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, August 06, 2015

WNBA: Defensive Stand Helps Washington Rally Over San Antonio

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

The defense that carried the Washington Mystics during its recent hot stretch reappeared after a second quarter vacation to ignite a thrilling 66-63 victory over gritty San Antonio Wednesday night at the Verizon Center.

In a game that was literally good to the last shot, the Mystics rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit and survived the Silver Stars’ late assault.

Shooting off of one leg, Jia Perkins’ potential game-tying shot bounced off the rim, into the air and hit the rim again.

When the ball harmlessly hit the floor, Washington had its fourth consecutive home triumph and its sixth victory in its last seven outings.

There was a scary moment with four minutes, 43 seconds remaining in the second quarter when San Antonio’s Danielle Robinson collided into head coach and general manager Dan Hughes while chasing a loose ball in front of her by the Silver Stars bench.

Hughes fell onto a chair, which collapsed and he landed hard on his back as he hit the concrete floor.

Per the Silver Stars statement, Hughes was transported to MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

He suffered a lower back injury and will fly home with the team on Thursday.

Hughes is expected to be on the sidelines when the Silver Stars host Seattle Saturday night. San Antonio assistant coach Vicki Johnson guided the team the remainder of the game.

“It’s a scary thing to see happen,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said of the Hughes injury. “That was more of a concern for me then the game. Hopefully he’s doing well. The rest of the game for a few minutes felt like an out of body experience in some ways for both teams.”

Added Perkins: “It’s tough because you don’t want to see him get hurt like that and rolled out of the arena like that. We got together and said a prayer for him.”

As for the game, it wasn’t easy or pretty, but the Mystics (12-7 overall) will take it and move ahead to their weekend home-and-home against the Connecticut Sun. Washington will visit Mohegan Sun Friday and the Sun will be at Verizon Center Sunday afternoon.

“The best part about this game is that hopefully in two weeks people will forget about it and it’s just another win in the standings,” Thibault said. “I thought somebody had kidnapped my team in the first half.

"I told our players’ there’s games like Chicago the other night when we lose and as a coach you feel okay because you played hard and you did smart things but the ball didn’t go in. Tonight we won and I’m going to go home miserable so it’s one of those.”

Guards Ivory Latta and Tayler Hill ensured that Thibault’s mood wouldn’t be too melancholy as they tortured the Silver Stars for a combined 36 points.

Latta led the way with 23 points – just one point shy of her season high. She shot 7-for-11 from the field, 3-for-6 from three-point range and a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line.

Eleven of her 23 points came in the third quarter alone where the Mystics outscored the Stars 25-11 to take a 52-49 lead entering the final frame. Hill scored 11 of her 13 points after intermission. Also for the Mystics, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt added 10 points.

Kia Vaughn grabbed 10 rebounds and LaToya Sanders made an impact with eight rebounds, three blocked shots (including two on one possession that juiced the crowd) and strong defense).

Hill has played with an extra bounce in her step since the second half of the season started, averaging 11.2 points in the Mystics’ four games. She has scored in double figures four times this season and in two of the Mystics last four games.

“At the beginning of the second half, the coaches told me to get out of my head and just play basketball,” Hill said. “It was a mental thing with me in the first half. I just had to find a rhythm, stay out of my head and stay confident. As a team, we’re not going to give up no matter the situation. We have a lot of heart and fresh legs that can give us energy.”

San Antonio’s big three of Perkins (23 points), Kayla McBride (16) and Sophia Young-Malcolm (17) combined to score 58 points.

They terrorized the Mystics most of the game and supplied all the points during a 15-0 blitz over the final four minutes, 30 seconds of the first half that helped the Silver Stars grab a 38-27 halftime advantage.

Hill, Latta and Ruffin-Pratt made critical three-pointers during Washington’s 19-6 third quarter surge to finish the period. That run helped Washington overcome a second quarter in which it was outscored 21-6, made 2-of-16 shots and committed six turnovers.

“The second quarter was probably the worst quarter we’ve had,” Latta said. “I said a couple things to the team to get them motivated and thank God we pulled it out. Everybody was out there doing their part, playing hard, and moving the ball in the second half.”

While the Mystics offense finally perked up, the defense took control limiting the Silver Stars to 25 points in the second half on 27 percent (10-of-37) shooting. Washington also finished strong at the foul line by making 12 consecutive free throws in the fourth quarter to keep San Antonio away.

“We had to lock down defensively in the second half because we didn’t play any in the first half,” Hill said. “We didn’t follow the scouting report well at first, but we were able to make the necessary stops we needed to make in the second half. He told us at halftime this wasn’t his team. We dug ourselves a bad hole in the first half, but we were able to pull it out.”

Despite losing two of their last three games by 30 or more points and playing the night before in Connecticut, San Antonio put itself in position to win by slowing the game down, making plenty of high percentage shots and frustrating the Mystics, who had defeated them by 35 points five days earlier.

Perkins was 11-for-20 from the field. Her only three-pointer with 44.9 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter pulled the Silver Stars to within 64-63. After a defensive stop, the Silver Stars had the ball with 19 seconds left. However, the Silver Stars turned the ball over with 7.7 seconds left.

“I think we played harder,” Perkins said of the difference in tonight’s game from last week’s contest. “We showed a little toughness today. We changed the schemes defensively, and it worked in our favor today. We just did not come out with the win, but we were in the game the whole time. It was just that third quarter that killed us. I feel like we have some momentum going into our game Saturday. So we’re looking to carry this effort over.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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