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.

Friday, August 29, 2014

WNBA Playoffs: It's Star Wars in the West as Phoenix and Minnesota Offer an All-Time Battle

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

It’s the matchup that everybody wanted to see since the first ball was tossed back in May.

Much to the delight of women’s basketball fans everywhere, the inevitable Western Conference showdown between the reigning WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury begins Friday night at the U.S. Airways Center in the Arizona desert. The game starts at 10 p.m. on NBA-TV.

If you don't have a subscription to NBA-TV or the league's Live Access package on your tablets, computers or mobile phones, at least you get a chance to see what the commotion is about Sunday on broadcast TV when ABC airs Game 2 from Minneapolis.

One has to go back to the Houston Comets-Los Angeles Sparks wars in the West in the early WNBA era or the classic Sparks-Detroit Shock league title tilt in 2003 to find anything as anticipated or this past season's Connecticut-Notre Dame NCAA title showdown or the former UConn-Tennessee wars in college when it comes to women's hoops.

But given the growth in crowds in the two Western Conference cities and TV ratings in the WNBA, this could be the topper which, by the way, includes two UConn all-timers with the 1-2 league MVP punch of 2014-winning Maya Moore on the Lynx and Diana Taurasi with Phoenix.

In a few weeks the duo will be teammates again in the latest incarnation of UConn Generations under USA Basketball Commander Geno Auriemma, their former Huskies mentor.

But for now, however, let the competitive juices flow.

Both UConn graduates have raised the bar of excellence for the sport and inspired their team to achieve greatness.

They have each won two WNBA titles during their careers in which they deserve to be called two of the greatest women's ballers on the planrt.

Perhaps the Mercury should fly in Michael Buffer to do his trademark, “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” for this showdown.

The winner of the series will meet the Indiana-Chicago survivor in the WNBA Finals beginning Sunday, Sept. 7 in the city of the Western champion. How can you not be hyped and excited for this series.

Both teams have combined to win an amazing 54 regular season games this year.

They were by far and away the best teams in the league.

The Lynx and Mercury have a healthy respect and a mutual dislike for each other.

The Mercury won the season series, 3-1, but in reality the teams split two meetings when they were at full strength.

Minnesota ended Phoenix’s franchise record 16-game winning streak in July.

Ten days later, the Mercury stopped the Lynx’s 11-game winning streak with a dramatic 82-80 victory that has whetted the appetite for this anticipated rematch.

After the July match-up, Phoenix’s Taurasi remarked that she’ll be ready for football when the teams played again as a response to the Lynx’s physicality in that contest.

Minnesota is looking to become the first team since the Comets to advance to four consecutive WNBA Finals.

Phoenix wants to finish a season for the ages by completing its championship mission which would add to the trophy case which houses hardware from conquests in 2007 and 2009 when oldtime Big East rivals Taurasi and former Rutgers great Cappie Pondexter, now with the New York Liberty, were teammates.

The stars are aligned for this best-of-three series. The second game is Sunday in Minnesota with the decisive game, if necessary, Tuesday night in Phoenix.

The Lynx enter this series having won nine consecutive playoff games after beating San Antonio in two hard-fought games in the opening round.

Winners of a WNBA-record 29 regular season games, the Mercury dispatched the Sparks in two games, winning the second game on the road, 93-68, impressively behind Defensive Player of the Year Brittney Griner’s perfect 9-for-9 shooting effort and 21-point performance that included a two-handed breakaway dunk.

Taurasi is the WNBA's second all-time leading scorer in history while Moore had a season to cherish and mere adjectives aren’t adequate to describe what she accomplished.

For the regular season, Moore played in all 34 games and paced the league in scoring (23.9 ppg), the third-highest average in WNBA history behind the 25.3 ppg and 24.1 ppg by Taurasi in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Moore had perhaps her best outing of the season in a 112-108 double-overtime win over the visiting Atlanta Dream on July 22.

In the victory, she tallied a career-high 48 points, marking the second-highest single-game total in WNBA history.

Four games later, in an 84-75 victory at Tulsa on Aug. 2, Moore posted 40 points to break the league record for the most 30-point games in a single season.

She also finished the season ranked atop the WNBA in made field goals (295) and was second in minutes (34.7 mpg) and free throws made (160). Moore placed eighth in rebounding (8.1 rpg), tied for third in three-point field goals made (62), fourth in free throw percentage (.884, 160-of-181), tied for fourth in steals (1.88 spg), sixth in double-doubles (10), and20th in assists (3.4 apg).

In addition to leading her club in scoring, Moore placed second on the Lynx in rebounding and assists, and third in blocks (0.82 bpg).

She earned three of the four Western Conference Player of the Month presented by Samsung awards and was named the conference’s Player of the Week five times, becoming the first player in league history to win Player of the Week honors in four consecutive weeks.

The difference for the Mercury this season has been their staunch defense and unbelievable chemistry.

They also had laser-like focus all season under Sandy Brondello who won coach of the year honors in her first season in Phoenix.

A fun-loving team off the court, the Mercury reacted to earning the No. 1 seed throughout the playoffs by dispensing with any champagne-laced hoopla after beating New York earlier this month at Madison Square Garden.

“Well, I think the biggest thing is I focused on defense, and that was the focus all season long, and in the past it's not something that really was one of the strengths or that I really worked on,” Brondello said during a pre-playoff conference call.

“Credit to the players. Obviously I have a veteran team. I have some talented players, have some great players. They bought into the style of play that I wanted to implement, and they keep growing. They have great chemistry. So I think that's the biggest change this season.”

In the win over the Lynx on August 10, the Mercury stormed back from a 13-point first half deficit and survived a Moore scoring onslaught.

Griner blocked Lindsay Whalen’s potential game-tying shot. Taurasi sank the game-winner in that contest with 2.2 seconds remaining.

She dropped 34 points in the first game against the Sparks, a narrow 75-72 win.

Complementing Griner and Taurasi are Penny Taylor, DeWanna Bonner and former Temple star Candice Dupree. Taylor and Dupree are also two of the top 20 scorers in WNBA history.

The Lynx can match veteran firepower with the Mercury.

Aside from Moore, who was awesome this season, Minnesota’s core featuring Seimone Augustus, Whalen, Janel McCarvale and Rebekkah Brunson are a well-functioning machine.

Together, Moore and Augustus were the best scoring duo in the WNBA, averaging 40.4 points of Minnesota’s 81.6 point per game total.

Whalen willed the Lynx to an amazing game two win over the Silver Stars in the first round by scoring 31 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

Minnesota overcame an early 22-4 deficit to beat San Antonio and end the great career of Becky Hammon, who will transition into her new pioneering role for female sports notables as Spurs assistant coach in the NBA.

Forgive the redundancy but this series promises to be entertaining, fiercely fought, and played at an incredibly high level.

This is what everybody has wanted to see: The two best teams going head-to-head for a trip to the Finals. It doesn’t get any better than that.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Location:Akron St,Philadelphia,United States

Thursday, August 28, 2014

WNBA Playoffs: After Dealing With Adversity Indiana and Chicago Have One Hurdle Left In The East - Each Other

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

Forged by the fires of adversity, the second-seeded Indiana Fever and fourth-seeded Chicago Sky have overcome plenty of obstacles to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

Both teams are mirror images of each other.

Their star players missed significant chunks of the season. Indiana’s Tamika Catchings sat out the first 17 games of the season with a sore back. Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne missed 17 games suffering from the effects of Lyme Disease.

Other key players for each team have missed games or been bothered by nagging injuries.

Yet, they’re standing in each other’s way of a trip to the WNBA Finals.

Last season, the Fever, as No. 4 seed, swept the top-seeded Sky in the first round of the playoffs. Throw out the Fever’s 3-2 regular season series win because they only played one game when both squads were at full strength.

Both squads closed the season strong.

The Fever used a four-game winning streak during the last week of the season following a hideous home loss to Washington to clinch the No. 2 seed. The Sky soared to the finish by winning five of six games during a two-week period late in the season.

The Fever enjoy the significant edge in experience as this is their fourth consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Indiana with Catchings, Briann January, Shevonte Zellous, Karima Christmas and Erlana Larkins upset the Minnesota Lynx to win the 2012 crown.

Indiana, which made the playoffs for a 10th consecutive year, is looking to advance to the WNBA Finals for the third time in six seasons and extend the career of coach Lin Dunn a little longer before she heads off to what she calls the next chapter after the Fever play their final game in 2014.

Meanwhile, the Sky are continuing to gain momentum at the perfect time of the season.

By beating Atlanta in the opening round, the Sky won their first playoff series in franchise history.

Chicago is the youngest team in the WNBA and for many of them, Saturday’s opening game at Indiana’s Bankers Life Fieldhouse, will be their sixth playoff contest in their careers.

For perspective, Catchings has played in 53 career playoff games, which is more than the entire Sky team (43 career playoff games).

She was magnificent in averaging 24 points and 10.5 rebounds in the two victories over the Mystics last week. She was also 23-for-24 from the foul line in the two wins.

During the Mystics series, Catchings became the leading rebounder in WNBA postseason history and leading scorer in league playoffs history with 914 points surpassing Lisa Leslie.

Shr has scored 20 or more points 21 times in her playoff career.

The former Tennessee all-American already owns all-time playoffs records for steals, free throws and double-doubles with 22, recording one in 41 percent of the playoff contests she’s appeared.

January admitted following Saturday’s 81-76 overtime win over the Mystics that their playoff experience was a crucial factor in overcoming a five-point fourth-quarter deficit.

“It helped us a ton,” January said. “Our core has been here and done that. We know what it takes to advance in the playoffs. We really came together and played together on both ends on the court.”

Down the stretch against the Mystics in both games, the Fever’s defense made the difference.

The traps became tighter and the Mystics had difficulty running a smooth offense.

January is leader of the Fever’s defensive effort as her lockdown defense helped make her an All-Star for the first time in her career. She is also a member of the 27-woman USA National Team roster.

With the rest of the team feeding off of January’s energy and hard-work, the Fever always know they can turn to their defense whenever it’s needed.

“The biggest thing for us is our defensive intensity and we know we can always take it up another notch,” Catchings said following Indiana’s win on Saturday at the Verizon Center in Washington in overtime. “Our offense always stems from our defense and we played really well on defense as far as communicating, moving around.”

Of course, the focus of the Fever’s defense will be slowing down Delle Donne, who turned in a breathtaking performance in the decisive third game against the Dream Monday night.

Led by Delle Donne, who scored 17 of her 34 points in the fourth, Chicago staged the biggest final-quarter comeback in WNBA playoffs history. She outscored the Dream, 17-13 in the fourth quarter as the Sky rallied from a 16-point deficit entering the final 10 minutes.

She scored the winning basket with 8.2 seconds remaining. It was her biggest moment of her fledging career that promises many more.

In two games against the Fever, Delle Donne averaged 18.5 points per game. She has made 22 consecutive free throws after missing her only attempt in the opening game against Atlanta.

“She's capable of scoring pretty much anywhere on the court,” Catchings said on the Indiana Fever’s official website. “The biggest thing for me is just trying to apply pressure to her, make it hard for her to score, make it hard for her to catch the ball. It's not just a one-on-one matchup. It's the whole team.”

Meanwhile, Catchings averaged 20.3 points per game in the three times she played against the Sky this season.

Another key performer for the Sky all season has been James Madison product Tamera Young.

She has been the glue that has held Chicago together throughout the season. Young enjoyed a series to remember against Atlanta. She scored 16 points in the clinching win against the Dream.

In addition, she also played stellar defense against Angel McCoughtry down the stretch, which helped the Sky get back into the game.

In the three game series, Young averaged 12 points per game and scored in double digits in both wins.

Courtney Vandersloot, who missed 15 games with a sprained MCL, drilled the game-winner in the opener against the Dream and she looks to be getting in a groove.

She averaged 6.6 assists per game against the Dream. Sixth-woman of the year Allie Quigley, center Sylvia Fowles and guard Epiphanay Prince gives the Sky plenty of firepower to throw at the Fever.

“We’ve had a lot of adversity this season,” Young said earlier this month before a game against the Mystics. “It became an opportunity for others to step up. People have had to play multiple positions, stick together and be mentally tougher.”

Winning a championship is never easy and though the road to this point has featured numerous pot-holes and detours, the Fever and Sky are where they always believed they would be when the season started.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Guru's WNBA Musings: Delle Donne Exploits in Chicago Game Not New to Longtime Observers

(Guru's note. A quote from the playoff game in this post was compiled from Associated Press coverage. Also, he must dispense with a little advertising/journalism at the top before the nut-graph, as the saying goes, reflects the headline. :) )

By Mel Greenberg

Apparently former Delaware sensation Elena Delle Donne doesn't have much interests in consolation prizes.

Had not the WNBA reigning rookie of the year put the Chicago Sky on her back Tuesday night in Atlanta to finish reducing a first-half 20-point deficit and nail the game winner in the final seconds for an 81-80 victory, the Dream would be headed back to the Eastern Conference finals and Delle Donne could look forward to a second homecoming appearance this season at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark next month.

That's when the United States senior women's national team, following a training period Sept. 8-10 at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., will make a stop Sept. 11 at Delle Donne's alma mater where she became one of the NCAA all-time collegiate women's greats, especially her junior and senior seasons with the Blue Hens.

The event is billed as a Showcase in which it is basically a psuedo WNBA All-Star game that will be played prior to a stop in Bridgeport, Conn., Sept. 15, to compete in a friendly against the Canadian National Team.

It is all part of the path to enable the selection committee to provide the roster to head coach Geno Auriemma, the Hall of Fame women's mentor at the University of Connecticut, and his staff for the FIBA World Championship beginning late September in Turkey.

Delle Donne is part of the pool of candidates up for selection, as if there are any doubts of her pick, but the players in the WNBA Finals, going on at the same time, are excused during that portion of the process.

Of course, the opportunity hasn't gone away yet since Chicago must battle the Indiana Fever and retiring Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coach Lin Dunn in a best-of-three final beginning Saturday night in Indianapolis and then moving onto Chicago Monday afternoon on Labor Day.

Chicago, after winning its first playoff series ever and first-ever playoff game at the outset in Atlanta, will be dealing with an Indiana delegation that has been a thorn in the side of the Sky and dispatched coach Pokey Chatman's squad 2-0 a year ago when Delle Donne led the franchise to its first playoff appearance in eight tries after its debut in the WNBA in 2006.

So with the Final Four in the WNBA decided -- the Phoenix Mercury and defending champion Minnesota Lynx will battle in the West -- the either/or players who won't be at Delaware if their respective teams get to the best-of-five league finals are:


Chicago: Delle Donne, Courtney Vandersloot, Sylvia Fowles
or Indiana: Tamika Catchings, Briann January


Phoenix: Temple's Candice Dupree, Brittney Griner, Diana Taurasi, DeWanna Bonner
or Minnesota: Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Monica Wright.

Delle Donne made a previous homecoming appearance at the Bob Carpenter Center in May when a sellout crowd energized the arena where Chicago played a preseason game against the Washington Mystics.

Both teams enjoyed the experience and there is already talk of Chicago returning while Washington wouldn't mind doing it again next spring.

Delle Donne or no Delle Donne, there will still be a homecoming atmosphere -- a clinic by the way will be held earlier in the day -- since Auriemma grew up in Norristown and one of his assistants is the legendary Dawn Staley, who has re-built South Carolina to prominence and beyond after putting Temple on the national map with an eight-year stint from 2001-08.

Staley, of course, is the pride of Dobbins Tech in North Philadelphia who went on to become one of the collegiate greats at Virginia and then became an All-Star in the WNBA and the short-lived American Basketball League and a three-time Olympic gold medalist.

Staley also assisted the Connecticut Sun's Anne Donovan on the USA squad that won the gold in Beijing, China, in 2008.

Also on Auriemma's staff is Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve, a former La Salle star out of South Jersey who has guided the Lynx to three straight WNBA finals and titles in 2011 and 2013.

Of course, if Minnesota gets to the finals, Reeve will take a rain check this time around.

The other assistant coach is DePaul's Doug Bruno out of Chicago who was with Auriemma on the 2012 Gold Medalists and is practically family playing Villanova in the area in the Big East wars and now actually having Delle Donne to cheer for in his native city.

It is obvious that even if Delle Donne has a bigger immediate -- emphasize immediate -- pursuit that would preclude her from appearing this time, a large turnout would probably guarantee future USA events at Delaware or in the area during the two-year preparation for the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil.

By the way, the lone collegian on the list of candidates is Connecticut sensation Breanna Stewart, the two-time MVP of the last two NCAA Final Fours who also played in the locally-based Blue Star AAU organization.

Auriemma may have unwittingly seen Delle Donne's Tuesday performance coming because earlier in the day on a teleconference hosted by USA Basketball, in talking about the evolvement of the roster and the eventual end of participation of multi-gold winners Sue Bird, Catchings and Taurasi, Auriemma noted:

" .. I would venture to say that players like Breanna, Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner, if you try to project into the future, are three of the players who may be next in line when we talk about those who could win three or four gold medals."

The Delle Donne Saga Continues

There are occasions on press row in covering a particularly game, the way it is playing out causes one to sometimes cheer for things to happen to fulfill a wishful storyline -- the comeback, the game-winner, the great performance.

Over the years covering Delle Donne's exploits, you don't have to call in a journalism genie to grant a wish.

Delle Donne takes care of it all by herself and you just know when crunchtime occurs, in most cases, she'll make your fondest hope a reality.

No, the Guru wasn't on press row Tuesday night in Atlanta when Delle Donne did all of the above -- playoff high 34 points, 17 alone in the fourth quarter, game-winner with 8.4 seconds left.

There was also a playoffs first-ever rally to win from a 16-point deficit at the outset of the fourth quarter -- it then grew to 17 -- since the switch to quarters from halves in 2006 according to the league who got the information from the Elias Sports Bureau.

But in attempting to watch and track -- more about that in a bit -- the Guru had the innate sense of what the near future offered as the deficit was getting whittled by Chicago.

He had seen it all before. A comeback against Drexel, several by the way, to keep perfection intact in the Colonial Athletic Association wars.

Speaking of the CAA, former James Madison star Tamera Young of the Sky, had 16 points in the game.

There was the overtime win at Saint John's.

Last summer Delle Donne's coach at Delaware, Tina Martin, had discussed how much her star player's last two seasons were spent learning to be the leader.

That showed last season when she had several game winners.

It also appeared through her post-game comment Tuesday night:

''I just know that when we were in huddles and I was talking to the team, everyone had that look in their eye like we were not done yet - we were not ready to go home,'' Delle Donne said. ''So I was very confident. ... I knew we were playing pretty good defense, just not doing the little things like finishing with a rebound, finishing with a contested shot.''

This is not the first time Delle Donne had battled back from being sidelined for an extensive period because of an ongoing fight against sap-drenching Lyme disease.

After missing the bulk of her sophomore season, Delle Donne returned near the end and led the Blue Hens as an underseed to an upset of Old Dominion in the quarterfinals of the CAA tournament -- the earliest the Lady Monarchs had ever been dispatched -- and another upset in the next round and to the title game before James Madison prevailed.

This time she battled back from a 17-game absence, during which some doubt existed whether the Sky, who had a slew of other injuries, might be able to return to the postseason.

Had Delle Donne been healthy all year -- in fact only recently has the Sky had the entire team healthy -- Chicago might have again been the top seed and she might have given Minnesota's Maya Moore and Phoenix's Diana Taurasi a run for the money in the MVP race.

Even at that, many of us felt compelled to list Delle Donne somewhere on our five-slot MVP ballot topped by the winning Moore because of her value and cause-and-effect of what happens when she is in the Chicago lineup.

Ironically, Delle Donne, at the age of 13 and native of Wilmington, Del., may have been the last female phenom out of the Philadelphia area before the recent celebration of little league pitching star Mo'ne Davis, who is being feted Wednesday with her Taney teammates with a parade sponsored by the city prior to a special salute at Wednesday night's Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park.

The early chapters of Delle Donne's career includes a scholarship offer for basketball from North Carolina.

And just as Davis' shutout performance in the first round of the series caught the nation's attention off its telecast by ESPN2, one wonders how many more people might be talking about Delle Donne today had there been better access to the game then NBA-TV.

Understand, this is not a knock at NBA-TV, especially with a crew doing the game being top shelf and very professional considering they were Atlanta based.

But not as many people have access.

And when it comes to technology, the WNBA Live-Access apps, which has done wonders in taking you to the venue which otherwise might not be possible, does have flaws.

There are freezes and on the Guru's iPad, in part because of having LTE connections in his house -- no wifi before you ask -- suddenly reverting to 4G late in the game.

Thst was when he had that sense of another Delle Donne signature moment but when he tried to return to the broadcast, he got a "blacked out" notice on the game he had watched all night.

There was the play-by-play text to track to stay in the game but still ...

After it ended, the twitterverse quickly erupted with kudos to Delle Donne, and the winning play was viewable but the moment that provides that extra juice one feels as it happens was lost.

WNBA.com has been all over it with taped highlights through the press conferences but looking ahead to this weekend, you get NBA-TV for three of the four games before "if necessary" kicks in for potential Game 3s.

ABC-TV is doing game two Sunday of the highly anticipated Minnesota-Phoenix showdown involving the top two teams in the league all season.

This last section by the Guru is not a rant over lack of TV overall for women's sports -- the Guru is in agreement with colleague Wendy Parker on her counterpoint about coverage -- only against the inability for things to happen at a developing moment considering the sports TV giant is a partner of the league.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

Monday, August 25, 2014

USA Basketball: Hartley and Chiney Ogwumike Added to USA 2014-16 Training Pool

( Guru note: USA's official announcement used in parts for this post. )

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

Two of the WNBA’s top rookies this season have been added to the 2014-16 USA Basketball Women’s National Team training camp roster.

Four-time USA Basketball gold medalist Bria Hartley of the Washington Mystics and three-time USA Basketball gold medalist Chiney Ogwumike of the Connecticut Sun will join a roster that includes a pool of 27 of the best women’s basketball players on the planet.

Both Hartley and Ogwumike were fan favorites and emerged as leaders of their respective teams this season.

The 2014 USA Basketball Women’s National Team will begin its fall training camp in defense of the USA’s FIBA World Championship title on Sept. 8 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

“Bria Hartley and Chiney Ogwumike were both invited to the USA National Team training camp last fall, but were unable to make it,” said Carol Callan, USA Basketball women’s national team director and member of the selection committee. “They have remained on the committee's radar and with their USA Basketball international experience and play this season in the WNBA, the committee felt that we should extend an invitation to continue their involvement with the USA National Team.”

Hartley first won gold with the 2010 USA U18 National Team at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship, then collected gold medals playing for USA Basketball at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship, 2012 FIBA 3x3 World Championship and 2013 World University Games.

She is a two-time NCAA champion with the University of Connecticut. The No. 7 pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft, Hartley averaged 9.7 points and 3.1 assists in the 2014 WNBA season and aided the Mystics to the Eastern Conference semifinals where they dropped two tough games to the Indiana Fever.

In addition to her fearless play during the game, Hartley earned a reputation as an ankle-breaking queen. One of her moves from earlier in the season when she made a defender fall down was featured on SportsCenter's Top 10.

Ogwumike teamed up with Hartley to win gold on the 2010 USA U18 National Team and 2012 USA 3x3 World Championship Team, and she captured her third gold medal at the 2011 World University Games.

The No. 1 pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft and 2014 WNBA All-Star averaged 15.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game during the 2014 season and is a two-time (May, June) WNBA Rookie of the Month award winner.

Norristown native Geno Auriemma, 2013-16 USA National Team and University of Connecticut head coach, is delighted to have a pair of familiar faces on his roster.

He coached Hartley for four years and they won two NCAA championships together in 2013 and 2014.

She started her UConn career making key contributions to the Huskies’ NCAA-record 90-game winning streak and concluded her time in Storres with a 46-game winning streak.

Earlier this year, Hartley’s Huskies defeated Ogwumike’s Stanford squad in the Final Four in Nashville. Ogwumike is a front runner of the Rookie of the Year honors.

“Coming out of college last year, two of the best players in college basketball, they distinguished themselves over four years playing at the highest level and now they’ve gone onto play in the WNBA as rookies,” Auriemma said.

“With Chiney in Connecticut, I’ve had a chance to follow her progress. She’s been absolutely amazing and no one competes harder than Chiney does. Bria’s gone to Washington and played a great role in helping them make the playoffs this year with such a young roster that they have.

"So, I’m excited about the possibility of having both of them in the camp. I know both of them really wanted to be there last fall and couldn’t, so this is a great opportunity for them and I’m looking forward to seeing them out there.”

Former Temple star Candice Dupree of the Phoenix Mercury and former Delaware star Elena Delle Donne are also in the group.

Athletes invited to participate in the fall training camp in hopes of being named to the 2014 USA World Championship Team include: Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), DeWanna Bonner (Phoenix Mercury),Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Tina Charles (New York Liberty), Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky), Skylar Diggins (Tulsa Shock), Stefanie Dolson (Washington Mystics), Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), Hartley, Briann January (Indiana Fever), Jantel Lavender (Los Angeles Sparks), Kayla McBride (San Antonio Stars), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), Chiney Ogwumike, Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks), Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks), Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Stars), Odyssey Sims (Tulsa Shock), Breanna Stewart (University of Connecticut), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky), Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) and Monica Wright (Minnesota Lynx).

Athletes listed above who are not participating in the WNBA Finals will begin training camp Sept. 8-10 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. WNBA teams still in the playoff hunt include the Atlanta Dream, Chicago Sky and Indiana Fever in the East and Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury in the West.

The final 12-member, 2014 USA Basketball Women’s World Championship Team will be named prior to the start of the FIBA World Championship, which will be held Sept. 27-Oct. 5 in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey.

Hartley and Ogwumike were extended an invitation to join the USA National Team by theUSA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee, which will also select the 2014 USA World Championship Team.

“The 27 who have been invited represent a cross section of what the USA National Team is ultimately all about,” Auriemma said. “It’s some of the best players in the world. It’s a combination of past Olympic and World Championship gold medalists. It’s also young players who have also won gold medals at various levels of USA Basketball, pros in the WNBA, college players, veterans and rookies and everything in between. I think we’re going to be able to pick a 12-player roster that’s going to be as good as any team we’ve ever had.”

The USA National Team training camp roster includes three-time (2004, 2008, 2012) Olympic gold medalists Bird, Catchings and Taurasi; two-time Olympic gold medalists (2008, 2012) Augustus, Fowles and Parker; as well as 2012 Olympic gold medalists Charles, Moore, McCoughtry and Whalen.

Bird and Catchings have won two FIBA World Championship gold medals (2002, 2010); while Charles, Dupree, Fowles, McCoughtry, Moore and Whalen captured FIBA World Championship gold in 2010; and Augustus, Bird, Catchings, Parker and Thompson played on the 2006 USA World Championship Team that returned with the bronze medal.

The USA will compete in a pair of exhibition contests during its domestic training. The first game is the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Showcase, a Red versus White intrasquad game scheduled for Sept. 11 (7 p.m. EDT) at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Delaware.

ESPN2 will televise both USA Basketball Women’s National Team exhibition games, and both games will also available on WatchESPN.

Traveling up the coast to Bridgeport, Connecticut, the USA will train Sept. 14 alongside 2013 FIBA Americas Championship silver medalist Canada in Bridgeport, prior to the two teams squaring off in a Sept. 15 exhibition contest (7 p.m. EDT) at Webster Bank Arena.

Tickets for the USA Basketball Showcase can be purchased through the Bob Carpenter Center box office, by calling 302-831-2257 or online viaticketmaster.com; while tickets for the USA-Canada contest can be purchased through the box office at Webster Bank Arena, by calling 1-800-745-3000 or online viawww.websterbankarena.com.

In addition to the domestic exhibition schedule, the USA squad will play four additional exhibition games in Europe against 2012 Olympic silver medalist France, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Australia, 2010 FIBA World Championship silver medalist Czech Republic and 2013 FIBA Asia bronze medalist China, prior to the start of the World Championship.

Finalists for the 2014 USA World Championship Team will compete in the 2014 France International Tournament in the Stade Pierre de Coubertin in Paris, Sept. 19-21. Opening against Australia on Sept. 19, the U.S. will face China on Sept. 20 and close the round-robin tournament against host France on Sept. 21.

From there, the Americans will head to Prague, Czech Republic, for an exhibition against Czech Republic on Sept. 23, before traveling to Istanbul for their final pre-World Championship preparations.

Auriemma will be assisted on the sideline by DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno, Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and University of South Carolina head coachDawn Staley.

All but Bruno grew up in the Philadelphia area though he has been to the area numerous times guiding DePaul against Villanova in Big East competition.

The USA owns a record eight gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals in FIBA World Championship play, while compiling an all-time 97-21 record at the event. In 2010, the most recent World Championship, the U.S. finished with a perfect 9-0 record and the gold medal.

In addition to Callan, members of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee include WNBA appointeesReneé Brown, WNBA chief of basketball operations and player relations, Dan Hughes, San Antonio Silver Stars head coach and general manager, and Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun vice president and general manager; and three-time Olympic and two-time FIBA World Championship gold medalistKatie Smith, who played in nearly 200 games for USA Basketball from 1993-2008, and serves as the athlete representative.

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

WNBA Playoffs: Overtime Dispatch of Washington Gives Indiana 2-0 Sweep in East Semifinals

(Guru's note: A sidebar wrapping up the Mystics' season is under this post.)

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

Like a fine merlot, 35-year old Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings continues getting better with time.

Catchings added another memorable postseason performance to her highlight-filled portfolio with a 26-point, 11-rebound masterpiece that lifted second-seeded Indiana to a thrilling 81-76 overtime victory over third-seeded Washington in the second game of an Eastern Conference semifinal instant classic at the Verizon Center Saturday night.

“It is never fun losing a playoff series especially when you have a chance to win,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said. “I guess I can say we got beat by a Hall of Famer. She was terrific.”

This was playoff basketball at its best.

In a game featuring more suspense and drama than an episode of “Scandal”, each team answered the other with clutch plays, dynamite defense and big shots. There were 12 ties and 11 lead changes throughout the intense affair.

In the end, Catchings was the difference in this contest and series as the Fever advanced to Eastern Finals for the fourth straight season.

Playing nearly 37 minutes, Catchings was 8-of-16 from the field and 9-of-10 from the foul line.

Catchings averaged 24 points and 10.5 rebounds in the two victories over the Mystics this week.

In Thursday’s game, she became the leading rebounder in WNBA postseason history. Saturday, she became the leading scorer in league playoffs history with 914 points surpassing Lisa Leslie.

Catchings has scored 20 or more points 21 times in 53 career playoff games.

She already owns all-time playoffs records for steals, free throws and double-doubles with 22, recording one in 41 percent of the playoff contests she’s appeared.

“It’s a tribute to our organization and to the great players I’ve been able to play with along the way,” the modest Catchings said following the game as she had a bag of ice on her left arm. “You can’t do it by yourself and my teammates have helped put me in the situations.

"I’ve had highs and lows, a lot of shots missed, but they’re always in my ear. I think having that confidence from your teammates helps you along the way.”

Of course, before Catchings could finish her sentence, veteran Fever coach Lin Dunn interrupted her star player and offered a not-so-modest opinion.

“She won’t say it, but I’ll be happy to say it,” Dunn said as the media room erupted in laughter. “Let me elaborate. The records she’s set in the playoffs indicate to me you may be watching one of the greatest players to ever play the game.”

The Fever captured the best-of-three series in two tough and gritty games.

It is the Fever’s seventh trip to the conference finals in the past 10 years, matching a league record for a 10-year span.

They will play either top-seeded Atlanta Dream or fourth-seeded Chicago Sky beginning Saturday. The Sky lead the series, 1-0, and can close out the Dream Sunday night in Chicago.

“I just thought it was a great game,” Dunn said. “I think down the stretch we were able to make a couple of big plays and a couple of really big defensive stops.

"It was two teams battling their hearts out. It didn’t surprise me that it came down to the wire and went into overtime.

"We’re just very happy to win this game on the road and now wait and see who we’re going to play in the [Eastern Conference] finals.”

The win extended Dunn's current chapter prior to moving to the next chapter, as she calls her life in terms of moving to what will be an active retirement once the Indiana season ends with either a second WNBA trophy or playoffs defeat.

Catchings, who scored nine points in the extra five minutes, passed Leslie in style by drilling her only 3-pointer of the game -- a wide-open look -- with 94 seconds remaining to give the Fever the lead for good, 74-72.

Her basket answered Kara Lawson’s triple with 2:30 left that gave the Mystics their only lead of overtime, 72-71.

Turning in strong efforts for the Fever was Briann January, who added 13 points and seven assists.

She got the assist on Catchings’ overtime 3-pointer. January also made two foul shots with 19.6 seconds remaining that tied the game at 66 and ultimately forced overtime. Her lockdown defense on Ivory Latta on the Mystics’ final possession of regulation was terrific as Latta could not get off a clean look at a potential game-winner.

Marrisa Coleman, a former star up the road at nearby Maryland, and Karima Christmas also added 10 points each for the Fever.

Erlana Larkins scored four of her nine points in overtime. She also grabbed 11 rebounds.

Lawson turned back the clock and delivered 20 entertaining points, including consecutive 3-point baskets in overtime that erased a four-point deficit.

Tianna Hawkins scored nine straight points in the fourth quarter to help Washington open a 62-57 lead with 3:55 remaining. She finished with 13 points.

Lawson and Hawkins combined to make 13-of-21 shots, including 5-of-8 from 3-point distance. Latta, who was 8-for-8 from the foul line, added 12 points.

“Being able to watch the game from the bench was a big help for me,” Hawkins said. “Then coming in and having a good spark for the team and getting key rebounds and just attacking the boards and my teammates finding me in good spots on the floor was key.”

The Mystics bench was strong throughout the game outscoring the Fever’s reserves, 45-15.

Kalana Greene made a 3-pointer in the final two seconds of the third quarter to give Washington a 53-51 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Greene’s shot helped the Mystics finish the third quarter on a 20-9 run that erased a nine-point deficit.

For the game, the Mystics shot 41.3 percent from the field (26-for-63) and limited the Fever to 37.1 percent (26-for-70).

The Mystics also won the rebounding battle, 37-34. Emma Meesseman pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds for the Mystics while Bria Hartley handed out a team-high five assists.

“What sticks out to you when you lose are all the things you messed up as a competitor; things that you could have done better,” Lawson said. “We gave it what we had.

"I thought Tianna Hawkins played terrific for us. I thought our bench really came in and helped level the game and helped get into overtime. We can certainly be proud of our effort.”

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WNBA Playoffs Sidebar: Exit in Eastern Semis Leaves Mystics Looking to a Promising Future

(Guru's note: This is the companion piece out of D.C. with Rob's game story. )

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

Washington’s 81-76 setback in overtime to Indiana Saturday night in the second game of an Eastern Conference semifinal series ended its 2014 season and planted seeds for next year.

Quite possibly, this could be the start of something bigger for a talented and youthful Washington Mystic squad featuring seven first or second year players.

The Mystics were disappointed that their fine season ended abruptly at the hands of the experienced Fever, who won the 2012 WNBA title and has been involved in every imaginable playoff scenario known to man.

Heading into the offseason, this defeat will serve as fuel and motivation to enjoy a happier ending next season.

“We can take the experience from this playoff series into next year,” Washington rookie guard Bria Hartley said. “Now that we’ve been through it, we’re able to learn from it. I think it’s awesome to be part of this team because we know the future is bright for us.

"We have talented and young players that can be really big for this program. We’re going to work really hard to meet those expectations.”

Hartley and sister UConn rookie Stefanie Dolson played significant minutes this season.

Hartley started 29 games and scored in double figures 16 times this season. An ankle-breaking queen, Hartley she was one of many talented performers who enjoyed some great moments in the summer of 2014 .

She fired in a career-high 26 points against Seattle and had 20 points in an overtime win over the Los Angeles Sparks in June.

Second-year guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, who injured her shoulder in the second quarter and didn’t return, was a valuable contributor during the season. She scored a career-high 18 points to lead the Mystics to a road win in Los Angeles and cap a winning road trip in mid-July.

Second-year forward Tianna Hawkins, who arrived from Seattle in a draft-day trade with Hartley, did everything she could to extend the Mystics’ season with 13 points, including nine straight in the fourth quarter as they opened a 62-57 lead with 3 minutes, 55 seconds remaining.

Emma Meesseman, who would be a senior in college at 21 years old, is gifted beyond her years. She grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Mystics Saturday.

Rookie Jelena Milovanovic and second-year guard Tayler Hill are expected to play bigger roles next season for Washington.

“Over the course of the season, everyone can agree that we learned a lot and improved as a team,” Hawkins said. “We’re all looking forward to next year because we have a lot to prove.

"We’re all going to come back stronger. We can look at the close games we had this year and fine tune the small things that made a difference in us winning and losing, including in the game tonight.”

The young and gritty Mystics made the Fever earn the series.

In two years, Mystics coach Mike Thibault has rebuilt a struggling franchise and offered fans a fun and entertaining team that will continue to evolve into one of the league’s elite.

Former Duke star Monique Currie is the only remaining player Thibault inherited when he took the job at the end of the 2012 season.

He’s sprinkled in veterans Kia Vaughn, Ivory Latta, Kara Lawson and Kalena Greene to provide leadership, stability and experience.

The Mystics have qualified for the playoffs in consecutive years for only the second time in franchise history.

However, they are ready to take the next step especially considering the Mystics haven’t won a playoff series since beating the defunct Charlotte Sting in the opening round of the 2002 playoffs.

“We are kind of still learning who we are as a team," Thibault said.

"I am still learning who some of our players are as a team and what they can do best and what they can’t," he continued.

"It is easy to say well you had all season but my experience is that 34 games is a very short time when you have that many young players.

"In the NBA, 34 games is not even half the season. I think we have made progress but we still have a long way to go too. I think we have things that we are encouraged about. I am glad we made this series competitive and it went to the wire again, but this one we gave back tonight.”

Count Indiana Hall of Fame coach Lin Dunn as a believer in the Mystics potential and promise.

“This is an awfully young team,” Dunn said of the Mystics. “Except for Kara Lawson, they’re almost babies in some ways.

"You got [Hartley and Dolson] playing an awful lot of minutes. You got Ivory that’s still a young player," she noted.

" Mike [Thibault] has done a great job. They could have easily stolen that game from us tonight. You have to give him credit with what he’s doing with a very young team and I give him credit for letting them all play.

"He lets them play through their mistakes, which is something I don’t think I could do. He’s more patient than I am.”

Washington displayed plenty of heart in storming back from a nine-point third quarter deficit and a pair of early four-point holes early in overtime.

While their effort would have beaten a lesser team, the experienced Fever just didn’t crumble thanks to Tamika Catchings’ 26-point performance and the all-around brilliance of Briann January, who scored 13 points and handed out seven assists.

So the Mystics may be headed home sooner than expected, but they are also better and stronger for the experience of competing against the Fever in two tight games decided late.

They will return and continue climbing. Lawson made it clear that experience wasn’t the reason that the Mystics lost.

“We don’t look at our youth as a reason why we lost tonight, but we do look at it as what a bright future our group has,” Lawson said. “All of our young players are positive, hungry and really want to be good in this league.

"As a veteran on this team, I am excited to play with them for a little bit and then I’ll be excited to watch them when I am done playing.”

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

WNBA Feature: Mo'ne Davis' Aspirations Impressed The Pros All the Way to the Top

( Guru's note: The following was submitted early in the week to the local chronicle but apparently never saw the light of day due to the crush of other stories. So back to you, Guru followers. :)

By Mel Greenberg

The growing legend of Taney Little League pitcher Mo'ne Davis has reached all the way to the WNBA, a place she says she aspires to play women's pro basketball in the future.

"I thought it was great," said WNBA president Laurel Richie here Sunday night here in Madison Square Garden after the New York Liberty and playoff-bound Indiana Fever helped wrap up the league's 18th regular season.

"Clearly, she's a very talented athlete. We'll see what the next couple of years hold for her and if she's ready and still interested, the league will be there for her."

Then Richie smiled and added, "But apprently, she's very good."

What won't be around in the currently group of elder veterans who will be in the stands by the time Davis could be making her WNBA debut nearly a decade from now.

Still, they're pleased over Davis' comments and several stars of both teams who have been following her exploits are pleased that what they have done has made Davis' awareness of the league possible.

"I think it's cool," Indiana All-Star Tamika Catchings, whose father Harvey Catchings played for the 76ers and several other NBA teams, said.

"I think's a tremendous opportunity for her, using the fame that she's got, and using that moment to talk about something she dreams and aspire's to be," said Catchings, a former Tennessee all-American and ongoing member of the USA Senior National Women's Team.

"It's great, not only for her but also for our league."

The Liberty's Cappie Pondexter, a former Rutgers standout who grew up in Chicago, said, "It says a lot. It just means the younger generation, they're paying attention to the best women's league in the world.

"They're interest and theyre aspiring to be here and I think it's great. I am going into my 10th season next summer and when I grew up I didn't really have anything to aspire to in the play in the NBA. So it's great that she has that."

Davis has also said she would like to play her college ball at powerful Connecticut, which has won an NCAA-record nine titles in women's play and is coached by Geno Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown.

A spokesman for the UCONN program said comments reacting to remarks such as those by Davis are not permitted under NCAA rules.

However, Liberty veteran Swin Cash, who was on several UCONN champions and is a past Olympic gold medalist, can talk.

"Hey, by then she may have to be talking to (assistant coach) Shea (Ralph)," Cash laughed.

"It makes me feel good. One -- she's from Pennsylvania, so a shoutout to Pa, I'm a Pittsburgh girl.

"And two, because she's doing all these amazing things and getting all this attention but she's very clear at what she wants at that age," Cash said.

"Baseball is fun and she's enjoying it, but she sees UCONN, she sees playing there as something she wants to do, so I am so happy to see how she's carrying herself. That's what really makes me smile."

On Monday, former Duke star Monique Currie of the playoff-bound Washington Mystics, changed her twitter avatar to Mo'ne.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

WNBA Report: Lynx Begin Defense of Title Holding Off Silver Stars

By Megan Nipe

In the first playoff round between the Minnesota Lynx and the San Antonio Stars, Minnesota, playing at home, was looking to get one game ahead in the three game series.

MVP Maya Moore, who poured in 26 points accompanied by 6 rebounds and 7 assists, and team leader Lindsey Whalen, who had a solid double-double with 10 points, 11 assists, and 7 rebounds, proved to be the driving force in the Lynx’s 88-84 win over San Antonio.

The leaders for the Stars were rookie Kayla McBride, with 23 points and 3 rebounds, and Becky Hammon who finished with 17 points and 5 rebounds

In the first couple of minutes, both teams traded baskets. It wasn’t until the Lynx went on a 6-point run and they found themselves up by five points.

For the Stars, McBride, the former Notre Dame standout, had scored all their points, including a jumper to close the gap to three midway through the first quarter.

The first timeout on the floor had the Lynx ahead by four with 4:26 left to go. Early on, Minnesota was distributing the ball and found themselves with fairly even scoring across the board while San Antonio leaned heavily on the scoring of McBride.

With just over two minutes to go in the first, Whalen subbed in and got an immediate pick-and-roll drive to the basket, bringing the audience to its feet and giving the Lynx an 18-10 lead.

Two more quick baskets from Moore gave Minnesota a ten-point lead and forced San Antonio to call the second timeout of the quarter.

The first quarter ended with the Lynx holding on to an eight-point lead at 24-16.

In the second quarter, the Stars quickly cut the lead to four when Janel McCarville’s (11 pts, 5 reb) turnover gave the Stars Danielle Adams (12 pts, 10 reb) an open layup.

Another layup by Adams cut the comfortable lead the Lynx had in the first quarter.

After a long lull in scoring, McCarville got an and-one bringing the Lynx back up five and bringing energy back to the arena.

Moore’s first three pointer came with just over 2:30 left in the half and brought the lead back to ten but the Stars refused to slow down the pace of the game, which They seemed to struggle with.

Slowly but surely, the first half proved that the Lynx controlled the pace of the game.

Even with and and-one play by McBride with 1:26 to go, the Lynx closed the half with a double-digit lead over the Stars, 40-30.

The third quarter was off to a slow start with five fouls committed between both teams in just over two minutes, but the Lynx maintained their lead.

The drive and dish that seemed to be working so well for Minnesota was not going so well for San Antonio.

With 6:44 left in the third, the Stars called a timeout as their deficit climbed to 15.

McBride was the only Star with double-digit scoring late into the third.

Moore was the Lynx leading scorer with 17 points on the night with five minutes left in the third.

A three-pointer by Adams brought the Stars within ten, but a strong power up by McCarville on the other end, killed any momentum.

With just under two minutes to play in the third quarter, San Antonio had crept their way back to a single-digit deficit and were down 56-48 as the Lynx called a timeout.

The tight lead didn’t last long. By the end of the third quarter, and a last second three pointer by Tan White (5 pts), Minnesota was back up by 12 points at 65-53.

The start of the fourth quarter was hot for the Lynx.

Quick buckets by Moore and Whalen forced the Stars to call yet another timeout in just over a minute, now finding themselves back down 15.

The timeout seemed to work for them.

With 6:30 left in the game, the Stars were only down eight points and had possession of the ball.

With that possession, Sophia Young-Malcolm (16 pts, 7 reb) made an and-one play, bringing the Stars within five.

McBride scored again for San Antonio, her third three-pointer of the game, and what was once a comfortable lead for the Lynx turned into a one-possession game with five minutes left to play.

A drive to the basket by Hammon made it the first time, since the score was 0-0, that the Stars and Lynx were tied.

The free throw she got off her and-one gave the Stars their first lead of the game since the very first basket.

With time running out, the Lynx relied on their veteran leaders to stay calm and close the game.

The lead and energy from San Antonio didn’t last long.

Good ball movement by the defending champions and maintaining a quick pace, the Lynx gained a small lead again.

With two minutes to go in the game, they were up three, and nothing made the crowd rise to their feet quite like the and-one play by Whalen.

A timeout was called by San Antonio with one minute remaining.

The Lynx held the lead at 82-77.

Regardless of San Antonio’s attempts with quick buckets and quick fouls, the Lynx made final clutch free throws in that stretch, and the game ended with a four-point win for Minnesota.

San Antonio head coach Dan Hughes knows that even with a home court advantage coming up next for the Stars, it will be a tough win for them.

“You’re going to have to take it away from Minnesota,” he said when asked about taking this playoff series.

This was evident when the Stars took their first lead of the second half and it didn’t seem to phase the Lynx.

With their tenth playoff series in four seasons, the experience of the Lynx players and leaders were key.

“We don’t give up, we don’t panic. It all comes down to getting stops,” said Minnesota’s Maya Moore.

When speaking of the focus the Lynx always seem to have, Moore expressed that their team always looks at what’s right in front of them, not what’s behind.

She reaffirms this when she says, “We’ve won this 40 minutes, and now we’ve got to move on to the next.”

The Lynx will now travel to San Antonio to play the Stars on their home court this Saturday evening.

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Guru's WNBA Draft Lottery Musings: Beginners' Luck for Seattle Delegation Yields Top Pick

By Mel Greenberg

In the WNBA when you have the talent and stay mostly, if not entirely, injury free, the league rewards you for being first, second, third and fourth in the two divisional groups and issues you one of eight shopping coupons at the completion of the regular season.

This allows you to navigate the aisles of the Nordstroms, Neiman-Marcuses, and Bloomingdales to go on a bling spree and chase the best the league has to offer in terms of rings and a championship trophy.

But when you are among the four have-nots, you get invited here on the Jersey side of the Hudson River at the NBA Studio Central across from the docks of Gotham the play the WNBA draft lottery in the shadow of nearby outlet country where the Nordstrom Rack set hangs out.

Some years you get a steal, but in others maybe you land some apparel that will either look good enough for your fanbase or worthwhile enough to make a deal with your sister teams for something more appealing.

But once you arrive here, skill or devious strategy from those who appeared to be wearing tank tops in public all summer gives way to the odds.

That's when beginners' and other forms luck created from percentages and the dropping of ping pong balls takes over.

Some would say, experience in casino operations could be useful but that produces mixed results -- a year ago it paid off for Mohegan Sun honcho Mitchell Etess, also the top executive of the Connecticut Sun who got the overall No. 1 pick and with his group used the pass to pluck Stanford star Chiney Ogwumike in the regular draft in April following a francise-worst and 2013 WNBA worst finish.

Etess said here Thursday night, the placard indicating the 2013 grand prize can still be found in his office.

This time with actually two slips of paper -- the extra being courtesy of a draft-day deal that sent former No. 1 pick Tina Charles home to her native New York in return, in part, for a Liberty first-rounder that became a lottery pick -- the results weren't as good.

The Sun suspense in the pecking order ended quickly when league front office executive Renee Brown pulled out Connecticut's two picks first in the exact order of the odds so the New York pick was actually No. 4.

"I didn't really have any expectations after last year was so exciting," Etess revealed after the broadcoast of the procedure during halftime of the Washington-Indiana playoff opener ended.

"When I saw the graphic 10 percent for the Liberty pick, 28 percent four our pick -- I wasn't surprised. I thought maybe we could move up one but when I saw the odds, the chance of getting No. 1 was very, very slim."

But chalk in a rarity held, so beginner's luck worked for Seattle Storm coach Brian Agler and new front office executive Alisha Valavanis, a former assistant athletic director at the University of California who is the team's chief operating officer.

Seattle was left standing when the Tulsa Shock, who has an ongoing history at these things of missing the grand prize after tough and worse finishes.

But for both, the real prizes would be the return of former high picks such as Seattle's Lauren Jackson, the 2001 overall pick who has missed two WNBA seasons because of commitments to her native Australia's national team and also health issues.

In the case of Tulsa, it would be the return of former overall No. 2 pick Elizabeth Cambage, who is also an Australian.

In fact it was after the automatic choice of Jackson, then at the tender age of 19 but eligible under one of the league exemptions, that the lottery was instituted.

The next year, despite the new deal, Seattle cleaned up again, taking Connecticut's Sue Bird even though the Storm did not have the best odds.

The proud recipient both times back then was coach Lin Dunn, who didn't last to see the duo success result in a title in 2004.

But Dunn, who retires at the end of this season, has done alright elsewhere, winning the 2012 title with Indiana and she was back in the playoffs again Thursday night.

Since Dunn has been with Indiana, the closest she's come to dealing in outlets is to devise strategy to get the ball in the hands of future Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings.

After Bird came aboard, Seattle went on to go to on a postseason run simmilar to Indiana's that ended this year.

The event here was new to Agler, who's own history of achievement, which is worthy of a Women's Basketball Hall of Fame invite, includes the only two titles with the Columbus Quest in 1996 and 1997 in the short-lived American Basketball League.

"When you're in position to take a Brittney Griner or a Sue Bird, you don't really control the draft," he referred to gaudier occasions in lottery history such as last year when the famous Three to See trio of Griner, Elena Delle Donne, and Skylar Diggins were up for grabs.

(Aside: Thursday night's pre-broadcast nifty media feed outnumbered the total in the room, who were Associated Press national women's basketball writer Doug Feinberg, your Guru and Kate Bennert of WNBA.com.

Next time around the grand prize will be UConn's Breanna Stewart with several others also worthy for the have-not qualifiers.

Indeed, for Agler, with the picks announced at the earliest ever enables Seattle to put the past summer behind and move forward to restore the Storm to its past performance.

Tulsa, yet to make the playoffs since taking over the franchise of the former three-time champion Detroit Shock, gained even more sentiment from the masses Thursday night.

Detroit, by the way, after the arrival of current New York coach Bill Laimbeer in 2002, pulled a worst to first in 2003, getting recently retired great Ruth Riley, the former Notre Dame all-American as a dispersal pick, and then plucking Louisiana Tech star Cheryl Ford as the overall No. 3 pick.

But Tulsa president Steve Swetoha isn't looking for sympathy because this is a place he no longer wishes to be whatever time the lottery takes place after the regular season ends.

"We're just that one more (Iplayer) away," he said, noting the rapid improvement of former Notre Dame superstar Skylar Diggins in season two this summer and the arrival of fofrmer Baylor star Odyssey Sims in April's draft.

"There might be some players (this coming collegiate season) that were under the radar and suddenly rise to the top," Swetoha said.

"It's not like four years ago when there was a need. We hope this player comes in and adds another piece to the puzzle.

We've built through the draft.

"Players we drafted two, three years ago now add another year of experience so it might be a good year to be a two."

It isn't like Tulsa was blown out of the water the last two seasons, losing a slew of close games of which a small percentage reversed would have precluded Swetoha from behing here.

"No question Liz will make our team better if she comes back. It could change the overall dynamic of what we are looking for. We are set at the guards.

"I hope I don't see these guys next year. I hope not to see these guys for a long time."

Of course, you never know when a deal not given much attention could give Tulsa the best of both worlds -- playoff pursuit of the title and perhaps such a deal here acquired here in outlet country at the same time.

As for New York not being eligible to make the short trip here from Madison Square Garden, as one league insider said, "Considering this draft and they picked up Tina Charles?

"At some point you have to believe that the move is going to pay off."

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