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.

Monday, August 10, 2015

WNBA: Sanders and Rest of Mystics Look to Keep Indiana a Safe Distance Away

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

WASHINGTON –
The rollicking Verizon Center has been the place to be lately. It’s also where the wins have been for the Washington Mystics.

As they prepare to host the Indiana Fever Tuesday night in another key Eastern Conference matchup, the Mystics (13-8 overall) will try to open some breathing room in the congested standings.

Currently, the Mystics lead the Fever (12-9) by a game in the Eastern Conference.

This is the start of a critical four-game road swing for the Fever, who currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. With the top five teams in the East separated by just three games, Indiana can force a second-place tie by ending the Mystics five-game home win streak.

Not only would a win open a two-game cushion, it would also clinch another season series victory for the Mystics, who have already won two of the three meetings, including a 68-50 decision on July 17 that started their current five-game home court winning streak.

The Mystics understand the sense of urgency of taking care of business at home.

“We try to win every game, but there is an extra emphasis on winning games at home,” Washington’s LaToya Sanders said. “Playing here is our comfort zone. Having our fans behind us gives us comfort. Plus it’s just important for us to win at home.”

Washington is 8-3 at home this season, equaling its home win total from 2014.

During its five-game winning streak, the Mystics have won three games by double digits. Two of the victories were over Connecticut. The most impressive victory was the one over Indiana on July 17 as it may have saved the Mystics season.

They were 6-6 entering the game and dealing with a three-game losing streak. Emma Meesseman and Sanders scored 14 points apiece to lead the Mystics in the win.

Sanders also grabbed 10 rebounds for her only double-double of the season.

The Mystics held the Fever to six points in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Tamika Catchings scored two points and missed all seven of her shots in that game. All-Star Marissa Coleman, a one-time first round draft pick of the Mystics, led the Fever with 11 points.

“Both LaToya and Emma were very aggressive tonight and they’re both long and that’s a match up for Tamika, a little bit different from what she sees some nights,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said following that matchup. “We could match her length with ours and actually be able to be a little bit bigger. It’s nice to have two sets of younger legs going together then tag team a little bit.”

However, Sanders expects a different game Tuesday night. Both teams enter the contest off of wins. The Mystics beat Connecticut, 84-73 on Sunday behind the inside-outside combination of Stef Dolson (21 points) and Tayler Hill (20). The Fever blasted Atlanta, 106-77 last Friday behind Coleman’s 19 points.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” Sanders said. “We know it’ll probably be different than the last game we played against them. They have all their players now. We just have to focus and execute coaches’ game plan. If we do that, then we’ll have a good chance of winning.”

Sanders’ presence has been a blessing for the Mystics. Since joining the team in early July, the Mystics are 8-3 overall and she has been a defensive terror. She’s averaging 6.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots in 19.5 minutes of play. She blocked a career-best six shots in a road win over Tulsa just before the All-Star break.

Meanwhile, the Fever have been rolling, winning eight of its last 10 games. Against the Dream, Indiana almost rewrote its record book. In scoring 100 or more points for the sixth time in franchise history, the Fever posted their second-highest scoring total in franchise history and the largest margin of victory this season. Indiana set franchise records as they made 40 free throws on 44 attempts.

Shenise Johnson added 15 points and a team-high seven rebounds in the win over the Dream. Johnson has now scored in double figures in six straight games and 10 of her last 11 appearances overall.

“I’m really proud of our energy and effort,” Fever coach Stephanie White following Friday’s contest. “I love that we had balanced scoring. I love that we had 27 points off of turnovers and 40 points in the paint. Certainly love that we were aggressive to the rim and got to the foul line as well. We needed this. It was a really good bounce back game for us and our players rose to the occasion.”

NOTES: Tamika Catchings will pass Tina Thompson (3,070 rebounds) as the No. 2 rebounder in WNBA history with just seven more rebounds. With just six more assists, Catchings will become the seventh player in WNBA history – and the first over 6-feet – with 1,400 career assists. Already the WNBA career leader in steals, Catchings needs just 13 steals to become the ONLY player in league history to reach 1,000.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad.

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