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.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

WNBA: Pondexter Steers Liberty Over Sun

By Mel Greenberg

New York Liberty star Cappie Pondexter says she doesn't check her email nor her cell phone messages.

That's two reasons why the former Rutgers All-American may have missed an invite to join her former team the Phoenix Mercury in Washington Monday to visit the White House and her Chicago bud, the President of the United States, to celebrate last season's WNBA title.

"Maybe something happened with the GMs and the schedule," Pondexter said in terms of misssing any word to head to Washington.

Social networking aside, what Pondexter does very well with the basketball is communicate her shot with the basket.

In the wake of her professional and franchise career-setting 40-point performance in Sunday's loss at home to the Indiana Fever, Pondexter delivered 24 points, including six in overtme Tuesday night, to give the New York Liberty an 82-74 win over the Connecticut Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Liberty (10-10) survived squandering a 13-point lead that existed late in regulation but evaporated totally when former UConn star Renee Montgomery fired a three-pointer with 4.2 seconds left in regulation to send the game into an extra period.

Montgomery finished with 23 points, including making a career high 6-of-10 three pointers for the Sun (12-9), who lost just their second home game of the season in 10 outings.

Coming hours before the weekly hump day, the win by New York may become the one that gets the Liberty over the hump and on the road to the playoffs.

New York, which now holds a 2-1 lead in the five-game season series with Connecticut, will know soon enough with two more road stops this week at the Chicago Sky Friday night and the Atlanta Dream Sunday afternoon.

"It's a huge win," Liberty coach Anne Donovan said. "We just came off an overtime game with Indiana that we didn't finish.

"Considering how (Connecticut) finished swith Montgomery and Tan White really playing strong, it was great to see us regroup and take over in the overtime," Donovan said and then spoke about Pondexter's performance.

"In the first half, she was quiet offensively, but she did a great job defensively on Tan White, so she was really focused on that. In the second half, we needed her more offensively. She's just phenomenal."

The win that brought New York back to .500 for the moment means no one in the Eastern Conference has a losing record. Chicago is also at .500 at 11-11.

New York moved closer to the Sun, which is holding the fourth playoff spot, trailing Connecticut by 1.5 games and tied with Chicago in the games-behind column.

The two bottom teams trail first-place Indiana by three games with the Sun now 1.5 games off the pace.

Another key game at the top of the East will be played Wednesday morning when Atlanta in a virtual tie with Indiana will visit the Washington Mystics, which is 0.5 games behind.

"Every game means a difference in the standings," Donovan said. "We're one of those teams that we know we can play with anybody. There isn't a game we haven't been in. And we're starting to jell. We've played so much better of late, so we have to win games and climb."

Tina Charles, the overall No. 1 draft pick out of UConn, did not have a double double for the Sun Tuesday night, scoring 14 points and grabbing just six rebounds. Sandrine Gruda scored 13 points for the home team.

Leilani Mitchell had 16 points for the Liberty behind Pondexter's total, while Taj McWilliams-Franklin had 11 points, and Plenette Pierson had 10.

One anamoly of the game was the matchup at times between former UConn teammates Kalana Greene, who was taken in the second round by the Liberty, and Montgomery, who was part of the major offseason trade that brought her from the Minnesota Lynx and the rights to the No. 1 draft pick and sent All-Star Lindsay Whalen back to her hometown in the Twin Cities.

Pondexter was pleased with New York's ability to revive after Sunday's tough loss to the Fever.

"We were definitely disappointed with what happened Sunday," she said. "So it was important to come out and be aggressive from the beginning and we defnitely did that."

Pondexter also praised Montgomery, whose alma mater is a major rival of Rutgers in the Big East Conference.

"She definitely hit some clutch threes, that's for sure," Pondexter said. "The last one, two people contested and she was fading away. It was a great shot. Connecticut is a great team. We did a great job taking things away from them."

Pondexter also spoke a little about not being involved in the White House celebration.

"I'm not a phone person," she said and referenced Liberty spokesman Casey Sherman for helping keep Pondexter organized.

"She usually tells me, `Cappie you have to be here or there.'"

"It would have been great to see Obama. Maybe i'll see him again in the future."

Meanwhile, Connecticut coach Mike Thibault spoke of his team's stumble which came prior to Saturday's cross-conference visit from the woeful Los Angeles Sparks.

"I don't think we played a great basketball game," he said. "I'm disappointed in the things we did on the court compared to the things that we are trying to work on. Last time we struggled against the press (in the last New York game on the road), tonight we turned it over in the half court."

Montgomery added, "The worst part is, we always dig ourselves a hole and then we have to make these massive comebacks. The same thing repeated in the overtime. We have to find a way to start out right and end it right so we don't always have to make a spectacular comeback to get back in the game."

Elsewhere: The front-running Seattle Storm (19-2) in the West turned aside the San Antonio Silver Stars 80-74 on the road to drop the Alamo team to 7-13 and take a 10.5 lead over idle Phoenix (8-12). Minnesota (7-12) is 11 games behind and San Antonio (7-13) is 11.5 games behind, holding the fourth playoff spot.

Lauren Jackson scored 21 points for Seattle, which, to correct the Guru's reference in the previous post, needs to get to 23-2 to match the former Houston Comets' best start through 25 games that was set in 1998. Former UConn star Sue Bird added 20 points.

San Antonio's Sophia Young scored 18 points, while Chamique Holdsclaw, the Dawn Staley Community Leadership winner, added 16 points, as did Michelle Snow. Becky Hammon matched a career-high with 10 assists.

In a battle among the worst two teams in the mediocre West, the Los Angeles Sparks edged the Tulsa Shock 86-83 in Tinseltown in overtime as DeLisha Milton Jones scored 23 points for the Sparks (6-15), who are 13 games behind Seattle but just 1.5 games behind San Antonio for the fourth playoff spot.

However, Los Angeles now goes on the road in the East through Indiana Thursday and here on Saturday night.

Scholanda Robinson scored 19 points for Tulsa (4-17), which was officially eliminated from West title contention at 15 games back.

-- Mel


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