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.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

WNBA Gamer: Explosive Start Carries Connecticut Over Indiana To Stay Tied for Third in Playoff Hunt

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The blueprint for this past weekend continued to get disrupted Sunday afternoon  regarding the Connecticut Sun’s design on entering a WNBA playoff push with one month and a week left in the regular season.

Nevertheless the Sun managed to be a force to be reckoned again coming out of the All-Star break with an 89-73 win here at home in the Mohegan Sun Arena against the short-handed Indiana Fever. Unlike past Fever-Sun matchups, this was even less competitive than the final score indicates.

The Sun (14-9), which kept pace with the Washington Mystics for third overall and first in what is now a mythical Eastern Conference, built a 16-point lead at the close of the first period, increased that differential by three at the half, and then rocketed to 35 after three before reduced to a still comfortable 16 at the finish.

Since last year, by the way, geographical divisions are no longer applicable in terms of who becomes the postseason eight.

Following last week’s 93-72 thumping of Chicago here, a first-place showdown with the Sun and    Mystics Friday night in the nation’s capital had to be postponed when a leak from the roof of the Verizon Center affected by a heavy downpour created unsafe playing conditions on the floor.

The new date has yet to be publicly announced.

 So it was on to getting back home to take on Indiana (8-16) but that didn’t seem that simple either, according to second-year coach Curt Miller.

“All right, do you want to talk about the first three quarters or the fourth quarter (28-9 Indiana),” Miller deadpanned. “Excited with the way we played, first three quarters, especially, came back, had some flight problems from Washington, never changed into practice gear, walked through some schemes, watched film, early Sunday game, got together this morning, watched a little more film – our attention to detail … no practice clothes … was really impressive, just shared that with (his team).

“Our attention to detail on both sides of the ball was really impressive. We ran, we turned them overall (17) more than most people do, and got the running game going when they missed a few shots,” Miller continued.

“The big key was keeping them out of the paint. We kept them out of the paint in the first half – the discrepancy in points between the two teams was large.”

However, when time came to clear the bench, things began to get a little hairy, and considering Connecticut had already had two games with Washington featuring huge rallies by each team and the Sun went 1-5 early with all narrow losses, the move was made to get the starters back on the floor, especially considering the particulars attached to the game.

“You never want to put starters back in in that situation but we just needed to calm down for a minute or two to get the finish line,” Miller said.

“Good win. Series clincher. That does a lot for us in the grand scheme of things, if Indiana makes a run, now we hold the tie-breaker and that’s important. Overall, for three quarters, really, really good basketball.

“We’re going to turn the calendar with a boatload of home games and hopefully use that to our advantage and keep some momentum from these first three quarters.”

The Sun have not been to the postseason since 2012 

Next up is a visit Friday from the Phoenix Mercury.

Former George Washington star Jonquel Jones, one of the Sun’s All-Star trio, had another double double with 14 points and 13 rebounds, while All-Star Alyssa Thomas, a former Maryland standout, also had 14 points, and former Duke sensation Jasmine Thomas, the third Sun All-Star, had a team-high 15 points.

Courtney Williams had 10 points and Alex Bentley scored 11 off the bench.

Jones took the extra distractions from the weekend in stride, even though the indoor rainout deprived here and several other Sun stars of playing a homecoming game in Washington in front of friends and family.

“Our team is in a great position right now,” Jones said. “I’m excited. I think it comes with the territory. I think our basketball careers up to this point has let us do this easily. Whether it was the conference tournament or NCAA championships, now we’re professionals, we get paid to do it, so we have a little more of an incentive to be ready to play.

“It is what it is, though. You just wanted to come into this one and get a W and we were able to do that.”

On the other side, unlike the previous loss when Indiana, playing its first season since the retirement of all-timer Tamika Catchings, coughed up a 15-point advantage and lost by one to the New York Liberty, this didn’t go to the final seconds to determine the Fever’s fate.

Matters weren’t helped that All-Star Candice Dupree, the former Temple great, couldn’t make the trip due to personal reasons, a pre-game media release informed.

Former Rutgers star Erica Wheeler, a 2013 graduate, made her first start as a replacement, and scored 13 points, the same total as teammate and reserve Jasmon Gwathmey, the former James Madison star who spent her rookie season last summer with the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Jennifer Hamson scored 11 off the bench and former South Carolina star Tiffany Mitchell scored 10.

Miller said that the staff made sure the Sun would not let up, knowing Dupree, in her first season in Indiana, would be absent.