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 I: Washington Snaps Losing Streak But Delle Donne and Hill Suffer Injuries

By Rob Knox @knoxrob1

INDIANAPOLIS – Already facing adversity in the form of a three-game losing streak entering its fourth game of an arduous road trip, the Washington Mystics persevered through an unexpected obstacle of losing a pair of critical players vital to their championship dreams.

Watching Elena Delle Donne and Tayler Hill leave the game with injuries sapped the joy from Washington’s 72-58 victory over Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday night.

The severity of each injury wasn’t immediately known, which was why the Mystics locker room was subdued following the game with only the sounds of running shower water making more noise than players giving interviews.

“We won’t know much about Tayler until we get an MRI but it didn’t look good,” Washington head coach Mike Thibault said. “It looked like the knee buckled under contact.

“We’ll hope for the best, but I’m not feeling it right now. Her and Elena together, that’s a huge loss for our team. I don’t know that we’ll have Elena on Sunday, we’ll see how that goes. Everybody goes through some adversity, so we’ll just have to see what happens.”

Delle Donne was injured in the first quarter. She was diagnosed with a right ankle sprain and returned to the bench in the second half sporting a black walking boot.

The former Delaware star will be evaluated Saturday when the Mystics land in New York to conclude a tough five-game road trip.

Delle Donne is slated to be a starter in next Saturday’s All-Star game in Seattle. She missed her first one her rookie season when she suffered a concussion just before the break in the schedule. Also definitely not playing will be Phoenix’ Brittney Griner, who went down with an in jury Friday night and likely to miss three or four weeks, according to the Mercury.

However, the more immediate concern here was Hill, who was hurt in the third quarter. She was carried off the floor by her teammates.

“It’s definitely an unfortunate situation to have both (Elena Delle Donne) and Tayler (Hill) to go down in the manner that they did,” Washington’s Tianna Hawkins said. “But I think we did a good job of coming together and playing well on their behalf and we just wish them the best.”

The Mystics (11-8 overall) used a total team performance to hand Indiana its fourth consecutive setback.

 It was the Mystics’ second win over the Fever this season and their fifth in the last six games.

Washington led wire-to-wire and blew the game open after Delle Donne’s injury.

Leading 6-4 when Delle Donne departed, the Mystics cracked the game open with a 14-2 run and ended the quarter on a 20-7 run to lead 26-11 after the opening period.

After Kristi Toliver sank a 3-pointer, the Mystics led 16-6 and their lead never dropped below double digits. Latta gave the Mystics a 50-25 bulge late in the first half with a corner triple.

Center Emma Meesseman led Washington with 15 points and three assists. Former Fever center Krystal Thomas finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Hawkins chipped in 11 points off the bench as Washington’s second unit outscored Indiana’s 29-20. Tierra Ruffin-Pratt had six points and 11 rebounds, her third game with at least 10 rebounds in a game this season.

“Obviously it’s a tough position,” Thomas said. “Something happens like this, but the thing is we still have another game on Sunday.  So we have to bounce back and play, and that’s why we have a team of 12 (players).

“That’s why we work every day, all 12 getting ready for games because you never know what happens. It’s a long season. So you have to be able to continue to grind, continue to bounce back and take it one game at a time because each game bring different challenges as we play.”

The Fever are dealing with a different set of concerns as it fights for playoff positioning.

Even though Briann January led the Fever with 15 points and four assists in 34 minutes of action, she couldn’t prevent Indiana from its longest losing skid since 2014.

January has reached double figures in scoring for the sixth time in seven outings since returning to the court from a left Achilles strain. Tiffany Mitchell finished with 10 points off the bench and pulled down a career-high eight rebounds.

“I think we started off the game rough, but we came back,” January said. “We regrouped. I’m really happy with the way we stayed the course in the second half.  We came back. We played better defense.  We stopped fouling.  We were more aggressive and we just stayed with things.  Heading into this road trip if we just build off this second half, I think we’ll be good.”

Washington’s defense limited the Fever to season-lows in points and field goal percentage (27.3). The Mystics forced 18 turnovers and outscored the Fever 24-12 in points off mistakes.

Yet, following the game, the thoughts were with their teammates. The Mystics finish their road trip Sunday in New York before hosting Atlanta on Wednesday morning. The Liberty had more shooting woes Friday night losing at home to Chicago.

“We needed to win badly,” Thibault said. “We got out of sorts offensively in the second half without Tayler or Elena, but our defense was terrific the whole night. We pressured them and worked them defensively.”


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