WNBA Action: Washington's Meesseman Helps Mystics Trump Dallas in Texas
By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Washington Mystics have their swagger back following an 87-79 victory over the Dallas Wings at the College Park Center Wednesday night.
More importantly, they almost have a clean bill of health for one of the few times this season, which has made a difference lately.
After spending much of training camp and the first few games of the season playing with an incomplete roster, the Mystics are whole again and unleashing their fury on their opponents. Following an impressive victory in Atlanta on Sunday, the Mystics followed that performance up with a strong effort in beating Dallas.
The Mystics (4-6 overall) have won four of their last seven games – all on the road – after beginning the year with setbacks in their first three games. Meanwhile, the Wings fell to 3-5, despite placing four players in double figures.
“This is the most disruptive start to the season and training camp that I’ve had in the 14 years that I’ve been in the league,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “Part of it starts with this being an Olympic year and everybody starting early because we want the (Olympic) break.”
“We had people arrive to camp late. Eight of the 12 players who made the final roster missed a considerable amount of time during training camp for a variety of things whether it was injuries or overseas commitments.
"Ivory never played in training camp until the last two days. We had two concussions, a groin pull, an elbow injury and an ankle. We were glad that we had a good group of guys to practice with because a lot of days, I would call our trainer to see if I had seven or eight players to practice.”
One player who has been there for the Mystics all season has been Emma Meesseman. She had a monster 23 point and 12 rebound performance to lead everybody. The Belgian was a spectacular sight dominating around the basket, snatching rebounds with authority and confidently passing out of double-teams, which led to wide open shots for her teammates.
“It’s something we do regularly in practice,” Meesseman said of passing out of the double teams. “We had to be aggressive and win the rebounding battle. We knew what we had to do in order to win this game tonight. This is an important win for us.”
Meesseman had help from the smooth and dynamic Tayler Hill, who scored 12 of her 14 points after intermission. Hill had the move of the game when she exploded to the basket and dropped in a sweet reverse layup during the Mystics’ third-quarter surge.
Bria Hartley was efficient with 11 points in 12 action-packed minutes. Stefanie Dolson finished with nine points while Natasha Cloud and Kia Vaughn added eight points each.
All of Cloud’s points came during the Mystics marvelous 28-point third quarter. Clinging to a 40-39 edge, The grad out of Philly's Saint Joseph's scored five of the Mystics points during a quick 7-0 burst that gave them control of the contest.
Defensively, Washington held Dallas under suffocating surveillance especially in the third quarter when it allowed 16 points and harassed the Wings into a 4-for-16 shooting nightmare.
“Our third quarter is something we have been focusing on the last few games,” Cloud said. “Normally we come out flat. As a team, we’ve been focusing on staying focused through the third quarter pushing it and getting our lead. Defensively we got stops when we needed them, we were on the boards and efficient on both ends of the floor.”
Cloud has been one of the Mystics who missed some time earlier this season battling kidney stones, which grounded her briefly.
Only six Mystics have played in every game this season. Slowly, they are getting healthy, which means they are spending more time getting into a rhythm with each other. Timing is down and players are more comfortable.
“It’s been rough, but I don’t think as a team we’ve lost our grit and determination to figure everything out,” Cloud said. “We’re starting to get into a flow and get our chemistry back and finding a balance as a team. We know we’re a good team and we are just waiting to show it. We’re almost at full strength. Now, we hope to get things rolling.”
After being grounded by injuries last season, Hartley is looking good. Gone are the knee braces and soreness that slowed her last season. This was the fourth time Hartley has hit for double figures this season.
“It’s awesome to see us come together,” Hartley said. “It feels nice to be on the court with the team and building that chemistry. It just makes your team better. It was frustrating last year especially coming off of my rookie year. I wanted to build off of it, but things just bogs you down and I just tried to keep a positive attitude. This year, I want to go out there with a chip on my shoulder to show that I am healthy and back.”
Also making an eventful return on the Dallas side was Glory Johnson. She finished her league-mandated seven-game suspension.
She was suspended following last year’s domestic dispute with former married partner Brittney Griner. Since Johnson didn’t play last year after giving birth to twins, her suspension was served at the start of this season.
In addition to her 15 points, Johnson also collected a technical foul and was charged with a flagrant foul. Dallas was led by rookie Aerial Powers’ 17 points. Karima Christmas had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“It was great to play with my teammates and having the opportunity to play on my home court and feel the energy from the fans was great,” Johnson said. “Always great playing in a college arena. The flagrant was some elbow. The refs didn’t say much to me, they said something to the coach. Hopefully they rescind that. Somehow I flopped when I was shooting the ball and that’s why I got the technical.”
The Mystics will try to the winning combination at home and finish a big week when they host the reigning WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx Saturday night at the Verizon Center. The Mystics are 0-4 at home and 4-2 on the road. When asked if they were going to petition the league to move all their remaining home games away from the Verizon Center, Hill and Thibault laughed.
“We played about three games there when we weren’t healthy,” Thibault said. “So now that we are healthy, we’ll see where we are. It’s no fun going home to play the defending champs.”