WNBA: Washington Hosts Tulsa in Cross-Division Battle of Two Teams Surging Early
Two weeks into the 2015 WNBA season offers a Friday night treat for fans as the Tulsa Shock (4-1 overall) and Washington Mystics (3-1) meet at the Verizon Center for what promises to be an entertaining affair beginning at 7:00 p.m.
Off to their best start since moving to Tulsa in 2010, the Shock are riding a four-game winning streak after sweeping a home-and-home set against the San Antonio Silver Stars. Meanwhile, the Mystics quickly rebounded from their first loss of the season by defeating the New York Liberty, 74-59, last Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
This is the first of two meetings this season between the teams. The Mystics visit Tulsa on Tuesday, July 21.
In the win over the Liberty, Washington finally got a glimpse of the type of team it could be this season as it combined stifling defense with a strong offensive performance.
Washington shot a season-best 41.7 percent from behind the arc and made 10 three pointers. The Liberty had entered the game as the best defensive field goal percentage team in the league.
The Mystics’ offensive leader in the win over New York was guard Ivory Latta, who fired in a season-best 20 points with three long balls, three assists and three rebounds. Center Stefanie Dolson contributed 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. On the defensive end, the Mystics turned 19 turnovers, into 21 points.
“The biggest thing we are trying to do is make teams take tough shots,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said following the win against New York. “We have played good defense all season, we just haven’t played good offense, and (against New York) we finally did.”
Latta leads the Mystics in scoring with a 12.5 point per game average. Emma Meesseman has been strong for Washington, scoring at an 11.8 point per game clip through four games. She leads the Mystics in rebounding (7.5 per game). Meesseman has led the Mystics in scoring in each home game this season. She scored 22 points in last week’s loss to the Dream.
Also making scoring contributions in the win against the Liberty were Kara Lawson (13 points) and rookie Ally Malott (10).
Dolson contributes 10.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per outing. The Mystics have started strong despite battling injuries to key players. Kia Vaughn has played one game. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt has missed the last two games. Bria Hartley has not played this season.
The Mystics have been riding their defense in the early going, holding all of their opponents below 70 points. They held Tina Charles to six points, 12 below her season average. Washington limited the Liberty to a season-low 31 percent.
The Mystics defense will need to be in top form to slow down a Shock squad averaging 81.0 points per game, second in the league.
Leading the balanced Shock is third-year guard Skylar Diggins, who is averaging 16.0 points per game, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals. Diggins has scored 20 or more points two times this season.
Veteran forward Plenette Pierson averages 14.8 points and 5.4 rebounds. She’s coming off of an effort in which she scored 20 points in just over 21 minutes of playing time during a 9-for-13 shooting performance against the Silver Stars on Tuesday. It was Pierson’s first 20-point outing since 2013.
“It feels amazing,” Pierson said of the Shock’s 4-1 start. “You know, I think this city has been begging for some wins early and some success, and that’s what we’re trying to give.”
Overall in the win over the Silver Stars, five players scored in double figures, the first time this season that has happened for the Shock. In addition, Tulsa got 41 points from its bench brigade led by guard Riquna Williams, who scored a season-high 16 points. Jordan Hooper had 11 points. Rookie Amanda Zahui B had her best outing yet as well adding 10 points.
Making her second start in place of an injured Odyssey Sims, Brianna Kiesel handed out eight assists against San Antonio.
The Shock have been in control in all of their games this season. The Shock have had at least a 14-point lead at some point in every game. They are 4-0 when leading at halftime. Tulsa has won its last three games by an average of 20.3 points.
“The team has really settled down defensively,” Tulsa head coach Fred Williams said following Tuesday’s win over San Antonio. “They’re starting to set the tone early for the games. We’re finishing them out. I was very pleased with the overall play from our starters into our bench scoring and stuff. The players work hard, and that’s all we want to do is play Tulsa basketball. If we do that early, we’ll able to be a really good team in this league and always be a force to be reckoned with.”
FATHER’S DAY QUADRUPLEHEADER: Fans can settle in on Sunday afternoon as NBA-TV offers a rare Father’s Day quadrupleheader beginning with New York at Atlanta (3:00 p.m.). Following that game will be Connecticut at Los Angeles (5:00 p.m.), Tulsa at Minnesota (7:00 p.m.) and ending with Phoenix at Seattle (9:00 p.m.).
FASTBREAKS: Atlanta signed Sydney Carter and Cierra Burdick this week… Chicago Sky forward Tamera Young underwent surgery on Monday to repair a ligament in her right thumb. There is no set timeline for Young’s return.
ALL-STAR GAME INFORMATION: WNBA All-Star Balloting 2015 presented by Boost Mobile is underway. It will run through 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 9, as the most expansive balloting program in the league’s 19-year history. The ballot will feature all current WNBA players for the first time.
Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2015, featuring the Eastern Conference All-Stars against the Western Conference All-Stars at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., will be nationally televised by ESPN on Saturday, July 25, at 3:30 p.m. ET.
“Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2015 is a gathering of and a showcase for the greatest women’s basketball players in the world,” said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie in a press release. “As has always been the case in the WNBA, fan engagement is a very important element – both for the league and our teams – and with that we are very pleased to offer this new, expansive balloting program for fans to take part in.”
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