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.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WNBA Report: Former Temple Star Candice Dupree Helps Phoenix Topple New York and Earn Top Playoff Seed

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

NEW YORK –
Even though Candice Dupree has been an elite performer for nine years, she still pinches herself each time she takes the floor.

“To be honest, I never thought I’d be playing college basketball, let alone at the professional level,” Dupree said. “I’ve been able to do a lot, see a lot and make a lot of money while doing it.

"It doesn’t get any better than that. I didn’t play AAU until my junior year of high school. I wasn’t highly recruited, but to play for Dawn Staley (her coach at Temple) and then to play here is crazy.”

Those watching the 6 foot, 2 inch Phoenix Mercury forward drain baseline jumpers, ferociously corral rebounds, play stifling defense and lead her team may be surprised that sometimes Dupree still thinks she’s dreaming even though her steady numbers say otherwise.

With a game as smooth and easy as a Wynton Marsalis jazz tune, Dupree floated through refurbished Madison Square Garden like a butterfly and stung the New York Liberty like a bee in scoring a team-high 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to lead Phoenix to a 76-64 victory Tuesday night before 9,617 fans.

The win clinched home court advantage throughout the entire playoffs for the Mercury, who are an amazing 27-4 overall in what is turning into a season for the ages.

With one more win, the Mercury will tie the Los Angeles Sparks’ single-season record for regular season victories of 28 set in 2001 during a 32-game schedule and matched by Seattle in 2010.

Dupree had help as Diana Taurasi (14 points), Brittney Griner (14, 11 rebounds), Penny Taylor (11) and Erin Phillips (11) also reached double digits for the Mercury, who shot 50 percent from the 3-point line and 51 percent overall while finishing with 19 assists on their 31 made baskets.

The balance was needed to combat Tina Charles’ sensational one-woman show.

In recording her 16th double-double of the season, Charles led the Liberty (13-18 overall) with 26 points and 12 rebounds. She scored 16 of the Liberty’s 20 points in the opening 10 minutes. Charles also tallied New York’s first 12 points of the night. Cappie Pondexter added 12 points for the Liberty, who dropped their second straight game.

Her production against the Liberty moved Dupree into the top-20 all-time in league history in scoring with 4,247 career points.

She is 20th all-time after moving past greats Yolanda Griffith (4,238 points), now an assistant coach at Lafayette University, and Vickie Johnson (4,243) following a deep deuce from just inside of the 3-point arc with 5 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

That basket also gave Phoenix its largest lead of the game, 72-54.

“It means a lot to me,” Dupree said when asked about the significance of being one of the top 20 scorers in WNBA history. “It’s not something I necessarily keep up with. I just try to go out, play the game consistently and try to help my team win. To be in the top 20 is a pretty big deal.”

She recently became the 22nd player in WNBA history to score 4,000 career points (12th active player and 3rd on Mercury) on June 2. Dupree has also posted her eighth double-double this season, which extended her franchise record to 32 overall.

Another example of her consistency is Dupree has scored in double-figures 23 of the Mercury’s last 24 games. She averages 15.0 points this season and 15.3 points for her sterling career.

Dupree has been one of many key ingredients of Phoenix’s championship machine that has devoured nearly everything in its path this season like a Category Four hurricane on the way to their finest year in franchise history.

“She’s had a beautiful season,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said of Dupree. “She’s been a key component of what we’re doing. The team really matches each other. We have shooters, we have Brittney inside, we have big three’s, Penny Taylor, versatile players.

"There’s no smarter player than Candice Dupree. She can score in different ways for us. We’re built on sharing the ball, but we always put her in the pick-and-roll because she always makes good decisions for us.”

The theme of the Mercury’s website is “Chasing Glory," which is accurate but unbeknownst to many of the players, including Dupree, something else is within their reach if they win their remaining three games at Atlanta (Wednesday), home against Los Angeles (Saturday) and at Seattle (Sunday).

Phoenix has an opportunity to become the first franchise to win 30 regular season games in the 18-year history of the WNBA, a fact that startled Dupree.

“Wow, I didn’t know that until you just told me that,” Dupree said incrediously following the Mercury shootaround Tuesday morning. “It’s always been one game at a time for us.

"Our goal is to never try and lose games so I know we’re going to go out and try to win every game even with home court advantage secured. This year has been the most fun I’ve had since I’ve been in Phoenix, but I guess it’s always fun when you’re winning games.”

Phoenix was challenged for much of the first half and held a slim 33-30 lead with three minutes remaining until the break before finishing strong.

The Mercury scored 10 straight points to open a 43-30 halftime bulge. When the Liberty opened the second half by scoring the first four points, Dupree answered with a pair of baskets of her own.

Dupree, who will turn 30 on Saturday, credits Staley for helping her with her immediate transition into the WNBA.

Under Staley, Dupree learned how to be a professional and prepared for the speed and physicality of the WNBA.

Away from the court, Dupree spends more time watching HGTV than ESPN.

“I enjoy rehabbing homes,” Dupree said. “My family helps me out there. I put in the money and they do the work.

"After I am done playing, I want to do something in real estate. Also, I am in the works of trying to opening a clothing boutique in the Tampa area. After that we’ll see if that does well, we’ll open multiple stores.”

Meanwhile, the Liberty remained in fifth place and dropped a game behind both Chicago and Indiana for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. New York plays two of its final three games against the Fever beginning Thursday in Indianapolis.

“We have to win in Indiana, that’s pretty much the only solution moving forward,” Pondexter said. “Tonight we played against the best team in the league in my opinion. It was a measuring stick; if we were able to get the win it obviously would have been great for us. We put ourselves in this position; the only positive thing that I can take is getting a win in Indiana on Thursday.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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