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, July 15, 2017

WNBA Gamer II - Chicago Win Streak Reaches Three After Ambushing New York in the Garden

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

NEW YORK – Not having to worry about dealing with former Delaware star Elena Delle Donne in the New York Liberty’s first meeting of the season with the Chicago Sky, coach Bill Laimbeer’s team found itself struck down Friday night anyhow by most of the parts that were manifested for the WNBA scoring ace in the blockbuster offseason deal with the Washington Mystics.

In a matchup of former University of Connecticut standout posts, while the Liberty’s landmark star Tina Charles scored 23 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, the latter of which was one board short of 2,500 in her WNBA career, Stefani Dolson, shooting 10-for-14, matched Charles’ scoring total and Rutgers star Kahleah Copper, also a part of the Mystics’ offerings, came off the bench to score 13 points in what became a 78-68 victory.

“We’re playing really well right now together,” Dolson said. “We’re just pushing the pace – playing hard and being tough.”

Charles became the Liberty's all-time leading rebounder during the game.

The other acquisition by Chicago in the transaction was Washington’s No. 2 overall first-round pick, which became NCAA champion South Carolina’s Alaina Coates, who has yet to play because of an ankle injury late in her senior season.

The Sky (6-12) are also without another Rutgers star, who is another WNBA standout in Cappie Pondexter, sidelined under a concussion protocol, though she could return after the All-Star break, which arrives next weekend with the game to be played in Seattle on Saturday.

“We’re in a great situation,” said first-year coach Amber Stocks, who was part of Brian Agler’s WNBA-winning staff on the Los Angeles Sparks last season. “We have depth. It’s important for me to lead and establish the depth so when a player is unable to play we have the rotations, we have the depth.

“We have the opportunity to fill the void. Now Cappie’s void is a huge void. So Kahleah Copper and Keisha Hampton have done a great job stepping up and just doing what they do best, and that’s playing team basketball.”

Both players are out of Philadelphia and Hampton starred at DePaul. Stocks also took the general manager title of former coach Pokey Chatman, who is now with the Indianapolis Fever.

It’s been a struggle between establishing chemistry, dealing with injuries, and also players’ other  commitments – star guard Courtney Vandersloot is now finding a comfort level after arriving late to camp from winter ball participation overseas and then heading out for a brief spell recently to fulfill national team obligations also.

Vandersloot had 13 points and dealt nine assists while former DePaul star Allie Quigley had 10 points for the Sky.

The win was the third straight for Chicago, which started with a shocking blowout at home that dealt the front running Minnesota Lynx its second and most lopsided loss of the season before topping the Dallas Wings and then winning here at Madison Square Garden at the start of a long road trip across the All-Star break.

Some people may get lost in New Orleans’ French quarter but a WNBA fourth quarter is where New York (8-9), expected to be closer to the league leaders, has disappeared numerous times this season.

That’s where Chicago made the Liberty vanish Friday night, outscoring the home team 25-16.

“I’m excited for our team to see the tangible fruit of their hard work,” Stocks said. “Although the outcomes of the game have not all turned out as we hoped, they have never swayed with their work ethic and leadership.”

Adding to those remarks, Vandersloot noted, “We had a really good start and we finished really well. I think that’s the two keys – we put ourselves in a good position to have a lead.”

Former Pittsburgh star Shavonte Zellous was the only other New York player in double figures and had a double double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Former Rutgers star Kia Vaughn, who came from Washington in a separate transaction, had eight points, while yet another Rutgers star with New York, Epiphanny Prince, was held to five and Sugar Rodgers had a poor shooting night before hitting some baskets nears the end to finish with nine points.

But again New York’s bench was nil, producing just nine points opposed to the 20 from Chicago, most of which from Copper, did the job.

Washington dominated Indiana in the midwest Friday night in a story Rob will detail at this site and heads here Sunday but the Mystics took a bad hit when Delle Donne went out in the first quarter with an ankle injury followed later by Tayler Hill, one of the other Mystics’ top performers, with an undetermined knee injury.

It’s the second of a three-game home stand for New York but having lost one opportunity, playing Chicago, it would not bode well yielding to Washington if the Mystics arrive here as the walking wounded.

“It was a loss that we didn’t think we could use right now,” Laimbeer stated the obvious. “I think everyone is kind of down. You saw it from the first start of the game today.

“We really weren’t enjoying ourselves. It was a very difficult game to play. Historically, coming off a road trip, first game back is the hardest because you aren’t in sync and you have dead legs. I thought our effort was there but once again the offensive bug just got us and we had trouble scoring,” the New York coach said.

Looking to Sunday, though unaware of Washington’s situation immediately after the game, in terms of turning things around, Laimbeer said of the short less-than-48 hours between games until the 3 p.m. tipoff, “You can’t do anything magically to tip the switch. We’ve been struggling to shoot the ball, there’s no question about that.

“I think the tightness that is on our team right now is bothering us. We’re just not having a fun time right now.”


Post a Comment

<< Home