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.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: Minnesota's Finish At Connecticut Keeps Lynx Unbeaten

By Mel Greenberg

UNCASVILLE, Conn. --
For all the franchise standards the Minnesota Lynx set last season on the way to their first-ever WNBA title, the defending champions are adding a few more in pursuit of a repeat trophy.

In a battle of two of three remaining unbeaten teams prior to Friday night's four-game slate on the WNBA schedule, Minnesota subdued the Connecticut Sun with a 30-16 domination in the fourth quarter to emerge with an 85-72 win.

The triumph was the first for the Lynx here since 2004 and for the first time in Minnesota's history the Lynx are 6-0 joining six other teams in the 16-year history of the WNBA with similar starts. Each of those half-dozen made the finals, not that coach Cheryl Reeve's group needs to lean on omens to look to the future.

If anything to demonstrate the power of the visitors was the miserable second-time-around homecoming of former UConn sensation Maya Moore, one of three Olympians on the Lynx who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft a year ago.

Statistically, Moore did an imitation of the baseball world champion St. Louis Cardinals, who down the road at the same moments were no-hit in New York by Mets star pitcher Johan Santana, the first-ever of its kind in franchise history.

Moore fared a bit better, but not much, shooting 1-for-5 from the field in 19 minutes, 31 seconds and ended up seated on the bench down the stretch. The successful shot was a 3-pointer to go with no rebounds or foul shots and two turnovers, though she did grab three steals.

"Lindsay (Whalen) told me it was really hard for her when she first came back here," Reeve said of the former All-Star guard who went home to Minnesota in the blockbuster deal prior to the 2010 draft that yielded Tina Charles, the former UConn star center and No. 1 overall pick, to the Sun.

"We talked about Maya today. I thought maybe playing here in the preseason would help her. But maybe it's going to take some time," Reeve continued.

"You know. There's high expectations. And it's hard to live up to and instead of Maya letting the game come to her, I think she was forcing some stuff.

"It's unfortunate because she wants to play really well here and it hasn't happened yet for her."

Moore also struggled a year ago when Connecticut won big here to get a split on the two-game, East-West season series.

"I'm just happy for my team. It's not all on one person's shoulders," Moore said.

Not to worry on the visitors' side by the lack of production from Moore. Former Virginia star Monica Wright, the No. 2 pick of the 2010 draft by Minnesota, came off the bench to make up the difference, scoring 13 points in 18 minutes, 50 seconds of activity.

"I thought we missed the boat on Monica down in Washington," Reeve reflected on the Lynx's previous road stop on Wednesday when the Mystics roared from a 24-point deficit to take a brief lead twice late in the game before Whalen's putback secured the win.

"Very similar situation. Monica's been playing well. She played well in training camp. And I missed an opportunity to use her more in Washington when she was the one defending and giving us some stuff.

"So I didn't make the same mistake twice. We were able to get her the minutes she deserved and she came through for us."

Seimone Augustus, one of the three Olympians on the Lynx, along with Moore and Whalen, had a game-high 23 points while Whalen scored 10 and dealt eight assists to go with Rebekkah Brunson's double double contributing 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Reeve has her own history of visits good and bad here dating to when she was an assistant on the powerful former Detroit Shock, now in Tulsa, so she knows how good a win meant to the Minnesota cause.

"This is a fun place to play," Reeve said. "It's a hard place to play. It's one of the hardest places in the league to play.

"We like that. We embrace that the same way we did in Detroit. But we weren't always successful in Detroit, either. We were successful when we had to be.

"But this is a fun place to play. We enjoy that the fans are raucus. We tried to embrace how hard it was going to be. We're a team that's been road tested.

We did that last year," Reeve continued about playing in front of what local media considered a bit disappointing 7,249 fans in the Mohegan Sun Arena.

"This is a game we kind of circled and said, `If you can go there and win, then that's going to be a positive.'"

Reeve said although her team committed 20 turnovers leading to 26 Sun points, the situation wasn't like what happened in Washington and she felt the Lynx played much better, noting that Connecticut's tough defense will cause a bunch of turnovers.

The Sun's Charles, another Olympian as is Connecticut's Asjha Jones, had 20 points and 12 rebounds, but she was held scoreless with just one rebound in the final quarter.

"We told our team, `It wasn't too late to start playing, it wasn't too late to have a sense of urgency and try to get some rebounds,' and lucky for us our offense was more than 50 percent most of the way and we were able to get a couple of key stops and scores and get the separation going away," said Reeve, whose Lynx next host San Antonio (2-2) on Sunday.

The Silver Stars beat visiting Phoenix 85-66 Friday night as the Mercury fell to 1-4.

Charles said of the collapse at the end, "When it came down to it, we didn't get any rebounds. I wasn't boxing out on key plays. We can't be doing that if we want to be the team we want to be at the end of the season."

Kara Lawson scored 14 points for the Sun while Renee Montgomery came off the bench and scored 16 points, but was 4-for-15 from the field.

"Well, 30-16 fourth quarter kind of says it all," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "We had a chance to take control of the game at the end of the third quarter.

"Instead, we had a little bit of a meltdown. They stepped up and we didn't answer it. We had missed shots, we had missed block outs, we shot the ball poorly .. all the things you need to do well to win a game against a team like that in the fourth quarter, we didn't do."

The loss dropped Connecticut (3-1) a half-game behind the idle Indiana Fever (3-0), who host the winless New York Liberty (0-4) Saturday night before returning East to play their opponent again Sunday night in the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

The Sun on Sunday will host Washington (1-3), which lost at Chicago 65-63 as the Sky improved to 3-1.

"We can go around the room and we all take responsibility for it, coaches, players, everybody," Thibault said of the loss. "I just thought we missed a golden opportunity for a lot of reasons.

"I just thought what we saw in the fourth quarter was a difference in the maturity level of the two teams right now. We're close but we're not quite there yet."

The Guru next is likely to go to the NY game Sunday but might return here depending on what is more compeling following the Liberty result from Saturday.

When the news warrants or more collegiate coaching news occurs -- there's a bit to come yet -- the Guru will return quicker.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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