions. so when the shot went up I just knew I was going to the glass."

Former Duke star Monique Currie, who was an opponent of Langhorne in the 2006 NCAA title game won in overtime by the Terps, got 18 points.

Nakia Sanford, a former Kansas star, got 11 points, including a few key inside shots down the stretch, while former Duke star Lindsey Harding had 10 points.

Harding took a nasty spill midway through the fourth quarter but later returned.

Charles, the overall No. 1 pick of April's draft, had 13 points and nine rebounds, while Griffin and former UConn star Renee Montgomery each scored 10 points.

The Mystics controlled the action from the outset building a 10 point lead in the first quarter.

Washington, who was missing veteran Katie Smith, an Olympic gold medalist, due to back problems, extended the advantage to 12 points in the third quarter.

The Sun launched a rally in the third quarter fueled by a seven-point spurt from Montgomery that enabled Connecticut to pull within three points but the Sun could not get any closer.

Former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon had a key steal in the closing minutes to help hold off the Sun.

There were a combined 33 fouls assessed -- including 18 to the Sun, which also committed 20 turnovers, the same total of miscues by Washington.

Asjha Jones, the former UConn sensation and Sun All-Star who had not played all season because of Achilles surgery, saw her first action and scored three points and grabbed three rebounds in 11 minutes, 51 seconds of action.

"I had no expectations," Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said. "She's not going to be smooth for a while, you just have to go through it."

Despite Connecticut's second loss, both on the road, Thibault was not too upset over his team's performance.

"We hung in -- in an ugly basketball game where we didn't play well, but we had a chance," Thibault said. But our turnovers and our poor shooting killed us.

"I thought Washington made some great hustle plays. They hit a couple of key shots at the end. There were a couple where we messed up and a couple where they made some great shots at the shot-clock buzzer.

"We were just bad on offense today," Thibault added. "The good part was we got Asjha some minutes and a good start toward next week. From a coaching standpoint, I got some things on film I can work on.

"But we're going to have to learn to come out and play better on the road," Thibault said while also noting that there was benefit to this being the first close game the Sun had been involved with this season.

"It was good for us to play in a game like this. Because as a coach you can find out who remembers things, who does well from time outs, who listens, what combinations to play together.

"To our credit, we hung in and were in it even though we played not too great."

Connecticut will split 10 games in June with five at home and five on the road. The Sun begin with home games Friday against Eastern rival New York and then a visit Sunday from the San Antonio Silver Stars of the Western Conference.

-- Mel

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