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.

Friday, July 10, 2015

WNBA: New York's Charles Short-Circuits Washington Following Mystics' Arena Power Failure

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1
Tina Charles did everything -- except prevent a 17-minute power outage -- in leading the New York Liberty to a thrilling 79-76 victory over the Washington Mystics in an Eastern Conference overtime slugfest at the rollicking Verizon Center Thursday morning in the only game that was on the WNBA daily slate.

In helping the Liberty (7-4 overall) extend its winning streak to three games and claim sole possession of second place in the congested Eastern Conference, Charles scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Her final two points and last rebound of the game was the biggest as it gave the Liberty the lead for good in overtime, 77-76 with 37.9 seconds remaining.

Additionally her fifth double-double of the season and the 102nd of her career guided New York to its first victory over Washington (6-5) in three tries this season preventing for the moment the Mystics' ability to gain an if-needed tie-breaker with the Liberty if needed to gain a playoff berth.

Charles’ memorable day also included a milestone. With a layup at 3:16 in the third quarter, she scored the 3,000th point of her career.

She needed 175 games played to reach 3,000 points, tied for the 10th-fewest games in WNBA history with Tamika Catchings and Sheryl Swoopes. Charles now has 3,005-career points and 1,830 rebounds in her sterling career.

The former University of Connecticut great had help from Sugar Rodgers, a former local star here at Georgetown who reached double figures in scoring for the seventh straight game with 15 points.

Veteran guards Tanisha Wright, a former Penn State standout and former Rutgers star Epiphanny Prince finished with 12 points each for the Liberty.

It was Prince’s first game this season after missing the first 10 games of the season playing for Russia in a European tournament.

Wright forced overtime by swishing a pair of foul shots with 3.1 seconds remaining that tied the game at 69.

If Charles could have taken responsibility for pulling the plug with two minutes, three seconds remaining and the score tied at 67, she would have gladly done so. Following the game, on-going construction inside of the Verizon Center, which also forced a temporary relocation of the media room, was the blame for the power outage.

Coincidentally, the Mystics themselves are a "work-in-progress," a phrase third-year coach Mike Thibault used in the postgame press conference.

“I was actually happy (the power went out) because I got a chance to rest,” Charles said with a smile outside of the locker room as she headed for the team bus. “I was tired at that point, so (the delay) was cool to me.”

During the stoppage, players from each team shot around in the darkness, sat on their benches and showed off dance moves, including rookie Tasha Cloud, the former Saint Joseph's star, to the thumping music being played in the building.

The announced crowd of 17,028, most of them kids sporting a kaleidoscope of colors enjoying Camp Day kept the energy going even without the benefit of lights of turning the arena into a discotheque.

The unscheduled darkness delay was one of many obstacles the Liberty overcame to enjoy a happy flight home.

After opening their largest advantage of the game, 64-54, following a Charles layup with 2:30 left in the third quarter, the Liberty’s shooting touch faded to black.

During the final 12:30 of the game, the Liberty went 0-for-10 from the field, committed nine turnovers (including four charges) and scored five points in the fourth quarter. The Liberty also erased a 76-73 overtime deficit.

New York needed a pair of key defensive stops to preserve the victory. The first came at the end of regulation when the Mystics had a chance to win.

The second one occurred at the end of the game when the Mystics had an opportunity to force a second overtime. However, Liberty rookie Kiah Stokes tipped Kara Lawson’s potential game-tying shot from the corner.

Stokes, another former UConn star, finished with five blocks – all in the second half.

“Those end game situations were like our practices,” Charles said. “Coach (Bill Laimbeer) won’t let us get off the court until we get a stop against our practice players.

"What we did in practice gave us confidence today in those moments. This is a huge win for us because we have six of our eight games on the road this month.”

The Liberty also survived a career performance, speaking of lights out, from Washington’s Stefanie Dolson, who delivered 22 points, 13 rebounds and six assists (all career highs for the UConn product).

Lawson (14 points), Ivory Latta (12) and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt (10) also reached double digits for the Mystics, which dropped consecutive games for the first time this season.

When the Liberty did make shots, many of them were in the paint as it pounded the Mystics, 44-14. New York won the rebounding battle, 44-34 and limited the Mystics to 36.5 percent shooting.

New York has been holding opponents in field goal shooting to around 36 percent on the season, which brings a big smile to Laimbeer's face because that pace would set a WNBA defensive record.

“Points in the paint and rebounds,” Thibault responded when asked for the difference in the game. “We don’t come up with the loose ball (in overtime following a missed shot) and Tina Charles picks it up off the floor and gives them the lead.

"We had three chances on that possession to actually gain possession of the ball. We knock it out of each other’s hands, we don’t come up with it and then they do and that’s kind of the story of why you lose games like that.”

Dolson got the Mystics off to a flying start by tallying 10 points in the opening quarter. The Mystics sprinted to a 15-6 advantage as Dolson had six rebounds and a pair of assists by the first media timeout. She was facilitating the offense and having a blast.

The Liberty absorbed the Mystics’ early burst and got going behind Charles and Rodgers, who combined for 17 points in the second quarter. Together they helped the Liberty finish the first half with a 15-6 burst to grab a 50-46 halftime lead.

Amazingly, the Liberty crammed 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting into the second quarter. New York scored 29 points over the final 25 minutes and lived to tell about it.

Both teams hit the road for their next contests.

The Liberty visit Atlanta on Sunday afternoon. The Mystics travel to Chicago next Wednesday, finishing an odd stretch in which they play three games over an 18-day period. Of course, Washington will end the first-half by playing four games in six days.

“We have to go back to work,” Thibault said. “We have a bunch of games to get ready and try and get ourselves back on track.

"`I saw some improvements in some areas today, but we just can’t depend on making 3’s to help us win the game. We were 5 for 20 and that’s just not good enough.

"We have to do all the dirty work too. When we get in foul trouble and put the other team on the line if we would have just won the rebounding battle we would have won the game.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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