WNBA Report: Meesseman and Prince Fuel Respective Wins for Washington and Chicago
By Megan Nipe and Mel Greenberg
WASHINGTON -- The Washington Mystics continued their recent domination of the Connecticut Sun Friday night as Emma Meesseman had a career night to ruin the homecoming of recent Maryland graduate Alyssa Thomas with a 69-63 victory.
The native of Harrisburg was held to six points but did grab eight rebounds for the Sun.
Meanwhile, up in New York Friday night the homecoming of Epiphanny Prince was more successful as the former Rutgers star and native of the area had 30 points in the Chicago Sky's 73-69 victory over the Liberty in Madison Square Garden.
Back in Washington, Meesseman, a native of Belgium and second year pro with the Mystics (7-9), had a stellar night at the Verizon Center with 22 points and 13 rebounds, scoring-wise well above her 8.1 average.
After the game, Mystics head coach Mike Thibault had nothing but praise for Meesseman, saying, “Emma was sensational tonight. We needed her to be aggressive and she was.”
When asked about the big game for her and her team, Meesseman looked at it in the long-term saying, “I hope it’s the start of a big winning streak.”
That's something Connecticut had going into the game having won six straight until the Mystics short-circuited the run to run their total in the series with the Sun to four wins in the last five meetings dating back to last season.
Mystics rookie Bria Hartley had another solid outing with 12 points and three assists for the former University of Connecticut all-American.
Veteran Katie Douglas had 18 points and three rebounds for the Sun (8-7), which saw a six-game win streak get halted.
Chiney Ogwumike, the number one overall pick in the WNBA draft in April out of Stanford, had 10 points and five rebounds.
Earlier in the day Thomas, the fourth overall pick in April's draft and a native of Harrisburg, was named the Atlantic Coast Conference female athlete of the year.
The Mystics got off to a hot start, scoring eight points off of a few no look passes, causing a timeout within two minutes by the Sun.
However, the pause didn’t seem to help as Washington jumped out to a quick 14-4 lead.
The first quarter seemed to be slightly slower due to the four team fouls by the Sun in the first six minutes.
The slower pace seemed to help Connecticut rally, and with just under two minutes to go in the first quarter, the Sun had closed the gap to make it 15-12.
A 3-point jumper by the Sun’s Douglas, tied the game at 15.
It seemed as though the visitors were going to go up by two at the end of the quarter, but a last second swooshed 3-pointer by Ivory Latta brought the crowd to its feet and gave the Mystics a one point lead 18-17 as the period ended.
A turn-around bucket by Mystics rookie Stefanie Dolson (sporting some new purple hair), and a charge taken by Monique Currie started off the second quarter.
Scoring didn’t seem to come as easy as it did for the Mystics in the first, and Thomas, who had her own fan club at the Verizon Center, brought the Sun back up by three mid-way through the quarter.
Hartley found herself on a fast break and after getting her own rebound and getting fouled, she tied the game at 25 with just fewer than four minutes to play in the half.
Four consecutive points by Douglas put the Sun up by two, 33-31, and this time a last second 3-point attempt by Latta couldn’t connect. The Mystics headed into halftime down by two points.
Thibault joked that he can’t say exactly what was said in the locker room at halftime but did say that they were challenged… and they responded.
The Mystics wasted no time coming back in the third quarter.
A basket by Meesseman, who is the only player with double-digit scoring at this point, and a layup by Hartely brought the Mystics up by two.
A few plays later, they found themselves up 41-37.
Hartley quickly followed suit and after having only a few points in the first half, found herself with 12 points part way through the third.
The Mystics began to pull away 46-37 as Meesseman became the the go-to force in the offensive attack.
With just over one minute left in the third quarter, she reached 18 points and 11 rebounds.
That earned her a standing ovation she received as she was subbed out for the final seconds of the quarter.
The Mystics entered the fourth quarter with their second largest lead of the game, 54-43.
Meesseman got another round of applause when she scored her 20th point, giving her a new WNBA career high and giving the Mystics another 11-point lead.
This didn’t stop the Sun from trying to make a comeback.
After a long jumper by Douglas and a foul by Dolson, also a former UConn all-American, that put Kelsey Bone at the line, the Sun closed the gap to six points, making it 60-54.
They brought the game within four with 3-point shots and quick fouls.
On a pair of free-throws, Latta brought the Mystics up by six with five seconds left, making her the third player on the Mystics to have double-digit scoring against the Sun.
With one last attempt by the Sun, the Mystics held on to their lead and time ran out for any more of a comeback.
The Mystics look to take this game and run with it.
Thibault called Friday’s game “a really good win” and honed in on the fact that the Mystics need to start making more of a home court advantage.
The have a two-day turn around before they attempt to make a home-court winning streak when they play San Antonio on Sunday.
Connecticut goes off to Madison Square Garden Sunday to play the Liberty (4-11), which failed several times to complete a rally and fell Friday night in the Garden to the Chicago.
New York coach Bill Laimbeer expressed frustration at the onoging losses to the Sky (7-8).
"We're tired of losing to Chicago," he said. "That's eight games in two years. We're frustrated and getting angry now.
"We can't seem to put together two halves or get all our players playing reasonably good on the same night," Laimbeer continued. "I thought our effort in the second half was solid, but timely turnovers and missed free throws -- all those little things add up to a frustrating loss."
Despite the win, Chicago suffered a frustrating night in other respects.
Earlier, star second-year player Elena Delle Donne, who had just returned in the previous game Wednesday in Connecticut, was unable to go again because of her ongoing battle with lyme disease, and was sent home to Delaware to be under the care of doctors there.
There is no timetable for her return and this situation is similar to her struggles during her All-America career at the University of Delaware, where she missed games.
Furthermore, right at the end of the game, Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot, suffered an undetermined knee injury.
On Wednesday, the Sky had played with their first full roster for the first time this season as all-pro Sylvia Fowles also returned.
Liberty all-pro Cappie Pondexter, the former Rutgers all-American, suffered one of the worst nights of her WNBA career, dating back to 2006, by behing held scoreless.
She shot 0-for-7 from the field.
"I thought we did an excellent job with making things tough for Cappie," Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said. "I didn't realize she did not score.
"They have a two-headed snake (the other being fourth-year pro Tina Charles), and to be able to take one of them away is something we really needed as a team."
New York had been idle all week since beating Eastern Conference leader the Atlanta Dream in the Garden, which stopped a previous slide.
Prince did not play in Chicago's previous Garden visit as she was allowed time off at the beginning of the season to re-charge her body.
The Sky's previous New York visits the past three seasons were actually over in New Jersey at the Prudential Center in Newark while the Garden underwent a major refurbishing in the summertime when the NBA Knicks and NHL Rangers were idle.
Besides Prince's big night, Tamera Young scored 13 points for Chicago, while former DePaul star Allie Quigley had 11 off the bench.
Charles had 16 points for New York while Alex Montgomery scored 11 points and Anna Cruz had 10.
Former Georgetown star Sugar Rodgers had 12 points off the bench.
"I thought Sugar gave us a lot of energy," Laimbeer said. "We're looking for scorers and tonight she was aggressive. We needed it."
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