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.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

WNBA: Bird's Trey Tops Taurasi In Desert Duel

By Mel Greenberg

What a weird coincidence that Wednesday's four-game WNBA matinee fiesta across the country resulted in wins by three teams nicknamed Sun, Sky and Storm. Of course, two losers in this mix were named Fever and Mercury.

OK, Guru, how are you going to tie the other game into this theme?

Well, that was a daydream come true for Minnesota over Atlanta that propelled the Lynx into second place as the momentary best of the, ahem, others below Seattle in the Western Conference. The loss dropped the the Dream into second place or Atlanta remained in first in the gridlock Eastern race. Huh? We'll get to that in an item way below.

But let's start in the Arizona desert where once again UConn alumnae duked it out in another marathon, high-scoring confrontation.

Less than a week after the defending champion Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi and Seattle Storm's Sue Bird reunited as USA and former teammates in the WNBA All-Star game in the state they achieved collegiate glory, the two future Naismith Basketball Hall of Famers helped their teams blaze away at each other.

When the dust cleared, Bird's three-pointer with 6.4 seconds left in the third overtime gave the blistering hot Storm a 111-107 victory over the Mercury.

The shot ruined another stellar deal from Taurasi, who scored 44 points for Phoenix, three short of her WNBA record.

Incidentally, you can read quite an entertaining behind-the-scenes with USA Basketball report of last weekend's events written by the Guru's good friend and AP national women's writer Doug Feinberg, which is on yahoo sports if you can't find the AP copy elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Lauren Jackson, shaking off the effects from a concussion that sidelined her for the activities in Uncasville on Saturday, had 31 points and 18 rebounds for Seattle, which at 17-2 is now two short of the best-ever WNBA start of 19-2 by the former franchise and four-time champion Houston Comets.

Bird pointed out last weekend that while the Storm's record is most gaudy her pro team isn't winning every game the way her former collegiate team does more times than not.

But by the time the day's activity concluded in terms of the West, Seattle held a 9.5 lead over -- that's right -- the Minnesota Lynx (7-11), while Phoenix (7-12) and the San Antonio Silver Stars (6-11) fell 10 games off the pace, which is 1.5 games in front of the fifth-place Los Angeles Sparks (5-13).

It was the fifth triple overtime game in WNBA history, including the all-time four-vertime encounter between Seattle and Washington (that sounds geographically weird) on July 3 in 2001.

Former Penn State star Tanisha Wright had 20 points for Seattle, while former Temple star Candice Dupree had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Mercury.

Seattle heads into the weekend with a stop at Minnesota Saturday in an attempt to reach a double digit lead over all the alleged Western pursuers.

The Storm could clinch the division before the end of the month and seems to have a magic number hovering around eight.

Phoenix hosts last-place Tulsa (3-15) on Saturday needing a win to stay above the draft-lottery line. Well, maybe the Mercury fans would like it the other way.

The Sun Rises In The Midwest

The Connecticut Sun was hotter than the defending Eastern champion Indiana Fever Wednesday snapping a three-game losing streak and prevailing on the road 77-68.

Sandrine Gruda scored 21 points as Connecticut (11-8) tightened the Eastern gridlock moving to within a half-game of the third-place Fever (11-7) and 2.5 games of Atlanta (14-6) and two of Washington (12-5).

Tamika Catchings had 22 points for Indy, which next hosts Atlanta Friday and then plays at New York Sunday in Madison Square Garden.

Connecticut, which is 7-1 at home, now heads back to the comforts of casinoland with a five-game stand that begins Saturday against Atlanta.

Sky Scrapes San Antonio

Before it's over two Eastern teams may become the best ever not to make the playoffs not so much because of their own records but by comparison with the mediocrity over in the West.

Such contrast was on display in the suburbs of the Windy City Wednesday where the last-place Chicago Sky (9-11) of the East topped the Silver Stars 88-61, an all-time wipeout in the win column in Chicago history. Sylvia Fowles, former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince and Jia Perkins each scored 14 points, heading five Sky players who scored in double figures.

San Antonio (6-11), which had recently and gingerly held second place, fell to fourth, just 1.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Sparks (5-13) for the last Western berth.

Sophia Young scored 14 points for the Alamo bunch, who hope to have better success Sunday at home than their last meeting with Los Angeles. UConn senior Maya Moore may watch this one considering the two bottom dwellers in the West will be in the draft lottery for her services after her collegiate career concludes in April.

Moore may also want to watch Friday's game between San Antonio hosting the last-place Tulsa Shock (3-15), which is 3.5 games behind the fourth playoff slot in the West.

Back several years ago when country singing superstar George Strait was crooning Take Me Back to Tulsa, the Shock made toast of many teams visiting them in Detroit, where they won three WNBA titles before the big NBA brother Pistons jettisoned them last winter.

Chicago could help the Silver Stars Friday night with a home win over Los Angeles. The Sky, trailing fifth-place New York (8-9) by a half-game and fourth-place Connecticut by 2.5, head to Washington Sunday after Friday's game against Los Angeles.

Minnesota Edges Atlanta

Seimone Augustus scored 22 points as the suddenly revived Lynx (7-11) snuck into second place in the West, a half-game over Phoenix and San Antonio, after upsetting the Eastern leading or second-place Atlanta Dream 83-81 in the Twin Cities.

Nicky Anosike -- yes Huskies fans, ex-Tennessee players do have big days in the WNBA -- scored a season-high 16 points, grabbed a late steal and found former Georgetown star Rebekkah Brunson for a layup with 7.2 seconds left for the winning shot.

Floundering around less than a month ago, Minnesota has won 5 of 7 but still is only 2 games ahead of fifth-place Los Angeles in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Angel McCoughtry scored 25 for Atlanta, which goes to Connecticut Saturday night. The last time the two met before the All-Star break, the Dream survived a narrow overtime-triumph in which both teams reached triple digits.

But first, there's a visit to another Eastern pursuer Friday when the Dream visit Indy.

Washington Reaches First -- But Maybe Not Yet

The Mystics end a long rest period Thursday in the lone WNBA contest -- an afternoon encounter at the New York Liberty.

While Washington's troops rested, not counting Mystics general manager Angela Taylor tweeting her way down Broadway since Tuesday -- maybe it was Wednesday there were so many of them -- the Mystics bolted into first place ahead of Atlanta while remaining in second place a half-game behind the Dream?

Say again and the Guru, who has yet to troll there, is wondering how his D.C. Basket Cases friends have this all advanced out at their blog in the nation's capital.

Well, we've always heard of the half-full, half-empty comparison, but with a little non-uniformity in completed games between Atlanta and Washington, the Dream loss to Minnesota enabled the Mystics to claim the top Eastern won-loss percentage at .706, while Atlanta is at .700. But Washington is also a half-game back in the standings.

However, this will all be resolved in a key game Thursday for both teams because a Mystics win will put Washington in sole possession of first by percentage points, but tied with Atlanta at the top in terms of being no games behind.

New York needs the win big-time to close the gap a bit with Connecticut for the last playoff spot in the East and to stay ahead of Chicago, which is right behind the Liberty.

Washington heads home next for Sunday's game with Chicago while New York will host Indy the same day.

Clearing the WNBA's Hall of Fame Info File

This next item will be a true test of how many people stay deep in a Guru post.

Don't know if any of the other blogging friends of the Guru caught this little error over the weekend but there was a bit of a mis-statement at Saturday's All-Star game when former Houston Comets and Olympic great Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, who played at Southern Cal on the Cheryl Miller NCAA title teams, was introduced to the sellout crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Cooper-Dyke, who is the new coach of N.C.-Wilmington in the Colonial Athletic Association, is heading for induction next month to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

She previously coached at Prairie View A&M, having given Rutgers a scare a few times in recent encounters.

Anyhow, Cooper-Dyke, who was inducted in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, was introduced as the first former WNBA star to achieve enshrinement in Yankee country.

Actually, Lynette Woodard, the former Kansas star and Harlem Globetrotter, went into the Naismith Hall several years ago after hasving played the first several WNBA seasons with the former Cleveland Rockers.

Incidentally, the Guru did ask general manager and former San Antonio coach Dan Hughes, a native of Cleveland, Saturday whether he is now the new beloved local sports personality in the wake of LeBron James' bailout from the NBA Cavaliers to the Miami Heat.

"Yeah, I'm getting a lot of mail about that," Hughes smiled. "Because they all know how much I love Cleveland."

Hughes also coached the Rockers as well as the former Charlotte Sting.

Technically, Cooper-Dyke did have the more prolific WNBA career while Woodard was a scoring sensation at Kansas. She actually has double Naismith enshrinements because the Globetrotters as a team was previously inducted into Naismith before she got the individual honor.

Woodard also played in Houston for Van Chancellor, the former Mississippi coach and 2004 Olympic coach, who was inducted into the Naismith Hall in 2007.

Inspiration Winner

No, the Guru wasn't in New York Wednesday but Liberty star and former Rutgers sensation Cappie Pondexter and Washington's Katie Smith helped the WNBA present the fifth Inspiration award to Susan Rice, the United States' ambassador to the United Nations.

Geographical Adjustment

This will really be an even stronger indicator how deep you all went with the Guru on this post.

The Guru made his first visit to the Philadelphia Dept. of Recreation Women's Summer League, which abides by NCAA regulations, on Tuesday in its new home in Hatboro at the Kelly Bolish Gym, home of the AAU Renegades.

He may return Thursday this week when a team headed by former Temple stars Ashley Morris and Ari Moore along with current Owls standout Qwedia Wallace plays. The squad is 5-1 as is a team with St. Joseph's players, including Katie Kuester, the daughter of NBA Detroit Pistons coach John Kuester, a former 76ers assistant.

For those of you who haven't been to the league yet, here is some more precision geography to find the place.

The gym, a much better faclity than the Northeast High gym of the past, is in an industrial park and actually has a snack bar of bountiful selections.

The key here is you can come over either County Line Road or slightly closer by way of Byberry Road from the Northeast.

You can also get off the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Willow Grove exit and -- doing this off the top of the Guru's head so get a gps, though north on 611 will get you to County Line Road where you make a right.

Coming from the Northeast you make a left onto Davisville Road, but if you come from the city on 611, you make a right before reaching Willow Grove.

As longtime commissioner David Kessler originally stated, after the left onto Davisville from Byberry Road, you make a right at the next light.

Here's the refinement.

The light is just past the Pennsylvania Turnpike, so as soon as you cross the interstate, make a right onto Turnpike drive and follow it a long way toward the back and you will enter Willow Grove Industrial Park where you then proceed a little further and the gym will be at the end of a stretch of buildings on the left.

If you are coming from Willow Grove on Davisville, as soon as you pass Willow Ridge rehabilation home on the right, start looking for the light on the left and then make a left onto Turnpike Drive.

If you cross the turnpike, you missed the turn, so turn around where possible.

That's it for now.

-- Mel

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