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, July 04, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Storm Moves On In Title Defense Despite Jackson Injury

By Mel Greenberg

Though the casualty list in the WNBA continues to grow, Seattle Storm coach Brian Agler says there’s not much time for sympathy over victims of injuries, including one to his own three time MVP Lauren Jackson, in the quest to win a league championship.

“Since I’ve been here we’ve played quite a bit without Lauren,” Agler said after the defending champs jumped back into the win column on the current road trip beating the Washington Mystics 73-63 Sunday night at the Verizon Center in the only game on the league schedule.

“This is my fourth year here and the third year that she’s been injured,” Agler said of last Thursday’s surgery to the Australian sensation to repair a labral tear in her left hip. “So we’ve played quite a few games without her. It’s not that we enjoy it, but we’re sort of used to it.

“We know what we have to do to compensate for her loss – Sue (Bird) has to step up. Swin (Cash) has to step up, Tanisha (Wright) has to stepup,” Agler explained. “Even though Katie (Smith) did not give us a lot in terms of numbers, she was very valuable tonight in terms of her defense and just her poise on the floor. And Camille Little has obviously gotten better day by day.”

Smith’s visit was her first since a trade following last season’s leadership after signing with Washington as a free agent.

While the Storm remains in a thick chase among five of six teams in the Western Conference, the Mystics (2-6) on the other hand are mired in the basement of the Eastern Conference a season after their best effort in franchise history in terms of wins, a first-place tie in the conference and top seed in the playoffs.

A major part of the reason is having had to go all the way to date without former Duke stars Monique Currie, who was lost for the season with a left knee injury playing overseas, and Alana Beard, who has yet to play this year due to a sprained left foot just before the opener at Connecticut in the same area that kept her out of action in 2010.

Added to these setbacks was the latest woe on Sunday when former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne of Willingboro, N.J., in suburban Philadelphia, couldn’t play because of a back injury and is listed day to day.

Langhorne, the leading Mystics scorer, is the lone starter back from last season and said her condition was day-to-day in terms of Tuesday night's game at Chicago (4-6) against the Sky in suburban Rosemont.

Furthermore, when Seattle visits the Eastern Division-leading Indiana Fever (7-3) on Tuesday night, the home team will be without starting point guard Briann January who suffered an ACL last Tuesday and is out for the season.

“It’s part of the league,” Agler said. “Unfortunately, people have been out. I know Crystal was out – it’s a tough deal (for Washington) – they’ve really battled injuries this year.

“But honestly, no one’s feeling sorry for us that we don’t have Lauren Jackson and no one’s feeling sorry for Washington. The league doesn’t stop. It just keeps going. So you have to find ways to make up for it.”

The Storm did exactly that with Cash scoring 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds, while Bird, a former UConn teammate of Cash had 17 points, former Penn State star Wright had 17 points, Little, who played at North Carolina, had nine points and six rebounds, and former Auburn star Le’coe Willingham scored six points as the other Seattle starter.

“I guess you can call it the East Coast offense,” Bird smiled over the Storm starters’ college affiliations in the East.

“For us, we definitely go as our defense goes and I thought we did a great job tonight of creating offensive opportunities from our defense,” Bird said. “You know, when that happens, you get out in transition, and then you kind of get some easy buckets and that makes the rest of your offense a little easier.

“For us, we’ve been struggling but tonight it was a different story.”

Jackson was anticipated to miss eight to 12 weeks following her surgery but the Seattle Times reported her return could possibly come in August ahead of the Sept. 11 closeout of the WNBA regular season.

Seattle dominated the second quarter 17-9 and then held its own for a 22-18 advantage in the third quarter.

In the third period Washington whittled an 11-point deficit to 43-40 with 4 minutes, 56 seconds left in the quarter before Bird countered with a trey and then went on to score five more points in a 14-4 run to keep the Storm in safe harbor.

Then after the Mystics launched another rally slicing a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter down to five, Cash broke away for a score and fueled a Storm run at 12-7 in which Washington’s Kelly Miller scored before regulation time expired for the game’s final points.

Washington first-round draft pick Victoria Dunlap out of Kentucky had a career-high 19 points in her fledgling life as a pro while former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon, who’s been playing increased minutes because of the Beard injury, scored 15 points, former Tennessee star Nicky Anosike had 11 points and 10 rebounds, and former Maryland star Marissa Coleman scored 10.

The announced crowd of 11,604 included Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie who was in the house to see her former Blue Devils, though Krystal Thomas did not get into the game for Seattle, while Jasmine Thomas, Joy Check, and Karima Christmas were part of a Mystics bench futility effort of 0-for-8 that also included a missed shot from rookie Ta’Shia Phillips from Xavier.

Besides noting two of the three games Tuesday night following another WNBA idle Monday that coincides with the July 4th holiday, the other is a bit of a Western Conference showdown when the Los Angeles Sparks (4-4), whose All-Star Candace Parker is sidelined six weeks with a knee injury, travels to Phoenix (5-4) to meet the Mercury.

The League will then be idle until Friday's games light up a weekend slate.

-- Mel


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