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.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

WNBA: Sun Out-Fox Liberty In First Of Five Meetings

By Mel Greenberg

First, the dateline as to where this is being written is a roving list of cities south aboard an Amtrak train that was announced as being on time, though it arrived some 30 minutes late.

So excuse typos from bumpy railroad track ties, etc.

Secondly, and nore importantly, the Guru notes the passing of Hall of Fame coach John Wooden, the UCLA legendary men's mentor who passed away Friday night.

Special condolences to WNBA Phoenix Mercury general manager Ann Meyers-Drysdale, who played for the Bruins women while her brother Dave starred for the men under thwe Wizard of Westwood.

More to be said in an ensuing blog this weekend.

All that said, let us move to Friday night's action in the WNBA, specifically at the Mohegan Sun Arena where the Connecticut Sun powered its way at the finish over the New York Liberty 75-68 in the first of five meetings between two recent Eastern Conference rivals.

The game had an extra element of business rivalry because of the news earlier in the week that Foxwoods Resort Casino, located near the Mohegan Sun establishment, had ponied up $1 million to become the fourth to have its name worn on WNBA team jerseys.

Of course, the Mohegans actually own the Sun, having paid the $10 million in the last decade to acquire the former Orlando Miracle.

hut let's get back to the floor competition for now.

Chatting during the shoot-around an hour prior to the opening tip, Sun coach Mike Thibzault offered a brief long-range look after his team had been idle for the week since Sunday's loss in Washington to the Mystics.

"In a few weeks we have a chance to be really good," Thibault said alluding to the recent return of former UConn star Asjha Jones from knee surgery and the impminent arrival of Sandrine Gruda who has finished competing overseas.

"Right now, we're playing with a lot of energy and hustle," Thubault added on how his young squad has come together with newcomers Rene Montgomery, overall No. 1 draft pick Tina Charles, overall No. 3 pick Kelsey Griffin, rookie Allison Hightower, and veteran Kara Lawson.

The Sun (4-2) used all that in the closing minute when they repulsed a Liberty rally with some defensive stops and clinching points courtesy of two foul shots by Jones and a breakaway layup by Lawson over New York (2-3).

Connecticut's outlook on the weekend -- the Sun host the San Antonio Silver Stars Sunday -- was aided in a dramatic adjustment by the Chicago Sky's 80-70 wim in Atlanta over the Dream that has now lost two straight after being the talk of the WNBA off a previous 6-0 start.

"Tnat's always a tough game for an Eastern team returning home after making that Western road swing," Lawson observed.

Atlanta and the Guru head to Washington Saturday night in the Verizon Center where the Mystics have been at rest since Sunday's win.

Thus, Connecticut could have a shot at moving into first place in the East in what may be a tightly-fought race the rest of the way in the conference.

Tan White, the former Mississippi State star, had a game-high 18 points for Connecticut against the Liberty.

Maybe Sun-Tan would be a great nickname and maybe not. Hey, it's the middle of the night and as the Guru battles a bumpy keyboard caused by the motion of the train.

Lawson finished with 13 points, while Charles off a strong second half, also scored 13 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.

Anete Jekabsone-Zagoda added 10 points to the Connecticut total.

New York got ztrong performances from veterans Janelle McCarville, the former Minnesota star who scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, while Taj McWilliams also scored 14 points.

Rookie Kalana Greene, yet another rookie in the WNBA off the two-time NCAA champion and unbeatean University of Connecticut, scored 13 points, shooting 6-for-8 from the field.

Their play in the second half enabled the Liberty to sheer a 16-point deficit in the third quarter all the way down to have a chance to tie or go ahead late in the game.

Notewworthy was the Sun's ability to contain the high-scoring Cappie Pondexter, the former Rutgers star who was limited to eight points on a 3-for-14 effort from the field, way below her 19.5 scoring average.

"It was an off nigbt," Pondexter said. "I've faced a lot of defenders in my life. It was more me. You have off games.

"We have another game tomorrow night so it's nothing to get down about. It's better we learn our lessons now rather than later."

Thibault was glad to get this one into the win column not so much for the obvious but off the way he players performed, especially when challenged down the stretch.

"We had 10 turnovers in the second half and they scored on a lot of them," Thibault said of the narrowing of the outcome. "But our goal was to have a defensive presence on every possession and other than five or six communication mistakes, we did.

"Everyone did a good job guarding Cappie. They did a great job contesting everything she did. Obviously, really happy/"

Meanwhile, the Connecticut media, sensing the fun of added elements to competition, had immediately jumped on the Foxwoods-Mohegan competition caused by another casino involvement with the league.

Asked whether there was extra incentive to win one for the Mohegan tribe, Lawson deferred a bit, but offered, "We're pround of just being a part of this organization. We're proud of this ownership group, we're proud of the Mohegan Tribe and their commitment to the WNBA.

"And there's nothing they can do over there (Foxwoods) that's even going to come close to what our ownership has done for the league and the game.

"But obviously, it's a good thing they're supporting the WNBA as well. But to think it's a rivalry or that, it's not even close compared to what this franchise has done."

Elsewhere, Sylvia Fowles scored 19 points as Chicago improved to 33-4 with the win over Atlanta. The Dream, who were 0-3 against the Sky last season, got 18 points from Iziane Castro Marques.

Minnesota's momentum off the win over the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday night was short-lived as the Lynx lost at Tulsa, the second time in three meetings with the Shock, who are now 3-3.

The former Detroit franchise reduce to a roster similar to one by an expansion team, got 20 points from Scholanda Robinson while the Lynx (2-6) got 23 points from Rebekkah Brunson.

Phoenix is now 3-3, and two of the wins are one-point victories over Los Angeles after Friday night's 90-89 triumph over the visiting Sparks.

Dewanna Bonner scored 24 points for Phoenix and Diana Taurasi added 20.

Candace Parker scored 26 points for the Sparks, who fell to 1-5 though the panic button remains untouched.

On Saturday night, besides the Atlanta-Washington game, New York will be looking to reverse direction at the Indiana Fever. Tulsa visits Chicago with both teams trying to maintain momentum off Friday's wins.

The other game on the slate has Los Angeles not getting a break as the Sparks will host the red-hot Seattle Storm (6-1).

Hopefully, this posts but the bumping has stopped and we're stuck over some waterway because of track work.

-- Mel


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