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 06, 2014

WNBA Report: Mystics Cast Spell Over Liberty to Grab Key Win

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
Every time Kia Vaughn enters the Verizon Center, she cherishes how blessed she is to play a game that she enjoys.

Vaughn knows in order to keep playing beyond the regular season, she has to continuing raising the level of her performance each time she places her sacred Mystics basketball uniform on.

For one pristine night, Vaughn and the Mystics were in a magical zone that the New York Liberty were powerless to stop.

Reeling after consecutive road losses, including a heartbreaking overtime defeat to New York last week, Vaughn and the Mystics sprinted over, around and through the Liberty en route to a surprisingly easy 79-46 victory Tuesday night at the Verizon Center.

“Coach lit a fire under us and told us we needed to go out and get the job done,” Vaughn said. “We were too complacent in our last two games and we weren’t ourselves. We played the game tonight the way it should be played. It was important for us to set the tone tonight and get better as the game went along.”

It was such a great night in the nation’s capital that each of the 7,105 fans in attendance won a free Chik-Fil-A chicken sandwich after the Liberty missed a pair of foul shots early in the fourth quarter.

Following the second largest margin of victory in franchise history, the Mystics extended their home winning streak to four games.

Playing with the energy of a 3-year-old who just finished watching a favorite cartoon on television, the Mystics (14-15 overall) were faster and sharper than the Liberty (12-16).

It was a much needed win for Washington in the race for one of the three remaining playoff spots in the congested Eastern Conference.

The Mystics are currently in sole possession of second place following Indiana’s 66-64 loss to Minnesota Tuesday night.

Chicago also rallied over Connecticut on the road and what also enhanced the result was the Mystics improved their conference record while New York's intra-division record worsened and considering the next time they meet near the finish if Washington wins here again, the series between the two will be split and the Mystics will own the next tiebreaker.

In Tuesday's game, the balanced Mystics had four players reach double figures in scoring led by All-Star Ivory Latta’s 16 points. Vaughn finished with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Bria Hartley added 11 points and Emma Meesseman contributed 10 points for Washington, which had 19 assists on its 30 baskets.

The Mystics also made a sizzling 51.7 percent of their shots.

“The difference from our game last week against New York and the game tonight was we had no intensity in the first quarter in New York,” Latta said.

“Coach made us watch film and we were just going through the motions and it was very disturbing to watch. He got on us about our intensity in the first quarter and we just focused on making their players take tough shots and feel uncomfortable.”

Tina Charles, who was named WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month Tuesday afternoon, led New York with 10 points.

The 46 points were a season low for the Liberty, who ended their three-game road trip with a 1-2 record and fell to fifth place following Chicago’s 82-66 win over Connecticut.

The Sky have a 4-0 sweep of the Liberty should the two tie for the last spot.

Vaughn has been a rock for the Mystics this season. With the WNBA season reaching its denouement, Vaughn and the Mystics understand how crucial every game is if they want to qualify for the playoffs for a second straight season.

The former Rutgers star set the tone by making all four of her baskets in the first quarter as the Mystics swooshed to a 21-10 edge after 10 minutes.

She unleashed her entire shooting repertoire in the first quarter as Vaughn made a fadeaway and turnaround jumpers while tying Liberty defenders in knots with her smorgasbord of crowd-pleasing moves.

The Liberty missed 13 consecutive shots stretch during a tough eight-minute stretch that bridged the first two quarters.

Overall, Washington didn’t permit the Liberty to score more than 13 points in any quarter and limited them to a 28.8 percent shooting performance (17-for-59). Washington built a 31-10 lead midway through the second quarter.

“Our defense was more aggressive tonight,” Hartley said. “We made it tough for them and we got into them more. We did a good job of getting stops, rebounding the ball and getting into transition. Our defense really sparked our offense tonight. We did a good job of sharing the ball. We had a mentality tonight of not letting up. I think there’s been games this year where we’ve built a solid lead and have gotten complacent.”

Following Vaughn’s lead, Washington turned the remaining three quarters into a high-level display of hoops that had been missing during its setback to Chicago Sunday afternoon. The Mystics exhibited championship-caliber defense in the second quarter that flummoxed the Liberty.

Fueled by consecutive 3-pointers from Ivory Latta and a sweet up-and-under layup move from Emma Meesseman, the Mystics applied the knockout punch in the third quarter by outscoring the Liberty 27-13 to open a 64-35 bulge heading into the fourth quarter.

“We had been having trouble during the season in our third quarters,” Latta said. “We came out with more intensity than we had in the first half, which helped our defense. That allowed us to get great shots on the offensive end. We just have to keep the energy going.”

The trick for the Mystics is to keep the good times rolling away from the friendly confines of the Verizon Center. They play two consecutive road games Friday Friday Indiana and Sunday in Connecticut before returning home to host Chicago on Wednesday.

The Guru's Fearless Forecast Update: Having finished editing Rob'second fine story of the night on the heels of his Becky Hammon report, your Guru thought this would be a nice spot to update the tracking of yours truly off his fearless forecast Monday on the rest of the schedule involving the five team taffey pull for the remaining games on the schedule as well as those involving the 1-2 race between Phoenix and the defending champion Minnesota squad in the West.,

The Guru went 3-1 on the night and should have known better involving the game you just read above because though Washington lost to New York last week in overtime, the Mystics would have won that game had they not fallen into a deep deficit in the early going.

Minnesota rallied to beat Indiana, Chicago did likewise at Connecticut, and Phoenix in a cross-divisional game that was key for Mercury topped the Eastern leading Atlanta Dream.

So now it's on to Thursday. If we adjusted the Guru forecast, though we are not going to change predicted outcomes, New York woild now just miss the playoffs and thus needs a heavy-duty effort to topple Indiana, which will be a three-game threat with the Fever.

While the Guru has your attention before posting the wild final night in the PhillySummerLeague you should also know he will be doing a feature on Immaculata for The Inquirer print sports section, which will be in Thursday editions and also appear on Philly.com

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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