WNBA: Lynx Take Liberty; Sky Shade Sun
NEW YORK -- The WNBA Minnesota Lynx have a way of producing painful moments on nights to remember.
As recent as early last week, finding something nice to say about the Minneota Lynx was like looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The cause was the absence of Minnesota's own WMDs -- Former Stanford star Candice Wiggins and former LSU sensation Seimone Augustus who had yet to return from injuries.
Wiggins, who has already missed time in all three of her WNBA seasons, was sidelined by knee surgery wile Augustus had surgery for the removal of non-cancerous tumors on her abdomen.
The result was a season that had looked so promising was about to be tossed onto the pile of failed hopes and dreams.
Though Minnesota was still struggling after Wiggins' return several weeks ago, Augustus' return has enabled the Lynx to suddenly return to the playoff hopeful trail with a three-game winning streak.
The most recent occurred Tuesday night here in Madison Square Garden when coach Cheryl Reeve's squad (5-9) was able to overcome squandering a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter and prevail 75-68.
Augustus came up huge in the second half, scoring 18 of her 20 points. Rebekkah Brunson, acquired in the dispersal draft of the former Sacramento Monarchs in the offseason, finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
As the clock was winding down in the final minute, it was great to be a Lynx fan again with team energy and performance returning to preseason expectations.
And then, suddenly, with eight seconds remaining and the victory sealed, Wiggins went down again and did not leave the court under her own power.
Reeve, a former La Salle star in Philadelphis who had a large contingent of family and friends as the game from South Jersey, got the word quickly from the Minnesota trainer after the game ended.
Wiggins suffered a ruptured left Achilles tendon and would miss the rest of the season.
"Win the game, lose a player kind of thing for the year," Reeve said outside the Lynx dressing room about the bittersweet effect of the night. "Our hearts go out to Candice. That's a player who was really embracing the role and what we were doing, and to have that happen to her with little time left in the game -- it's hard to understand why those things happen, but they do.
"Candice gives us a lot of things -- she gives us flexibility, gives us a second ball handler, in a lot of ways the three ball, she was really getting going. She's a leader and we're going to miss some intangibles and some very specific basketball things. We'll have to find a way to fill the void."
The situation can be compared to a movie or TV series in which during the pursuit of evil just when triumph occurs, one of the stars helping the outcome gets killed in the final battle leaving a melancholy taste in the viewers' mouths.
Reeve praised Augustus' performance in the second half.
"Seimone was a no-show in the first half and then came out and made up for some things," Reeve said. "She's going to get better and better. She's not 100 percent physically, but there's no question having Seimone out there making those shots makes things a lot easier."
Lindsay Whalen, the All-Star acquired in the offseason from the Connecticut Sun, had 11 points.
"I was really happy we stuck together and made some good shots," Whalen said of the finish.
Former Tennessee star Nicky Anosike, a native New Yorker, scored 13 points.
Five of Minnesota's first 13 games had been against the Tulsa Shook, the former francdhise that had won three WNBA title in hits previous existence in Detroit.
The Lynx travel to San Antonio Saturday.
New York coach Anne Donovan, who is headed back to the collegiate ranks in the fall as the new Seton Hall coach, questioned whether the Liberty (4-7) understand the urgency of the moment.
True, the season isn't ending tomorrow, but every loss that drags New York slightly further back from potential playoff qualification is painful.
Given the opportunity to have a big week, New York has "must win" lavels on the visit to Tulsa Friday night and the visit here Sunday from Connecticut.
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer was in the crowd with her staff to watch former Scarlet Knights all-American Cappie Pondexter score 16 points, as did Nicole Powell, a former Stanford star acquired in the Sacramento roster dispersal.
Taj McWilliams-Franklin had 13 points, while Janel McCarville who was a teammate of Whalen at the University of Minnesota, had 10 points.
Essence Carson and Kia Vaughn, two former Rutgers stars who helped the Scarlet Knights to the 2007 NCAA title game, were scoreless playing limited minutes.
Stringer did get some good news from afar about a former player.
Epiphanny Prince, who bypassed her senior year at Rutgers last season to play overseas, came off the bench to score 19 points as the Chicago Sky (5-8) rallied to an 86-77 win over the Connecticut Sun (8-4), which lost its first game at home Tuesday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
It was a must win for the Sky, who blew a lead to Washington Saturday night and lost to host Mystics in overtime.
Connecticut, however, which fell 1/2 game back to second place behind the Atlanta Dream, could be virtually tied for the lead again if Atlanta loses at home to Tulsa Wednesday night.
Sun rookie Tina Charles, the former UConn star, had 14 points and 16 rebounds.
Connecticut blew a 21-point lead Sunday but still won at Phoenix to complete a West road trip sweep, including beating the Los Angeles Sparks.
Sun coach Mike Thibault had been leery of the contest. Ironically, when Atlanta lost to Chicago, it like Connecticut lost to the Sky coming out of trips to the Western Conference.
Former Tennessee star Kara Lawson, who plays for the Sun, had earlier noted that first games after trips to the far reaches of opponents from another conference can be tough to handle.
Connecticut now moves on to key games against Phoenix at home Friday and here Sunday afternoon (4 p.m.) against the Liberty.
On Thursday in the lone WNBA game slated, Washington will host Los Angeles.
The Guru will be back in 24 hours or less with more from the collegiate and pro worlds.