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 08, 2011

Guru's WNBA Report: Connecticut Edges Phoenix on Charles' Shot In Overtime

(Guru’s note: Post drawn on material and quotes from team and wire reports)

By Mel Greenberg

This time Tina Charles’ attempt to have the last word was able to stick in another battle of UConn alums in the WNBA.

Charles’ 12-footer with five seconds left in overtime and a flick of time left on the shot clock Sunday enabled the Connecticut Sun (13-7) to edge the Phoenix Mercury 96-95 in overtime to move within a game of the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Fever (15-7).

Phoenix (11-9) dropped into fourth place in the West five games behind the Minnesota Lynx (15-7), who beat Los Angeles 84-78 in the Sparks’ Staples Center.

That Mercury stayed four games ahead of fifth-place Los Angeles (7-13) and are 0.5 games behind the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm (12-9) who lost 70-53 to Atlanta in the Dream’s Philips Arena to fall 4.5 games behind Minnesota. Seattle is 0.5 games behind the idle San Antonio Silver Stars (12-8),

In the only other Sunday game on the WNBA card the Chicago Sky (10-12) kept pace with Atlanta (9-11) by surprising visiting Indiana 88-69 as both Chicago and Atlanta trail Indiana by five games in the East.

The wins put Chicago and Atlanta four games ahead of Washington (4-14), which was idle.

On Friday night Charles, the rookie of the year in 2010 and overall No. 1 draft pick, hit a shot with 3 seconds left in Seattle that appeared to have brought the Sun all the way back from an 18-point deficit to a game-winner.

But Charles was trumped by another UConn All-American alum in Sue Bird, whose three-pointer with 0.4 seconds left gave Seattle the win, blunting what otherwise was a successful three-game swing through the West for the Sun, who won at Los Angeles on Wednesday.

“It’s the same kind of situation where we make a shot at the last second and then have to come back on defense,” Charles said.
“We just stayed together and played good defense and I think we improved, especially from the last game.”

Connecticut expanded its distance from the idle New York Liberty (12-9), who are 2.5 games behind Indiana in third place and 1.5 behind the second-place Sun.

Former UConn All-American Renee Montgomery had 28 points for the Sun, ex-Huskies star Asjha Jones added 17 points while Charles scored 23 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.

“It’s great when anybody on this team is putting up points, “ Charles said.

Former UConn all-time great Diana Taurasi scored 29 points for Phoenix while former Auburn star DeWanna Bonner scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, former Temple all-American Candice Dupree had 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Nakia Sanford had nine points and nine rebounds.

“We’ve been struggling on the road and to come in and get two of three on the West is good for us,” Montgomery said.

Sun coach Mike Thibault cited Kara Lawson for coming off the bench and hitting some critical three-pointers to help add to the Connecticut scoring leaders against the Mercury.

She finished with nine points and the Sun, which had trouble away from Uncasville all last season, is now 5-6 on the road.

Taurasi and Dupree each missed shots at the buzzer that would have brought Connecticut to the same grief Seattle’s Bird had done Friday night.

Montgomery spoke about the runs each team had against the other.

“I think the difference might have been just getting some stops,” she said. “The whole game it felt like we were trading baskets back-and-forth, so it came down to who was going to get more stops.”

Phoenix was playing its first game without Kara Braxton who was traded to New York on Thursday for Sydney Spencer, who had missed three games with a back strain and did not play Sunday.

Two days earlier Braxton was suspended for a game, missing the Minnesota trip for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

“You can play as hard as you want, if you play stupid it doesn’t matter,” Taurasi said, noting that the she thought her teammates “played at a pretty good level. We played really hard … did a lot of good things.”

Connecticut heads back home to host Chicago on Tuesday night and San Antonio Thursday at the Mohegan Sun Area.

Minnesota Keeps Rolling

Candace Paker, the former Tennessee super star, was back in uniform for the first time since suffering a knee injury on a road trip stop at New York on June 26 but she said she had worn it for one of her rehab sessions and didn’t change back for the game.

As so the Sparks continued to slump in her absence, going 3-10 and getting close to a precarious situation in terms of making the playoffs.

The first-place Lynx haven’t been there in six seasons but after extending a franchise win-streak record to nine straight and opening up a four-game lead on second-place San Antonio the Lynx moved closer to the playoffs by leading Los Angeles by nine games with 14 left.

Minnesota took the season series over Los Angeles 3-1 and won at the Staples Center for the first time in seven games heading into a stop at Phoenix on Tuesday. The Lynx are 2-1 against the Mercury.

We’re having fun, that’s the main thing,” said Minnesota all-star Lindsay Whalen who had a season-high 24 points. We’re playing together. Any given night it seems to be someone different stepping up.”

She also played in her 250th WNBA game in a career that started with the Connecticut Sun.

Whalen needs seven points to reach her 3,000th point and when she gets there she will be the sixth WNBA player to have 3,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.

Playing in front of a Sparks crowd that included actor Tom Hanks, the Lynx forced the home team into 18 turnovers and got 26 points out of the errors.

Seimone Augustus had 19 points for Minnesota and Rebekkah Brunson had 18.

Los Angeles, which fought back close after suffering with a double-digit deficit, got 18 points from DeLisa Milton-Jones and 17 from a second veteran in Tina Thompson, last of the original WNBA players from 1997 to have appeared in every WNBA season.

“We were right there,” Lynx veteran substitute Ticha Penicheiro said after scoring 16 points while rookie Jantel Lavender was also in double figures for the Sparks with 11 points. “But I think we dug ourselves too big a whole and ran out of time.”

Los Angeles next hosts the Tulsa Shock (1-19) on Tuesday before hosting Phoenix on Friday night.

Chicago Stops Indy Streak

The Sky, who have never been to the playoffs in five previous seasons as a franchise, stopped Indianapolis’ win streak at six in suburban Rosemont, Ill., to keep pace with Atlanta in a virtual fourth-place tie.

Chicago shook off its Thursday loss in Newark, N.J., to the New York Liberty, which held the Sky to a record-low one point in the fourth quarter.

All-Star Sylvia Fowles had 21 points and 12 rebounds while former Southern Cal star Shay Murphy, recently signed to a short-term contract, matched Fowles’ game points at 21.

“It felt good to knock down shots and stay aggressive,” Murphy said after the Sky broke a seven-game losing streak to the Fever. “Offensively, we knew that they would be collapsing on Syl. It was great to get some open looks take care of business on both ends of the floor.”

Cathrine Kraayeveld scored 12 points for the Sky and Tamera Younghad 10.

Fever All-Star Katie Douglas scored 14 points and Tangela Smith scored 10 but Tamika Catchings, the team’s leader, was held to eight points, which was 6.2 below her average.

“It does not surprise me how hard (Chicago) played,” Indianapolis coach Lin Dunn said. “They are playing for a playoff spot. They outworked us, outhustled us, they us up and down the floor and I am very disappointed in our effort, very disappointed in our energy.

“They played like a team that wants a playoff spot and we played like a team that is resting waiting for the playoffs.”

Chicago bolted from a slim 35-34 halftime lead and rode Kraaveyeld’s three treys in the third quarter to a 60-47 lead at the end of the period.

“It was very nice to be at home, versus a good team that we had not played well against.” Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said. “They pose some matchup problems, but it was nice to see our players adjust to some of those problems.”

Atlanta Strikes Back At Seattle

The host Dream and Storm had not seen each other since Seattle wrapped up the WNBA championship series at the same Philips Arena in Georgia completing a 3-0 sweep by narrow margins in September.

Atlanta, which was born as a franchise in 2008, snapped a two-game losing streak to stay close to Chicago in the battle for a playoff spot.

Angel McCoughtry scored 17 points for the Dream, while Erika de Souza had 13.

Seattle was hounded into 29 turnovers, which tied a high for miscues this season in the league.

Of course the Storm, unlike a year ago, were without three-time MVP Lauren Jackson, who has missed most of the season with a hip injury and is hopeful of being back next month.

Swin Cash scored 16 points for the Storm while Katie Smith had 11 as
Seattle’s three-game win streak ended.

Armintie Price, a starting guard for the Dream, which has struggled with injuries, twisted her ankle in the second quarter and left the game though X-rays afterwards were negative and she is listed day-to-day.

“It was a great team win because everyone made valuable contributions,” Atlanta coach-general manager Marynell Meadors said. “Seattle fought hard, but we just outfought them.”

Seattle is 4-8 on the road heading into New York at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Tuesday night to play the Liberty while Atlanta will be in Washington, which is feeling energized after its home win Saturday night over the Liberty snapped a four-game losing streak.

“Atlanta had time to prepare,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said. “I think they had four or five days to practice, and they were hungry. They see their playoff hopes in limbo so they played with a lot more urgency than we did.”

-- Mel

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