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 09, 2012

Guru's WNBA Report: San Antonio Silver Stars Sparkle In Win Over New York

By Mel Greenberg

The streaking San Antonio Silver Stars fed off the New York Liberty for their seventh straight win Sunday afternoon/night pulling away in the final minutes for an 94-81 victory in a cross-divisional game as the WNBA approached its final week before the season comes to a mid-summer halt for the Olympics in London.

At the moment all is good for the Texans out of the Alamo town with an 11-6 record that has them in a virtual tie with the revitalized Los Angeles Sparks for second place in the Western Conference behind the defending champion, but slumping, Minnesota Lynx.

"We had a hard time stopping them," said San Antonio coach/general manager Dan Hughes of the game in which both teams hit a WNBA combined season-high of 24 3-pointers, 11 by the visitors and 13 off 20 attempts by the Liberty.

"I thought the team that was going to get some stops in the game was going to be successful," Hughes continued. "I was pleased in the fourth quarter. I thought defensively we did some things that we hoped to do defensive in the first half. But the're a hard guard."

New York, which had to keep rallying to have a chance to win its third straight, pulled to within one on a shot by Rutgers alum Essence Carson to make it 78-77 with 7 minutes, 42 seconds left in the game.

But as they say in the history of the Battle of the Gettysburg in the Civil War when the Union Army repulsed the Confederacy, that was the high water mark of the Liberty chance for now to close the gap in the Eastern Conference between fifth-place New York and the fourth-place Atlanta Dream to a differential the width of the Mason-Dixon Line.

A few hours later Atlanta fell out West to the Los Angeles Sparks who remained in a virtual tie with San Antonio, who have another road stop this week in Chicago crossing conferences again to play the Sky.

With depth as its forte, San Antonio has moved from gaps in the schedule to a time-crunching four games in six days through Sunday's battle here at the Prudential Center before an announced crowd of 7,714.

"I can't remember ever playing four games in six days," said Hughes, who has coached two former franchises in the Charlotte Sting and Cleveland Rockers and then after landing in San Antonio, gave up his sidelines job for a while only to return to the bench last season.

Richard Nixon didn't have as many comebacks.

Liberty fans were treated or taunted with ghosts of the New York past in Becky Hammon, who had a team-runnerup 23 points and hit 4-of-9 treys, while reclamation project Shamea Christon had seven points and four rebounds while dealing two assists and grabbing a steal.

Christon was part of the famous three-way deal three seasons ago that was highlighted with former Rutgers All-American Cappie Pondexter arriving here, former Temple great Candice Dupree, an All-Star, replacing Pondexter in Phoenix with the Mercury while Christon was dealt to Chicago to replace Dupree.

But Christon was injury-riddled after joining the Sky and was let go before last season started.

"Shameka is a big part of what we're doing," Hughes said. "We're taking it in stages and the season heading to the Olympic great is part one."

After New York neared taking a lead in the fourth quarter, Hammon nailed a trey followed by one from substitute Jia Perkins, who had a team-high 24 points, as the Silver Stars closed out with a 14-4 run.

Danielle Adams, a second-year pro, who was the oustanding player for Texas A&M in the Aggies' 2011 conquest conquest of Stanford and Notre Dame in the Women's Final Four in Indianapolis, had 10 points off the bench and a revitalized Sophia Young as a starter contributed 21 points.

Hughes isn't counting wins as much as gauging the development of team chemistry and everyone coming to understand their roles.

"I hadn't even thought about it," he said of the streak. "To be honest about it today I wasn't even sure how many it was in a row. We're just trying to find a rhythm with each other, especially on the road.

"Sometimes you get some things out of the road like you begin to bond with each other and we're kind of in that mode right now."

As for New York, the depleted Liberty (6-10) are in a virtual no-women's land right now.

Coach John Whisenant's team is still trying to grab hold of fourth place to pass Atlanta or more if Chicago can't pull out of a tailspin caused by the fractured foot injury to former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince, who is expected to return after the Olympic hiatus.

But if New York is not good enough yet to crack the top four in the East, the Liberty are too good for their own good in terms of the lucractive draft lottery which projects next April to deliver three projected superstars to those owning the top three picks in terms of Baylor's Brittney Griner, most likely to go first, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.

In a cross-conference game Sunday in Oklahoma Sunday between the WNBA's two worst teams in the Tulsa Shock and Washington Mystics, the Shock matched last season's overall win total of three.

In the process, Washington is now a half-game of replacing Tulsa in the gruesome or delightful won-loss measurement to gain the most ping pong balls to capture the top pick.

Furthermore the Mystics could be adding two more losses on Tuesday and Wednesday when the red-hot Eastern-leading Connecticut Sun visit the nation's capital Tuesday morning and then host Washington 24 hours later.

The Mystics will finish out here Friday morning in a game New York is likely to win to close out the pre-Olympic schedule.

But the struggling Phoenix Mercury lost again Sunday to the Seattle Storm, who had Sue Bird back in the lineup, and Phoenix is right there in the mix with Washington and Tulsa, though the Mercury may look much different after the hiatus when former UConn star Diana Taurasi could be back in uniform.

That leaves New York with the fourth-best shot and needing lady lucky to increase the percentage the way she did two seasons ago for the Minnesota Lynx who leap-frogged into another No. 1 pick, grabbed Maya Moore as one of the last key pieces to their revival leading to last season's dominating run to their first WNBA title.

But that's the future. At the moment, New York, which heads to the Indiana Fever Tuesday before finishing here Friday, is making a movie entitled The Postwomen Never Ring Once.

That's because there aren't any, for now. Former Rutgers star Kia Vaughn remains sidelined following a concussion suffered in the recent win here a week ago over Seattle, Plenette Pierson remains out of uniform until after the break because of a left knee strain, DeMya Walker is playing but limited with nagging injuries, while starting center Kara Braxton's two points tells you a lot.

Oh yes, there's former Tennessee player Kelly Cain, the seventh overall pick in the draft out of Europe where she had played overseas after leaving the Lady Vols before her eligibility expired.

Work in progress is the going phrase. And, of course, former VCU star Quanitra Hollingsworth decided to stay with the Turkish national team for the whole season.

That said, part of the reason for San Antonio's 55 percent shooting from the field, aside from the skillful shooters on the roster, was the ability to slice and dice inside when the perimeter wasn't firing treys.

The telling stat was the Silver Stars converting 21 New York turnovers into 28 points while the Liberty could harvest only 11 points off 13 San Antonio miscues.

Carson scored 25 points, Pondexter had 23, while Leilani Mitchell scored 12 as did former Stanford star Nicole Powell, who connected on 4-of-5 attempted treys.

"They have a team of good shooters," Whisenant stated the obvious. "Wth that said, I feel like we didn't have a good outing, defensively.

"We've had a couple of good outings, defensively, against Seattle and most recently Chicago. We never got control of this one," Whisenant added.

"We're so thin it's difficult with our injury situation. It's hard to practice other than to shoot free throws and walk through stuff. It's a barrier we have to get through because it's not going to get better quickly.

"Hopefully, we can get healthy after the Olympics but we would like to win these next two."

More than half of the Liberty's game when the schedule resumes in mid-August will be against teams that don't have winning records.

But the question then will be if New York capitalizes on that situation, makes the playoffs but is quickly eliminated, who will actually have the last laugh in that scenario.

Meanwhile, the Guru will be back in 24 hours with the Tuesday morning WNBA seven-day outlook, which this week will be five days.

At the moment, the plan is to be at both Washington-Connecticut games, and the New York game here as well as the two summer league nights this week.

But that's it for now.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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