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.

Monday, August 09, 2010

WNBA: Sun Not Ready To Set And Dazzles Mystics

By Mel Greenberg

UNCASVILLE, Conn. --
Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault's had a pleased look Sunday using words heared several times in the past but not recently while riding a three-game losing streak on the road.

"Would it be stating the obvious to say that was a good win?" Thibault grinned after the Sun powered over the Washington Mystics 76-67 at the Mohegan Sun Arena, reigniting Connecticut's playoff hopes in the WNBA.

"We did what we needed to do and I thought our second half at both ends of the floor was good."

The Sun has 48 hours to enjoy getting back to .500 at 14-14 because courtesy of the league schedule they must travel to the nation's capital for a Tuesday night encounter with the very same Mystics (16-12) at the Verizon Arena.

In recent weeks as the Sun went into eclipse the New York Liberty climbed above Connecticut and became a tough group to catch for the fourth and final playoff spot out of the very competitive Eastern Conference.

But suddenly slumping Washington has become a more attractive target to reach because the Sun are now just two games behind the Mystics and have clinched the season series with Washington (3-1) as the WNBA finishes out the next two weeks.

"We just have to keep winning," Mystics coach Julie Plank said of Connecticut's pursuit of her team. "I don't even care about the tiebreaker with them. They have to win a lot of games to get in and so do we. Every game in the East is important no matter who you are playing."

Former UConn star Tina Charles grabbed the rookie record for herself in the WNBA with her 18th double double off 17 points and 14 rebounds while she also blocked eight shots.

Yolanda Griffith had the double double rookie record of 17 in 1999, though she had come into the WNBA after several years in the former American Basketball League. Former Tennessee star Candace Parker matched Griffith right out of college in 2008.

Charles is now one away from tying the all-time double double record of 19 set by former UCLA star Natalie Williams in 2000.

Asjha Jones, another former UConn All-American, also scored 17 points for the Sun.

Former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne, a native of Willingboro, N.J., outside Philadelphia, had 14 points for Washington.

In two other games involving Eastern teams in Sunday's four-pack, the Indiana Fever avenged last season championship series loss to Phoenix in five games by returning to the Arizona desert and beating the Mercury 104-82.

New York (17-11) held off a rally at Minnesota (10-17) and beat the Lynx 74-72.

In a key West game, the San Antonio Silver Stars (11-17) beat host Los Angeles 92-83 to take a one game lead over the Sparks (10-18) who in fifth place trail Minnesota by a half game.

When the final result of the night was recorded from Los Angeles, the Eastern shuffle had Indiana (18-10) clinging to the top by a half game ahead of the idle Atlanta Dream (18-11) and one game over third-place New York.

Washington is two back of Indiana and two ahead of Connecticut.

The Chicago Sky (12-17), who were idle, are in sixth place 6.5 games behind Indiana and 4.5 behind Washington. The Windy City group are one game from elimination and being placed in the draft lottery competition for the No. 1 pick that will likely become UConn senior superstar Maya Moore.

Although four teams are below .500 in the West, three of them are also inovlved in a tight race to claim a postseeason bid.

"You can only take care of one link in the chain at a time," Thibault said of the rugged competition in the East.

He alluded to the next Washington game which is also a must-win for Connecticut to stay alive for the playoffs.

"I'm sure we're going to get their absolute best shot and have to be able to play as well or better as we did today," Thibault said. "But players understand it's those kinds of games right now. But if we can win Tuesday, the pressure may be shifted.

"This is as wide open as I've seen in a conference in this league since I've been in it," Thibault said.

New York Liberty Maintain Road Toughness

Nicole Powell scored 21 points and Cappie Pondexter had 17 for the Liberty who nearly blew all of a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter in Minneapolis before holding off the Lynx and Seimone Augustus (10 points) to win 74-72.

Minnesota's Lindsay Whalen scored 18 points as the teams split their two cross conference games with road wins.

The Lynx slippled to fourth a half-game behind San Antonio and only a half-game ahead of Los Angeles.

Triple Digit Time Again in Arizona Desert

Another night and another three-digit output for the winners in Phoenix except this time it was the Indiana Fever doing the offensive scoring surge to gain revenge for the Game 5 loss at the same site last season to the Mercury (14-14).

Katie Douglas had 28 points for Indiana, while Tamika Catchings had 24 points and 10 rebounds. Diana Taurasi, another UConn all-time great, scored 21 for the Mercury, who are 10 games behind idle Seattle, which already clinched the West title. Sitting in second place, the Mercury are three ahead of San Antonio and have six games remaining on the regular season schedule.

As mentioned earlier, Indiana is barely holding on to the Eastern Conference first-place slot.

Thompson Sets Career Mark In Los Angeles

Almost an entire season after former Los Angeles Sparks great Lisa Leslie called it a career, Tina Thompson, the last of the original players from the WNBA inaugural summer of 1997, surpassed the former Southern Cal star to become the All-Time career scorer in the league with 6,273 points.

Leslie, who played with the Sparks her entire career starting in 1997, had reached 6,263 points before she retired last season.

But it was tough for anyone on the Los Angeles bench to leave at the end of the evening happy after the Silver Stars beat the Sparks 92-83 to grab third place and the tie-breaker on head-to-head with Los Angeles.

The Silver Stars (11-17) are 13 games back while Los Angeles is 14 games back and a half-game behind Minnesota for the last playoff spot.

Thompson had 23 points for Los Angeles while her teammate DeLisha Milton-Jones scored 21 points.

Roneeka Hodges scored 19 for San Antonio.

Meanwhile, the Tulsa Shock (5-24), who were idle, are now 19.5 games behind Seattle in the West and six games behind fourth-place Minnesota to become eliminated from the postseason and first official (well, unofficial right now), contender in the Maya Moore draft lottery derby.

After a day of rest, the WNBA slate will be heavy Tuesday before another day off on Wednesday.

Besides the Connecticut-Washington tilt the Guru will handle to lead the next roundup, Seattle is at Atlanta, Phoenix will be at Chicago, Minnesota's nightly showdown tour hits San Antonio against the Silver Stars, and Indiana will visit Los Angeles.

That's it for now.

-- Mel

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