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 18, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Sky Ties Sun Atop The East With A Win Over New York

(Guru's note: Updating to reflect Tulsa's Saturday night win over Washington, since that was the only game on the WNBA schedule. Also noting Atlanta signing Courtney Paris while Sancho Lyttle temporarily heads overseas.)

By Mel Greenberg

The Chicago Sky has come up empty in its five previous seasons of existence in the WNBA in terms of making the playoffs while the Connecticut Sun has been out of action in the postseason for the last two.

But as life has evolved in the early going when the two meet Sunday afternoon at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference will be on the line for the moment after an 85-73 win by the Sky at home Friday night over the New York Liberty created a two-team deadlock at 3-1.

Chicago edged Connecticut a week ago in the Windy City suburbs and has won three straight under new coach Pokey Chatman, who has coached LSU and in Russia.

Had Indiana beaten the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm in the Northwest Friday night there would have been a three-way tie at the top of the East but the Fever fell to the host Storm 68-54 in another of the four games played Friday night.

Now the Fever on Sunday travel to Phoenix (0-3) and what has become the last of the 12 WNBA teams still looking for a victory in the winless Mercury.

Phoenix was left alone in that category after the Tulsa Shock Saturday night shook off an 0-5 start to beat the Washington Mystics 77-59 in Oklahoma.

It was Atlanta Coast Conference alumnae night in terms of former stars of schools in the powerful collegiate conference making contributions to both Tulsa and Washington.

Tulsa's Ivory Latta, a former North Carolina star, scored 22 points fur Tulsa, getting 14 of them in the third quarter as the Mystics dropped their third straight. Veteran Sheryl Swoopes, who is attempting to revive her career after missing the last two seasons, had 13 points for the Shock, rookie Kayla Pedersen out of Stanford scored 12 as did Jennifer Lacy, while Australian youngster Liz Cambage, the No. 2 overall pick, scored 10 points.

Two former Maryland stars -- Marissa Coleman and Crystal Langhorne -- each scored 12 points for Washington, while Langhorne also grabbed 12 rebounds. Rookie Karima Christmas out of Duke contributed 11 points.

The Mystics trailed by a basket at 57-55 with 7:49 left in the game when Tulsa exploded on a 20-4 run the rest of the way.

Tulsa finished with the worst record in the league last season but lost out to Minnesota for the overall No. 1 pick in the lottery for the draft last April that yielded the Lynx UConn star Maya Moore.

Former Duke star Alana Beard continued to stay out of action with a sprained foot, though the two-week period she said opening night in Connecticut to get better has just passed.

Meanwhile, on Sunday afternoon, two USA Basketball teammates who dominant the inside will meet again as foes with Sylvia Fowles, a former LSU star, playing for one of her former collegiate coaches on the Sky, while former UConn star Tina Charles, the 2010 WNBA rookie of the year, will be representing the Sun.

Fowles had a season high 27 points and 11 rebounds on Friday night as the Sky won its third straight by rallying from a 36-31 halftime deficit with a lop-sided 32-13 advantage in the third quarter over the Liberty (2-3), who dropped their third straight.

Former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince, a second-year pro, had 17 points for the Sky while former Tennessee center Michelle Snow scored 13.

Three former Rutgers stars led the Liberty in the scoring column as Cappie Pondexter had 20 points and 14 rebounds, Essence Carson scored 12, and Kia Vaughn scored 10 points.

Former Gonzaga star, all-American point guard Courtney Vandersloot had six points and dealt five assists for Chicago as she is rapidly making the adjustment to the pros after being only less than three months removed from her collegiate career.

Vandersloot was taken third overall in the draft after the Minnesota Lynx grabbed UConn sensation Maya Moore with the overall No. 1 pick and the Tulsa Shock followed by taking Australian 19-year-old center Elizabeth Cambage.

Prior to New York’s home loss in Newark, N.J., at the Prudential Center Tuesday to the Atlanta Dream, Liberty coach John Whisenant was second-guessing himself a little bit in terms of running a tough training camp to get the New York to buy into his “white line” defense.

Meanwhile Minnesota had trouble shaking the rust off from an eight-day layoff but once the Lynx got going at home in the Target Center in Minneapolis, they bolted to a 96-85 win over the Eastern playoff champion Atlanta Dream.

Former LSU star Seimone Augustus had 25 points, 15 in the second half, to headline the Lynx win, though former Georgetown star Rebekkah Brunson stayed hot with 18 points and 14 rebounds for her fifth double double. That’s one short of the WNBA milestone for a start of a season.

Maya Moore had 13 points and Lindsay Whalen had 16 points, eight assists, and three steals while committing just one turnover.

Atlanta had dropped its first three games before winning over New York Tuesday, a dismal streak caused by injuries, but the Dream were without Sancho Lyttle Friday night after she returned overseas to play for Spain’s national team in a qualifying tournament towards the 2012 Olympics in London.

On Saturday Atlanta tried to get help on the inside by signing former Oklahoma star Courtney Paris, who has tried to catch on with several teams, and temporarily suspending Lyttle.

Paris played all but one game in 2009 when she was the seventh overall pick of the former Sacramento Monarchs. As a member of the Sooners the four-time all-American was the only male or female collegian to score over 2,500 points and grabbed 2,000 rebounds in her career.

She had the double double career record at 134 until Maya Moore broke it last season with Connecticut with her 135th in a win over DePaul on February 5,

Former Louisville star Angel McCoughtry, the 2009 rookie of the year and number one overall draft pick that season, had 27 points against the Lynx in Friday's game for Atlanta, which also got 18 from Erika de Souza, 12 from Iziane Castro Marques, and 11 from Shalee Lehning.

Minnesota travels to Atlanta Sunday to complete their East-West matchup on the young season.

San Antonio is the last of the unbeaten in the WNBA and the Silver Stars remained so Friday night at 4-0, their best start ever, with a rally from 14 point deficit to beat Phoenix 101-99 in the Arizona Dessert to keep the Mercury winless.

Former Baylor star Sophia Young had 20 of her 26 points in the second half for the Silver Stars. All-Star Becky Hammon had 22 points and nine assists, while rookie Danielle Adams off the NCAA champion Texas A&M Aggies had 16 points and six rebounds.

Candice Dupree, the former Temple star, had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Mercury while Australian Penny Taylor also scored 18 points, and former UConn star Diana Taurasi had 20 points for Phoenix.

Former UConn players were all over Friday’s action, including Swin Cash, who had 14 points, and ex-Huskies all-American Sue Bird who scored 12 to give Seattle (2-1) its 68-54 win over Indiana (3-2).

The Storm at home last time out fell to Minnesota, snapping an overall 22-game win streak at home, including the playoffs.

Katie Douglas had 11 points for Indiana heading into Sunday's game in Phoenix. In the only other game on the four-game Sunday card, Seattle will be at the Los Angeles Sparks.

-- Mel

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