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.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

WNBA: Mystics Seek Shooting Stroke When Atlanta Visits Washington Friday

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

At some point this season, the Washington Mystics will find their shooting stroke.

It could happen as early as Friday night when the Mystics (2-0 overall) host the Atlanta Dream (0-2) at the Verizon Center at 7:00 p.m.

Until then, the Mystics will continue to rely on their stifling early-season defense. It has been the catalyst for their best start since 2010.

Washington won a franchise-record 22 games that season. With a confident bunch of players full of swagger, the Mystics believe something special is underway.

“We have a lot of depth and everybody is contributing,” guard Ivory Latta said. “Everybody is bringing their uniqueness to the team which is a good thing.

"We still have a lot of room to grow and we’re not even playing our best basketball right now. We’re playing great defense and rebounding. Those two things win championships. We just have to do better in scoring.”

In its two wins over Connecticut on the road and New York at home last weekend, Washington combined to shoot 36 percent as a team (52-for-139). However, the Mystics defense has been suffocating as they limited the Liberty (22-for-60) and Sun (24-for-71) to 36.6 accuracy.

Washington trailed at some point in the fourth quarter only to find a way to win the games down the stretch, a good trait of a serious championship contender.

The Mystics allowed one field goal to New York over the final six minutes. They held Connecticut to two points in the final 2 minutes, 38 seconds. In each fourth quarter, Washington has permitted 15 points.

“We’re learning that we’re a great defensive team,” guard Tayler Hill said. “We shot 36 percent against the Liberty and made it work.

"We have been able to get the necessary rebounds and stops we need in order to win games. Winning these games does build confidence, but we came into the season already confident. We had a great training camp and now we’ve carried that over into these first two games.”

While the defensive tenacity and confidence-building wins have been nice, Washington coach Mike Thibault would like to see a few more shots fall.

“Defense is our identity for the moment,” Thibault said following the win over the Liberty. “We have to start making some three’s at some point. I think you see that the defensive effort is going to win and I thought we were great defensively.

"I told them inside the locker room just now that I’m having a hard time embracing being 2-0 with them shooting 36% every night, but right now I will take that.

"Our offense will get better as we get a little more rhythm. We will take it, 2-0 with good defense, that’s a good start.”

Things should improve rapidly for the Mystics as it’s possible that starters Bria Hartley (stress fracture) and Kia Vaughn (hip) could be in uniform against the Dream. They have missed both games with injuries.

Prior to Saturday’s game against the Liberty, Thibault sounded optimistic about both players returning soon.

“Bria has been fitted and will get a special orthotic for her foot that we think will solve a lot of the issue,” Thibault said of the former UConn star.

And of the former Rutgers standout: “With Kia it’s more of just her getting better every day. Hopefully she can go full bore this weekend.”

In their absence, several other Mystics have come through.

Making only the second start of her career, former UConn center Stefanie Dolson led the Mystics with 18 points and 12 rebounds in the win over the Sun.

In win over the Liberty, second-year forward Emma Meesseman scored 16 points, shooting 6-for-13 from the field and a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Meesseman was one rebound shy of a double-double, pulling down nine rebounds in just under 32 minutes of action.

Rookie Natasha Cloud scored seven points against the Liberty, including converting a four-point play during a third quarter surge. Latta has scored in double figures in both games. Kara Lawson made clutch shots late in the game to help the Mystics get past the Liberty. Meanwhile, everybody else has been doing a little of this or that to help the Mystics.

“It’s too [soon] yet to talk about whole season but I think we can really do something in this league,” Meesseman said. “We have a team that has a lot of talent so the fact that we won those two games were good because I don’t think they were great games.

"Our defense is way better than our offense I think, because we miss too much. Too many easy open shots. So I’m not really happy with the percentage of shooting. That definitely something we have to work on, shooting.”

The Dream will be entering this contest, having played Thursday at home against San Antonio. Despite Angel McCoughtry (18.5) and Tiffany Hayes (14.5) leading the way offensively, the Dream are off to a surprising 0-2 start. Atlanta lost to New York on the road and Connecticut at home.

Atlanta finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season and saw a 17-point fourth quarter lead disappear in a game three loss to Elena Delle Donne and the Chicago Sky in the playoffs last season.

Coming into the season, many expected the Dream to compete for the top spot in the East again.

Now, it’s the Mystics who have an opportunity to continue opening distance while keeping the good times rolling.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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