WNBA: Washington Rides Early Scoring Explosion to Win Over Seattle
WASHINGTON – Ivory Latta and Tayler Hill fueled an entertaining scoring show to help the Washington Mystics easily extend their winning streak to four with an impressive 87-74 victory over the Seattle Storm Wednesday morning at the Verizon Center in a Camp Day matinee.
In delivering a pair of photoshoot-fresh scoring performances, Latta and Hill were a devastating combination that couldn’t be contained.
The pair of energetic guards with light-up-the-galaxy-smiles combined for 38 points while connecting on six of the Mystics’ eight three-pointers.
Latta made her first six shots and juiced the enthusiastic crowd with a game-high 20 points.
Meanwhile, Hill, who glided gracefully, soared majestically and shot terrifically, finished with a career-high 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting. She benefitted from the week the Mystics enjoyed between games.
“My body needed the rest,” Hill said. “We were able to shake out any rust we had in practice the last two days because we went pretty hard and that helped us today. Any night could be anybody’s night. All12 of us can have a great night. I think when we rotate the ball, we are a hard team to guard and I was just the recipient of the open shots today.”
All-star center Stefanie Dolson added 17 points and nine rebounds for the Mystics, who raised their overall record to 10-6 overall. Washington tied a franchise record for fewest turnovers in a game with six. They won the rebounding battle 36-33 and improved to 5-2 overall when shooting at least 40 percent in a game. The Mystics made 47.1 percent of their shots, the third highest shooting performance of the season.
They set the tone immediately.
The opening 10 minutes were the basketball version of perfection for the Mystics, who scored a season-high 34 points during the frame. Although the Storm sliced a 24-point second quarter deficit to 55-44 early in the third quarter, the Mystics controlled this game from beginning to end.
In shooting an insane 72.2 percent from the field (13-for-18), sprinting to a 34-14 bulge and having nine players reach the scoring column, the Mystics were crisper than a freshly pair of pressed pants from the cleaners. The basket looked as big as the Potomac River.
The fast start was a pleasant surprise for Washington head coach Mike Thibault.
“If you had watched our practices the last two days, I was worried about the rust,” Thibault said. “It was a little better in the second half of practice (on Tuesday). You never know how you’re going to play once the game starts.
"We got a lot of big performances today. The way we’re trying to use Ivory, she did exactly what we needed and she was joined by Tayler. They gave us a huge lift and that was something we were missing for a while.”
Latta fueled an efficient effort from the Mystics talented bench mob that resulted in them outscoring the Storm, 17-14 in the opening quarter. With the Mystics leading 17-8, Latta scored eight straight points in less than two minutes to help the Mystics gain the separation needed to cruise to victory.
Latta, who scored in double figures for the third straight game, played 25 minutes.
Following a three-game losing streak, Thibault tinkered with startinglineupsinserting rookie Natasha Cloud from St. Joseph's and it has paid off.
Despite starting the first 12 games, Latta has come off the bench the last four games for the Mystics.
“I’m here to do my job, whatever they want me to do,” Latta said. “If I need to bring energy off the bench then that’s what I’m going to do, that’s my job. We had a good crowd today and those kids-- their energy was amazing. That kept us going.”
In addition to Latta and Hill, Washington’s reserves included first round picks Kia Vaughn, the former Rutgers standout who played for the first time since June 13, Bria Hartley and LaToya Sanders. Or three-fifths of last season’s Mystics starting lineup (Hartley, Vaughn and Latta).
Sanders blocked four shots and Vaughn added eight points. They lit a fuse and reached a level that the Storm were unable to match.
“Anybody on this team can start and do well,” Hill said. “Everybody is here for a reason. For us, it doesn’t matter if you start or come off the bench as long as you produce when you’re out there.”
With so much talent and depth at his disposal, Thibault is excited at the possibilities of the multitude of line-ups he can use.
The early season injuries to Hartley and Vaughn, which forced each player to miss significant time, has been a blessing in disguise for the Mystics.
Now, with a complete roster that also features Cloud in the starting line-up, the Mystics have plenty of talented weapons to attack opponents. They are 4-0 with Cloud starting.
“That’s a great problem to have as a coach,” Thibault said. “The hardest part now is figuring out minutes for everybody. Sometimes as a coach in those situations you’re guessing who’s going to be good every night. What we’re asking for is to be consistent now; your team knows how good they can be when you can count on things every night.
"That’s our next step on our progress, but it was a huge lift tonight and hopefully that will carry over that we can keep doing that. It allows me to mix and match lineups.”
For Seattle, this was the beginning of a six-game road trip. The Storm placed four players in double figures highlighted by Abby Bishop’s 17 points. Ramu Tokashiki, Crystal Langhorne and Markeisha Gatling finished with 10 points each for the Storm (5-14 overall).
“Very disappointed with the start of the game especially defensively, so that put us in a huge hole,” Seattle head coach Jenny Boucek said. “Thought we did a decent job of regaining our composure, playing more like we want to play but it was a rough start for us.”
Both teams have road games on Friday night. The Mystics visit San Antonio and the Storm travel to Connecticut.
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