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.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Fever Melts Sun

(Guru’s note: Sources for quotes and information on Saturday’s two games come from wire and team reports.)

By Mel Greenberg

It was the Eastern Conference’s turn in the WNBA to flip positions at the top Saturday night while the overall West got a bit tighter off the other of two games on a limited league schedule.

The Indiana Fever (5-3) exchanged first and second place with the Connecticut Sun off a 75-70 victory in Indianapolis at Conseco Fieldhouse that left the visitors (4-3) close but 0-2 in their brief road trip to the Midwest.

However, whether the Fever stays alone at the top after Sunday night will be determined by their quick turnaround visit to the Minnesota Lynx (5-2), which will be looking to regain the top in the West after losing at Seattle on Friday night.

In the other game played, the Phoenix Mercury (4-3) won their fourth straight after an 0-3 start by winning at Chicago 86-78 in suburban Rosemont, Ill., as the Sky (4-4) lost their third game out of their last four.

While recent Rutgers graduates in the WNBA have been making key contributions to their respective teams this week, a golden oldie had a hand in Indiana’s win.

Veteran Tammy Sutton-Brown, who helped lead the Scarlet Knights to the 2000 Women’s Final Four in Philadelphia, had a season-high 12 points off the bench for the Fever – a performance that obviously did not bring any joy to Sun coach Mike Thibault.

Sutton-Brown has primarily been a starter.

“It was very frustrating that Tammy Sutton-Brown got her season high,” Thibault said afterwards. “Very frustrating when we do deserve to win. We were outrebounded. The only place we were better were free throws at 100 percent.

“It was ridiculous … Tammy Sutton-Brown, 19 minutes … she hadn’t been in double figures all season. We were outscored 31-6 in bench points.”

Fever coach Lin Dunn, on the other hand, praised her post player.

“I give Tammy Sutton-Brown a lot of credit coming off the bench,” Dunn said. “Each team knows each other very well and it’s a struggle when we play each other.”

Sutton-Brown ticked off several reasons to be motivated, which were already addressed in this post.

“One, Connecticut is a very good team and this was a very important game for holding home court. Two, they were at the top of the East. Three, knowing we’re on a back-to-back and Minnesota is playing really well. So it definitely was a very important game, all aspects of it.”

Katie Douglas, a former Sun All-Star who was rested in Indiana’s win at Washington Tuesday night after suffering a lower back injury in her previous game, returned and scored nine points.

“This team is really starting to come together, accepting our roles and thriving in them,” Douglas said. “And I think that is what being a great team is all about.

“Depth is so key and pivotal in this league because it’s a taxing, compact season.”

Two elements that factored into Connecticut’s just missing the playoffs a second straight time in 2010 showed itself in this game – The Sun committed 17 turnovers, which Indiana cashed in for 20 points, and suffered a narrow road loss.

One of the miscues came at the end when Connecticut, trailing 73-70, had a chance to tie.

All-Star Tamika Catchings, the former Tennessee all-American who had her 70th career double double with 13 points and 12 rebounds to lead Indiana in both categories, stole a ball from former UConn star Renee Montgomery in a crowd under the basket and launched a fast-break that led to former Tennessee post player Shyra Ely scoring for the final points.

Somewhere in Knoxville, there were probably a lot of smiles among Lady Vols fans over that finish.

Briann January also scored in double figures for Indiana with 10 points.

“We needed to step up,” Catchings said afterwards. “Everybody needed to do the little things.”

Montgomery had 19 points for the Sun while Tina Charles grabbed 11 rebounds, but she was held to 12 points after recently averaging 26 the last three games.

Asjha Jones, another former UConn star, had 18 for the Sun, and former Tennessee star Kara Lawson scored 10 points.

“We fought down the stretch,” Jones said. “It’s a game we should have won. Turnovers down the stretch took their toll on us. We have to work on that kind of stuff and offensive rebounds and we will be pretty good.”

Indiana hosts Phoenix on Tuesday while Connecticut will host the Los Angeles Sparks.

Last year the Eastern Conference finally got the better of the West but the trend has shifted back so far with the West holding a 9-3 record in the inter-conference games with lowly Tulsa accountable for all three losses.

Mercury Lights Up Sky

Though Phoenix stumbled out of the gate with three straight losses, the Mercury continued to stay hot through their current road trip with an 86-78 win at Chicago as former UConn all-timer Diana Taurasi scored 23 points and Aussie Penny Taylor had 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

Taylor was two assists short of getting a triple double in the Mercury’s win at Atlanta on Friday night.

Former Temple star Candice Dupree scored all 13 of her points in the second half for Phoenix.

Former LSU star Sylvia Fowles had 28 points and 11 rebounds for Chicago while teammate and former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince had 16 points.

Phoenix owned the boards with a 40-29 rebounding advantage.

Chicago hosts San Antonio on Tuesday.

On Sunday, besides the Indiana game at Minnesota, three others are on tap.

The San Antonio Silver Stars, which just took a narrow first-place lead in the West on Friday night, will try to hold it when they visit the Atlanta Dream (2-6), the defending Eastern Conference playoff champion, which has struggled since the start of the season.

The New York Liberty (3-4), which lost at Los Angeles on Tuesday and then snapped a four-game losing streak winning at Tulsa Thursday, hosts the Sparks (4-3) in Newark, N.J., at the Prudential Center in the afternoon.

Tulsa (1-7) is at Washington (1-5) to return an East-West matchup the Shock have already won over the Mystics in Oklahoma.

-- Mel

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