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, May 26, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Washington Win Over Tulsa Marred By Near-Record Turnovers

By Mel Greenberg

Though the Washington Mystics have hit the early phase of the WNBA season with seven players and though the home team in the Verizon Center held a a 15-point lead over the Tulsa Shock early in the fourth quarter, by the time Saturday night's game had wound down to its final minutes, the announced crowd of 11,866 in the Verizon Center trembled watching a familiarilty from 12 months ago.

Once again the Mystics got involved in a pressure-cooker though this time unlike 15 that got away a year ago Washington grabbed a victory in the form of a slim 64-61 triumph that went into the record books only after a quick video review determined a Shock three-point shot that would have sent the game into overtime had occurred too late.

The cross-conference game involved teams with the two worst records in 2011 -- the Shock with just three wins and the Mystics with only six.

Even at the finish Washington had to wait out a quick review of the last moment before a three-point Shock shot that could have sent the game in overtime was denied.

Tulsa is going a re-organization with a new coach and new players in trying to build a foundation for future success and though the Shock are now 0-3 unlike last season they have been in the hunt in the final minutes of each outing.

This was Washington's second game and first win after losing the season opener here last week against the Chicago Sky.

The reason things got so close was Washington's offense yielding 32 turnovers leading to 25 points and nine of the miscues occured in the final quarter.

If you think that is an inordinate case of miscommunication you are exactly right.

The 32 was one off the league mark of 33, the last of which occurred by these same Mystics at the former Houston Comets in Washington's inaugural 1998 season when they won just three games leading to the overall No. 1 draft pick of Chamique Holdsclaw.

One other team committed 32 and that was Minnesota at home in July 2007 against Washington in overtime.

The Mystics (1-1) have now committed 55 turnovers in their first two games.

"Obviously (I am) happy we were able to execute down the stretch and pull out the win," Washngton coach Trudi Lacey said. "However I was not pleased with the types of turnovers and the number of turnovers we committed. Very simply, we have to make better decisions with the basketball."

Washington's cough-ups enabled Tulsa to pick up 25 points, as previously noted, while the Mystics got 19 off the Shock's 19 turnovers.

All this gets mentioned because most believe Washington and Tulsa will land in the next four-team draft lottery, which will yield three prized collegiate talents at the top in Baylor's Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.

Of course, at the present pace with an 0-4 start the New York Liberty could also be in the mix.

And if tie-breakers come into play in determining who gets the best odds to win the lotto, Saturday's game could be looked upon if Tulsa is swept by the Mystics in their two games putting the Shock at an advantage.

But that is not a supreme guarantee because in a similar scenario a year ago Tulsa finishing as woeful as it did got the Oklahomans nothing better than the fourth pick last month.

But as of now, much is to occur before how the low end of the league standings comes into focus. At the moment, for everybody it is all about winning and trying to make the playoffs though new Tulsa coach Gary Kloppenburg, the former Indiana Fever assistant to Linda Dunn of the 2011 regular-season co-champions, is has the proper perspective of his Shock's situation.

"We've been digging ourselves a hole in that third quarter and we did it again," said Kloppenburg of when Tulsa fell behind by as many as 16 before the end of the period. "We go through some scoring droughts. Obviously, we're offensively challenged at times so we've got to avoid getting into the hole.

"I'm proud of the way we fought out of it. But when you dig out, everything has to go exactly perfectly, If we could just have a normal third quarter, hang in there, have a normal game, and step up in the fourth, we're probably in good shape.

"But we have a young team and we have to keep at it. I told (his players), `We're not going to worry about our record. We're going to come out and just play extremely hard and try to get better each day.' Honestly, we have to shoot the ball better. Thirty percent is just not going to get it no matter how good a defense you play," Kloppenburg continued.

"We have a lot of work to do. But it's a willing group. They're willing to put time in and be very conscientious. Obviously, you like to make progress with a with a win under your belt but I think it will come if we keep playing hard. It's early. We could be 3-0 -- every one of the games we lost, we were right there in the last minute to win it."

As for forcing Washington into the plenthora of give-aways, the Tulsa coach said, "We feel like we have good defensive quickness. That's probably one of our strengths that we can go after some teams with pressure.

"Glory (Johnson) -- she's probably like a Dennis Rodman-type all-over-the-floor energy player, creates a lot of havoc with her defense so were trying to just ultilize the strengths we have to keep ourselves in a ballgame, we just need to have a game that if we shoot the ball well, we'll probably beat somebody easily."

Johnson is the former Tennessee star who was the fourth overall pick in the draft that also harvested Miami guard Riquana Willams and Maryland post player Lynetta Kizer who had her homecoming game here near where she starred for the Terrapins up the road in College Park.

Former North Carolina star guard Ivory Lotta got 16 points, the only Tulsa player in double figures, though she committed a crucial turnover after Tulsa had come within a point of the Mystics.

. All three rookies came off the bench with Johnson scoring nine points but limited with five personal fouls, while Kizer scored six and Williams had two, shooting 1-for-7.

On the Washington side, two positives were its rebounding domination -- 40-27 -- and former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon coming off the bench in her season debut with a game-high 19 points fueled by 8-for-10 from the foul line.

Ajavon had missed working most of camp and two exhibition games and last week's opener recovering from a knee injury in the offseason.

"It felt good. I felt confident," she said. "My teammates were behind me all the way through so I felt confident tonight. But it's still early in the season. We have a lot to work on. We had a lot of turnovers -- most of it was us and lack of communication but we have a couple more days to get that together and get ready for Minnesota."

Imagine what the defending champion Lynx would do with Washington's charity if it happens again Wednesday night when Minnesota makes its second Eastern stop out of the West early in the season.

"We had too many turnovers, sloppy basketball," aaid Crystal Langhorne, the Washington All-Star center out of Maryland. "It was pretty much not executing on offense. Their pressure got us some because we were bringing the ball up the court with some 15 seconds left on the shot clock so we really couldn't run our offense, so it was a little tough."

Langhorne finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds while former Duke star Monique Currie, recovered from the knee injury that caused her to miss all but the end of the 2011 season, scored 15 points.

Ajavon, Dominique Canty and Ajavon each had five turnovers.

Washington rookie Natalie Novosel, the former Notre Dame star, did not get into the game. Former Duke star Jasmine Thomas, who also was sidelined in training camp, scored two points in 13 minutes, 30 seconds of action.

Tulsa next visits the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday in the second stop of a five-game road trip while the Minnesota visit on Wednesday wraps up Washington's three-game home stand.

The Guru will be back to wrap up the weekend Sunday night heading into the next full week on the league slate.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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