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.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

WNBA: Washington On a Season High Returning to the Windy City to Face the Sky

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

When the Washington Mystics exited Allstate Arena 17 days ago, they reached the nadir of their 2015 season -- punctuated by a 28-point loss and a three-game losing streak that evened their overall record at 6-6.

Now, the Mystics (11-6 overall) are confidently returning at the apex of their season with plenty of swagger and a season-best five-game winning streak, their best stretch since 2010.

They complete a quick two-game road trip by visiting the Chicago Sky (11-8) in a critical Eastern Conference showdown Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. For the Sky, this is the second of a five-game homestand.

Sitting in second place, the Mystics are a half-game behind the first-place New York Liberty (12-6) while the Sky are in third place, a game behind the Mystics.

The season series is even at one-game apiece. The Mystics rolled to an 86-71 triumph at the Verizon Center on June 28.

Make no mistake, this is a different Washington team than the one that took the court against the Sky a couple weeks ago in an 85-57 loss.

In the Sky’s defeat of the Mystics, rebounding and points in the paint were the difference. The Sky outrebounded the Mystics 46-32 and outscored them in the paint 40-22.

The Mystics are rolling having won three of their last five games by double figures, including their stress-free 88-53 road romp over the San Antonio Silver Stars Friday night in the Freeman Center.

Washington beat the Storm and Silver Stars this week by a combined 50 points and barely broke a sweat in doing so as Mike Thibault’s team enjoyed a pair of games to remember.

Amazingly in each game, the Mystics sprinted to a 20-point lead in the first half. That just doesn’t happen in this league folks.

Since that loss to Chicago, Mystics head coach Mike Thibault inserted rookie Natasha Cloud out of Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia into the starting line-up and brought Ivory Latta off the bench.

Both moves have been terrific for Washington. Latta has energized the Mystics by reaching double figures in three of the five games since adjusting to her new role in which she’s still averaging 25 minutes per outing.

Joining Cloud in the starting lineup are veterans Kara Lawson and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt along with All-Stars Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson. Cloud has found a groove and helped the Mystics set the tone early in games with her unselfish play, defense and savvy.

Then the Mystics have really gotten after opponents when their dynamic group of reserves led by Latta hit the floor.

She scored 20 points in a win over the Storm early this week. First-round picks Kia Vaughn and Tayler Hill have shined lately for the Mystics. Latoya Sanders, a critical midseason addition, and Bria Hartley have fueled the relentless Washington bench mob.

Hill’s career-high 18 points in the win over the Storm was a perfect complement to Latta’s scoring. She is averaging 13 points in the Mystics'last two games and is beginning to display the explosiveness that makes her special.

Vaughn’s dominance made the difference against the Silver Stars. The former Rutgers standout missed 14 games with concussion-like symptoms. Against San Antonio, she was a terror, scoring a team-high 15 points on 7-12 shooting from the field.

Behind her, Meesseman notched her third double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 boards. Dolson also added 14 points on 6-10 shooting in the victory.

Washington controlled the boards all night long, leading to an astounding 42-25 rebounding advantage for Vaughn and company.

Additionally, the Mystics shot the ball extremely well, shooting 57.1percent overall and 60 percent from three-point range in the game. Defensively, they limited the Silver Stars to a 34.9 shooting effort.

“That’s a great problem to have as a coach,” Thibault said following the win over the Storm. “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 us me to mix and match line ups.”

While the Mystics are rolling, the Sky will look to end a two-game losing streak and rebound from its 88-77 home loss to the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday. The Sky blew a 19-point lead in a road overtime loss to the reigning champion Phoenix Mercury last Tuesday night.

The WNBA’s leading scorer, Elena Delle Donne led the Sky with 21 points and Courtney Vandersloot tied a career-high and Sky record with 13 assists. Vandersloot leads the WNBA in assists per game. For Delle Donne, it was the 14th time this season she has scored 20 or more points.

“We need to pick up our defense by being much more aggressive and taking teams out of their comfort zone,” Delle Donne said following the Sky’s loss to the Sparks. “If our defense isn’t aggressive, our offense lacks, and that’s what you saw, especially in the fourth quarter.”

Two other Sky players scored in double-figures as Cappie Pondexter added 13 and Jessica Breland scored 10.

The Mystics and Sky have two more meetings against each other this season. Washington returns home to meet San Antonio Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. while the Sky remain home to host Indiana Tuesday night.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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