Women's Hoops Blog: August 2007

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Friday, August 31, 2007

Catch and Katie Smith become teammates once the W season ends and USA Basketball begins. Right now, of course, they're rivals-- or at least Indy fans believe they are: coach Laimbeer stokes the fires of the, um, rivalry by saying that for Detroit, it's just one more game.

As he knows, his team will have to play better against the Fever than they did against the Lib. Maybe it's all part of Bill's reverse-psychology setup.

Finally, someone who knows something picks Indiana-- in part because a Monday-night game three, should it take place, may not produce such a big, wild, crazy Shock crowd.
Voepel weighs in on the controversial finish.
Stunning ugly finish in San Antonio. The Stars had kept up with Phoenix's fast-paced, free-shooting style for most of the game, in part thanks to Sophia Young's eighteen offensive total rebounds: the home team trailed by six with 19 seconds to go.

Diana-- who had played with her usual pizzazz, and shot well-- fouled three-point ace Shanna Crossley. Oops: Crossley made all three freebies. DT then carried the ball on the next possession, and Hammon tied the game on a miracle trey with two seconds to go.

The big SA crowd went nuts. More overtime! The underdogs had a chance! But... Crossley swiped at the ball as Cappie dribbled it after the inbounds pass: intentional foul, a la Katie Douglas on Monday, not realizing the game was tied? instinctive attempt at a steal? a clear, clean attempt at the ball with no contact? Whatever really happened, Lisa Mattingly called it a foul: she blew her whistle, Pondexter headed to the free-throw line and sank both shots, and Phoenix walked out with a 102-100 win.

Cappie handled it well-- a win is a win-- but even some Phoenix fans didn't like that finale. "The whole world saw what happened," Hammon said.

Bleargh. If I were Mattingly I'd avoid San Antonio fans for, oh, the next ten years. Yes, she called what she saw, but... should the league be happy with the results?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Just in time: Pelton's preview. He picks-- yup-- Phoenix and Detroit. (Has anyone picked Indiana?)
Doug Bruno has had a role almost everywhere in women's basketball - USA Basketball, the WBL, the WBCA, the WNBA - but most of all, he is DePaul women's basketball.

He will continue that role until at least 2012; DePaul and Bruno have agreed to an extension, which will put Bruno past a quarter century of service to the Blue Demons.
The Coliseum was not just a start for future MIPs; the Charlotte Sting also had a (small but) dedicated group of fans. The Sting Reunion, hosted by Andrea Stinson and her "A Lady's Touch" organization, is next Saturday at the Grady Cole Center.

The flyer also claims appearances by Penny Moore and Vicky Bullett.
At the W's official site, Matt Wurst gets religion; Dupree somewhat tersely picks Detroit; Pilight selects the Mercury and the Shock in two apiece; and Taj, very articulate as always, defies other prognosticators and picks San Antonio, reminding us that she got all four first-round victors right.
Niki D'Andrea of the Phoenix New Times has an in depth profile of Taurasi, the Mercury and the league (hat tip caune).
The Indy Star profiles Tully, who has kept her teammates focused on defense basketball even though her brother is an Australian Army officer serving in Afghanistan.

Coach Winters: "She leaves people feeling better about themselves."
Clay picks Phoenix in three.
What will be the key match-up tonight as San Antonio takes on Phoenix?

Penny Taylor vs. Sophia Young.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Yes, it's playoff time in Mercury-land, and someone has too much time on their hands... and it's great! Oh, if only the W as a whole could get on board with stuff like this.

And in keeping with the Merc's theme, if you followed Diana during her UConn years, you might recall this theme-related classic created by Biff, the master of photoshop, in "honor" of a particularly turnover-prone game.
Raise your hand, please, if you expected, at any point in May, any of these events:

1. The Liberty would make the postseason this year.

2. The Lib would beat the Shock twice in reg-season play, then take last year's champs to three games in the playoff series.

3. Of the seven-game season series, three would go to overtime.

4. The last and most important of the seven-- the elimination game-- would not only go to overtime, but get decided by one point.

5. The Shock would score just 23 before halftime, miss almost every jump shot until the fourth quarter, get no points from Pierson-- and still win.

Now it's all true. In a game that often hurt to watch-- and must have hurt more to play-- the Shock ground out an extraordinarily physical, low-scoring win on a Swin Cash layup. McCarville missed the free throw that would have led to the second overtime-- but sank the field goal that led to the first one. Fans will be talking bout it for quite a while.

"We couldn't keep them off the boards at the end," explained Patty Coyle, correctly. "We had to go zone to stop Nolan, and when you go zone, you give up rebounds."

Both teams also gave up lots of bruises. Games involving Detroit seem uncommonly hard to officiate-- and this one got physical, and personal, even for them. McCarville and Ford, in particular, went at it all night-- Ford's no-call elbow jab to McCarville's midsection (which kept Janel on the bench for much of the third quarter) might have been the decisive play of the game.

Then again, Pierson's questionable last-second foul, which sent McCarville to the free-throw line, might have seemed decisive had McCarville made both freebies... Barb Farris missed a clear layup that (had everything else gone exactly the same) would have given NY a two-point win... Coach Coyle, whose team (except for Moore and McCarville) probably has less stamina than the Shock's athletes, used an eight-player rotation, while Detroit used ten... Katie Smith, abysmal for 35 minutes, kept her focus and found her stroke at the end... Tiff Jackson had as many rebounds as Ford, in half as many minutes, but sat (she had back spasms) during OT... and that's why most historians hate monocasual explanations. Fans should reject them too.

The Lib's season is over-- and it was a good one: as long as they don't forget how to play their defense, they should have more success next year.

As for the defending champs, they've needed two end-of-game plays to scrape past a team most observers believed would get crushed. And the Fever-- unlike the Lib-- can rebound; they've also got playoff experience, which the Lib lacked. If the Shock play like this against Indiana, and the refs call the series in any way but very loose, the Fever will be favored heavily. (And that's probably exactly what Bill wants to hear.)
Where does pilight find such bloggers as these admirable ones? I bet it's here.

(Also, how neat is it that a first-time fan got so emotionally into the Silver Stars that she had to close her eyes for the last field goal? Closing your eyes for the last free throw, I can see.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

ESPN's Caple-- not a regular women's basketball writer-- declares his love for the Storm... and predicts that neither the Storm nor the Sonics will move.

On the other hand, rumor has it that Storm'n'Sonics sleazeball lead owner Clay Bennett all but told team employees to pack their bags. The mayor of Oklahoma, as you might expect, denies everything.

If the Sonics leave, will the Storm then go up for sale? (Don't trust Bennett when he calls the teams indivisible. For that matter, don't trust him when he calls one plus one two.)

And: can the city of Seattle make both teams stay until 2010? Mayor Greg Nickels tells the SeaTimes he might try it.

City Attorney Tom Carr, speaking carefully: "We're in as good a position as a city can be to hold a sports tenant to a lease."
Clay continues his campaign to fire Anne Donovan.
From Paul, a veritable cornucopia of miscellaneous 2007 statistics. (Did you know that Erin Thorn holds this year's record for minutes played without committing an offensive foul? Or that Yo and TSB tied for the most three-second violations this year?)
We didn't see any games over the weekend (we were in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania-- long story) so we were glad to get home in time for game three of the Sun vs. Fever series.

Holy cow. Indy took a while to get going. In fact, they spotted the Sun a 22-point lead.

Then the Fever's defense showed up-- what a defense!-- and the Sun's starters got tired. (Good thing for Indy the Sun now has almost no bench.)

By halftime the Sun lead was twelve. One quarter later? Still twelve. Two minutes after that? Sixteen, thanks to Whalen.

But with a minute to go, Indy led by one: the Sun had blown another fourth quarter lead.

And that was when things really got bizarre. First, Le'Coe Willingham sank an outside jumper-- the kind you give her, since she rarely makes them-- to give the Sun a one-point lead.

Then Catchings made free throws to put her team back up by three, Douglas missed a desperation trey with nine seconds to play, and... Sheri Sam, her mind somehow in fast-break mode, made a dangerous pass in her own court: a swift steal put the ball in the hands of Nykesha Sales, who hadn't scored, and barely shot, all night.

Sales for three! Overtime! But-- Douglas didn't realize what had happened, or else thought Sales scored only two: she fouled Catch immediately once Indy had the ball in bounds, and Catchings made-- again-- two key free throws.

Game over! Indy wins! But-- Douglas took the ball the length of the court and made a last-second layup, atoning for her error and forcing yet more overtime after all.

Indy won. Catch and Whit combined for 54: when it was all over, they had led their defense-minded team to the largest comeback in WNBA playoff history. (The previous record came in the only playoff game the Lynx have ever won.)

"In the fourth quarter, they got the stops," said Douglas. "Obviously, this one hurts."

Graham Hays gets it right: both teams have stars, but the Fever got much more from their role players-- and looked more like a team.

Right now it's time to celebrate in Feverland. Their fans have waited a while. But-- can teamwork beat Detroit?

UPDATE: Helen points out that our last sentence may have ensured a New York win tonight. And that, of course, was our intent all along.

UPDATE, AGAIN: Clay examines the game ably for Full Court subscribers. (Nutshell version: thumbs up on Catchings, DeForge, and Sam; thumbs down on Whitmore, Thibault, Douglas and Whalen [!]-- but he has more than that to say.)
Would it be a repeat of the Sun-Fever game earlier in the night? The Silver Stars took a commanding 20 point lead, only to see the Monarchs come back to take their own lead with just over a minute left in the game. This time, the team that built the big lead hung on to get the win and advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Sophia Young was a huge part of the Silver Stars strong start and finished with a game high 26 points. Nicole Powell and Kara Lawson would not let their team go down without a fight. Powell scored 18 of her 20 points in the second half and Lawson hit key shots down the stretch.

But it was also Powell who left Vickie Johnson on the play that put San Antonio up for good. "It's not a decision that any basketball player wants to make," said Powell. "I just ... obviously it wasn't the right decision. Maybe I could have faked and gotten back. It (stinks) really bad."

Finding Johnson wide open under the basket with the perfect pass was Becky Hammon. Said Johnson: "It was just a great play, really."

“They had players make plays,” Jenny Boucek said. “I don’t know that we could have done much different. I couldn’t be any more proud of my team. (San Antonino) made one more play. They earned it.”

Everyone wants to know what Yolanda Griffith's next move will be, but the veteran said "Right now everything is in the air. I'm in the moment right now. I can't make that decision. I'm going to take some time and clear my head. I need to look at the future, look for what this team might need."

The Sac Bee's Melody Gutierrez also makes a note of the attendance in San Antonio. But the Silver Stars success is helping to attract new fans.
Women's basketball was represented last night at the U.S. Open ceremony honoring Althea Gibson.

Sheila Johnson, Lynnette Woodard and Cynthia Cooper were among the parade of athletes, politicians, business women, and artists recognized for following the footsteps of Gibson.

As part of the 50th anniversary of Gibson's national title, she was inducted into the U.S. Open Court of Champions. Yes, it was too little and too late but still necessary. A lot of people, including Roger Federer, were not aware of who Gibson was.

Monday, August 27, 2007

There have been several great performances in the playoffs so far, but perhaps none is more impressive than the Fever's Anna DeForge. "I don't know what it is. But whatever she's taking, she needs to keep taking it until the end, until we win a championship," teammate Tamika Catchings said.

As for DeForge, “I definitely don't want to jinx myself,” she said Sunday. “If I had the potion, I'd use it every game. Some games are better than others.”
Big news for UConn fans. A couple of days after the top in-state player orally committed to the program comes the news that Elena Delle Donne will also be a part of the 2008 class of recruits.
Voepel examines the X-factors in tonight's Monarchs-Silver Stars showdown. None may be bigger than Marie Ferdinand-Harris.
The Shock survived another gutsy performance by the young Liberty squad with a tight 76-73 victory.

Chery Ford returned to the starting line-up and Plenette Pierson returned to her important 6th person role off the bench and both made huge plays down the stretch to help the Shock hold on. A 17 point lead looked like it might be enough for the defending champs, but the Lib Kids fought back to tie the game at 71 with under three minutes left.

Ford's lay-up with 44 seconds left on a perfect pass from Swin Cash put the Shock up for good at 75-73. Ford's physical presence helped her team dominate points in the paint and rebounding. Yet, the Liberty still had their chances to tie or win the game. A shot clock violation, a missed Liberty defensive rebound and two Shock defensive stops helped ensure a game three.

Pierson came up especially big in the last two defensive stops for the Shock. "We thought they were going to go for a 3, but they came inside of our paint," said Pierson of the final minutes. "We've been known all year to stop people that come inside our paint. I just took it upon myself to do whatever was necessary to get a stop."

The Shock had a balanced offensive attack, while Shameka Christon and Janel McCarville once again came up big for the Liberty, especially in their run.

They had a chance to win the series," said Laimbeer of the Liberty. "Now, it's our turn to win the series. We started the game at a fever pitch, and in the first half were relentless. In the second half we had a little lull and you can't do that."
One playoff series is decided as the Mercury held off a late Storm rally to claim a 95-89 win.

In the third quarter, it looked like game two might be a repeat of first one for both teams. Phoenix capitalized on early turnovers from Seattle and led by as many as 22. But this time, the Storm got some defensive stops and fought back to tie the game at 85 with just under three minutes left in the game.

And then Diana Taurasi answered with a dagger and put her team up again, this time for good. Her coach described the play. “It was the end of the play,” Paul Westhead said. “We tried to go inside to Penny Taylor, and it didn’t work out so it got kicked back to her. D (Taurasi), the tenacious opportunist that she is, she let it fly. Nothing but net.”

The Big Three once again led the Mercury attack, this time Cappie came out on top with 25 points. Lauren Jackson got a few more shot attempts for the Storm in this game, but was hampered by foul trouble down the stretch. Sue Bird played one of her best offensive games of the season with 21 points and 6 assists.

"We did give it a run at the end," Betty Lennox said. "Time just ran out on us. We gave ourselves an opportunity." Jackson added that losing was "Yeah, a huge disappointment. But I think Phoenix is a better team, and they definitely demonstrated that throughout the series. They played unbelievable basketball, and you can't fault them, really."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Oh, Nike, what can't you do? In their latest campaign highlighting female athletes, Nike gets Mia Hamm to shout her own praises and even shows Taurasi in her Adidas Mercury uniform.
If you were hoping for a repeat of the dramatic triple overtime game on Thursday night in Connecticut, you might be disappointed. But Fever fans are no doubt enjoying the performance of their team in a resounding 78-51 win over the Sun to force game three.

The Fever took control of the game early and never looked back. Once again, Anna DeForge was the top scorer in the game with 26 points. But as important as that was to the win, Graham Hayes points out how Tamika Catchings can impact a game. "One of the great things about this team all season is the tenacity that we have shown after losses," Catchings said. "This is a situation of your back is against the wall, and the only way you're able to stay afloat is to win."

With both teams facing elimination in the next game, it will be intersting to see how they both respond. The Sun's starters could not get anything done in Saturday's game and most did not play in the fourth quarter. But as Mike DiMauro points out, the Sun may have the Fever right where they want.

"It's the playoffs and you have to find a stroke and find a way to win," said Nykesha Sales. "I don't blame it on fatigue, I don't blame it on anything else. It's just not that time to do that. You won't get that out of me. But they just played a lot harder and a lot more aggressive."
Game two of the Monarchs-Silver Stars series was almost a complete reversal from game one. This time - San Antonio was the agressor, dominated the boards, and got big contributions from their bench. It resulted in a convincing 86-61 victory.

Becky Hammon set the tone for her team in the first half and finished with a game high 20 points. Marie Ferdinand-Harris was a huge spark off with the bench on both ends of the floor and every Silver Star scored.

Rebekkah Brunson was the one constant for the Monarchs as she led her team with 18 points and 8 rebounds. But Nicole Powell did not repeat her fine performance from game one. She was held to six points on 1-9 shooting. "We got our butts kicked in every aspect of the game," Monarchs coach Jenny Boucek said. "San Antonio outplayed us."

According to columnist Richard Oliver, about the only negative for San Antonio is that more people were not in the stands.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Phoenix did what they have done well all season - run, shoot and score. But they also played good defense, especially on Lauren Jackson, and were even in the rebounding. This all contributed to the Mercury's 101-84 win. They are the only top seed to win on the road in the four playoff games. Maybe their locker room decorating helped too.

The Big Three from Phoenix combined for 65 points and the Mercury forced 18 costly turnovers from the Storm. They changed up their defense enough to limit Jackson to only 10 shot attempts. Too often, the Storm settled for outside shots rather than getting the ball inside to Jackson. Iziane Castro Marques, Betty Lennox and Jackson were the top scorers for the Storm, but the two perimeter players took nearly half of their teams shots in the game. "Obviously, I didn't do anything right tonight," Lennox said. "I'm serious. I guess I took too many shots and gave up 10 points [to Kelly Miller]. I didn't do anything good at all."

Anne Donovan commented: "We shouldn't have that much trouble getting Lauren the ball if we keep focus and Lauren's working on her cuts," she said. "It shouldn't be that big of a deal."

How the Storm adjust tomorrow is one of the questions to be answered. The other one on everyone's mind is whether that was the last Storm game in Seattle. “When we got that standing ovation at the end of the game, I thought I was going to cry,” said Jackson. “It was one of those moments.”
Game one in the Shock-Liberty series was a rout, but maybe not in the way you would expect. New York broke open the game in the third quarter and rolled to a 73-51 romp.

Great ball movement, timely three point shooting from several players, and solid defense were keys for the Liberty to go on runs of 18-0 and 16-0 in the second half and never look back. The Liberty won nearly every statistical category and twice held the Shock to nine points in a quarter.

Conversely, the Shock looked like a dysfunctional team on the court. Cheryl Ford and Swin Cash returned to action, but really only could use the opportunity to try to get comfortable on the court again. Deanna Nolan, Shannon Johnson and Ivory Latta were the only players that had any real success offensively. Laimbeer lamented "We didn't play basketball. We didn't want it, basically. We didn't want it at all, and that was a little bit discouraging. We didn't have any desire to compete. We weren't cohesive as a ball club coming into this game. They have to find it in the next day and a half, and I hope they do."

As Voepel points out, one catalyst for the success for the Liberty is their emotional leader Janel McCarville. The MIP winner did not get as many of her shots to fall last night, but her presence was pivotal in the two big Liberty runs. McCarville also opened things up for Shameka Christon, who played one of best all around games this year and finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds. "It's a playoff," Christon said. "Everybody has to step it up a notch, that's what my teammates and coaches told me to do."

As good as the players, coaches and fans feel about the performance from the young team they know the series is not over. "All we did tonight was what we were supposed to do – protect home court," Patty Coyle said. "It's one game, that's all it is."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Stever reminds us of this great profile of Janel McCarville from 2004.
As the playoffs continue tonight in the East, Patty shows her sense of humor. "I'm sure (Laimbeer) thinks we suck, but that's fine." But Bill does give the Lib some credit - "They are young and energetic. They move well. They penetrate and kick out for three-balls -- those are pretty much their strengths. They'll run a little bit, no question about that, and they will be well prepared."

One of the most difficult challenges for the Liberty tonight will be to slow down Deanna Nolan, the Shock's reluctant superstar.

Over in the West, Clay does not give the Storm much of a chance to get past the Mercury. One of the keys for the Storm will be frustrating Taurasi. Scott Bordow found out that Taurasi may not know who won the title the last two years, but she is ready to lead her team.

While the Storm could be distracted about their possible relocation out of Seattle, the Mercury could be concerned about their coach moving to Seattle when the season ends. For now though, Westhead's team is enjoying what they have. "I don’t think enough coaches give players that kind of pull, but he’s been around for so long and had some of the greatest players, and that means a lot,” Taurasi said. “He’s as consistent a coach as I’ve ever had. No matter what happens, he’s always the same, and it trickles down to us.”
The Fever-Sun game had everything you could want (clutch shots, solid defense) and although it had some moments of serious ugly (bad shot selection, turnovers), it was a fantastic game. But unless you were at the casino, live in Indiana or Connecticut, or got up early this morning to see the replay, you did not see the whole thing. Maybe the Little League team from Japan has some new fans now.

Tamika Catchings and Ashja Jones both returned from injury and played (a lot). Connecticut looked to be in control of the game. With a few minutes left in the third quarter, they had a 17 point lead. But the Fever started chipping away and Anna DeForge got hot at the right time. She hit three pointers to force the first and second sessions of overtime and tied a career high with 31 points.

Yet despite the heroics from DeForge and Catchings and the rest of their team, the Sun found a way to eventually win, 93-88, in the first triple overtime game in playoff history. "I've never been involved in anything like that before," Jones said. "I don't even know. Three overtimes, never. How does that happen?" Lindsay Whalen added, "There was a point there, after the second overtime where I didn't know if it was going to end or not."

Both teams had several players step up at different moments in the game. On the winning side, Katie Douglas struggled from the floor and missed a couple of opportunities to win the game in regulation and in the first and second overtime. But she had a playoff record eight steals. Whalen did not get going offensively until overtime, but had nine assists in regulation and like Catchings, nearly had a triple double. Nykesha Sales and Jones were the top scorers for the Sun with 25 and 20 points. And both Sales and Kristen Rasmussen hit key shots in the final overtime that saw the Sun close the game with a 10-0 run.

Tamika Whitmore, who had 24 points and 14 rebounds, also suggests that the officials came up big for the Sun. "It seemed like it was eight against five the whole night," Whitmore said "We've just got to do what we've got to do when we go home."
Cherelle George denies that she did anything wrong. She says Merriweather didn't write a paper for her.

But then there are those emails. Like the one where Cherelle said to Katrina, "Stop cakin' and finish the paper...dang!"

The first two postseason awards of the season are expected to be handed out later today.

Defensive player of the year to Lauren Jackson.

Most improved player to Janel McCarville.

Congrats to both.
Sacramento demonstrated why they have made the last four conference finals and showed off their playoff mode basketball in a 86-65 victory over San Antonio.

The Monarchs built a big lead in the first half, but the Silver Stars fought back to trail by only four at halftime. But in the second half, SASS could not match the intensity of the Monarchs as they pulled away.

The Monarchs are usually known for their defensive energy, but they benefited from several strong offensive performances. Nicole Powell led all scorers with 22 points. She and Rebekkah Brunson had career playoff highs. And Kara Lawson added 16 points off the bench. Sacramento almost doubled up San Antonio on the boards.

But as good as the team and their fans may feel about their performance, they know they have a tough test ahead tomorrow. "We aren't going to celebrate. We can't," Yolanda Griffith said.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Coach Thibault jokes that Lindsay Whalen "has taken on the bad part of my personality" since moving from Minnesota. (Well, the assertiveness is a bit more New England...)
There's no doubt of the economics behind the lack of coverage of women's basketball (wrapped, sometimes, around a core of misogyny), but there IS a cure: win.

So guess who sent columnist Frank Litsky up to Tarrytown to do a profile of the Liberty's Janel McCarville? Yesirree! Ye Olde Grey Lady!

Remember: You, too, can stop under-coverage: Click and Read. Email and Encourage (sports@nytimes.com)
We know Phoenix is ready for the playoffs. So to is their leader, Diana Taurasi.

USA Today breaks down all of the series in the West and the East.
The Courant's Sun preview has the best lede ever. (Sigh.)
Neat surprise: the Boston Globe-- which is now our hometown paper-- takes a look at Connecticut's prospects: check out the long conversation with Katie Douglas.

The Sun's former hometown paper remembers when Douglas, Sales, et al. played there. (Via pilight.)
Jenny Boucek's personal plan for the playoffs: get out of the way.

"The teaching is already done," she explains. "It's like you taught them, and now they see what they can do."

Also in Sacramento, Voisin encourages players to compare their new coach to their old one. Fair enough-- but, mostly, they don't.
The New York Times comes through with a nice profile on Janel McCarville.
The Courant's Lori Riley lays out game times and TV information for the first round-- and picks: the Shock, the Sun, the Merc and the Stars.
SI previews the playoffs pastes together the quotes from a conference call-- and offers casual fans a chance to learn what's up before they tune in for the playoffs. Which, come to think of it, is what we're doing here too.

Coach Winters, whose team just can't seem to beat the Sun: "The past is ancient history." Catch says her foot still hurts but she will play.

Yo Griffith won't discuss possible retirement-- she wants to talk about beating the Stars.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Basket Cases do like next year's Maryland schedule: nonconference opponents include Oklahoma, Rutgers, Middle Tennessee State, OSU, UCLA, and Temple. Oh, and maybe LSU.
Another blog I should have been reading all along. Yes, they are allowed to gloat about this year's favorite for Most Improved Player-- especially if they really come up with a playoffs drinking game. (Thanks, pilight.)
More on Purdue's punishment: From the NCAA and from the Indy Star.
The NCAA decision on Purdue has been made and it is not good for the Boilermakers.
Phoenix: Are you ready for the playoffs?????
Purdue to be penalized today?
Clay says if Catchings comes back at 100%, Indiana could get past the Sun-- but she won't, and Connecticut will advance.
Time to speculate about playoff matchups, which means-- even more than most years-- speculate about who will return from injury. USA Today runs a misleading headline; the Courant's Lori Riley catches up with the medical status of Catchings, and Jones, and Ford.

Phoenix fans look instead at the psychological status of Diana Taurasi, whose temper got her suspended in June: she says she's ready to win now.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Maybe Cherl Ford will come back for the playoffs: she'll practice today, anyway. "The knee is progressing fine," says coach Laimbeer.
USA Today's Oscar Dixon covers the problems of overseas play, which won't be fixed until the W raises its pay scale (which the league may, or may not, be able to do).

"You don't know how much longer your knees are going to hold up," says DeLisha Milton-Jones. "Now that players have that fresh on their mind, they're really thinking, Do I want my summers off or do I want to take the winters off? What is more lucrative for me? And if you look at it from that standpoint, the scale kind of tips towards Europe."
DiMauro thinks the league should have changed the officials assigned to Sunday's Stix-Sun game because coach Thibault didn't like them. (I didn't like them either-- but what a precedent that would have set.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Well, sure, we knew the Lib wouldn't get any playoff love from The Experts, but that hasn't stopped Liberty fans from throwing down the gauntlet. They ask Bill, "Are you skeeeered?"

The Experts also reveal their end-of-season-awards picks, and SPM's Linda Edwards does too.
Three other games, none with playoff consequences, at least two (the NBATV ones) with good, loud crowds:

1. The Fever beat the Shock in Indy behind a big fourth quarter from Whitmore. Detroit played its usual scorers-- but sparingly: Tausha Mills started, Ayanna Walker played almost half the game.

2. The Mercury outpaced the Monarchs in Phoenix despite Brunson's 24 and 14; the home crowd saw the Merc's fifth win in a row, and plenty of minutes from the bench.

Coach Westhead is happy-- if not satisfied-- with the way his speed demons are playing: "I always think you can go faster," he said. Then he quoted Ogden Nash. Who knew?

3. Swoopes didn't play after all, but her team still defeated the Sparks in L.A. Thompson looked great, and said-- again-- that she might leave the W forever in order to extend her (far more lucrative) Euro-career.

Thus ends the worst season in the history of the L.A. franchise (had Houston lost, it would have been Houston's worst). "We're only one player away," Lisa Leslie told fans after the game, "and... I promise you I'll be back."
Well, no, it wasn't pretty -- but when you're finishing up an emotional roller coaster of a season, the playoffs are just within your grasp, and it's your fifth game in eight days, you can understand rubbery legs and shots that dribble devilishly off the rim.

Liberty fans resisted the urge to run a case of Red Bull down to the bench, and their team did a serious fourth-quarter gut check to pull out a 58-52 victory over the under-manned, and yet still feisty, Chicago Sky. The victory means the Lib, the second youngest team in the league, are back in the playoffs.

“Y’all can be honest: Who thought we were going to be sitting here?” said Liberty coach Pat Coyle, suddenly revealing her southern (?!?!) roots as she noticed a real, live, in the flesh New York Times reporter in the post-game conference room.

Well, the Lib almost weren't there. Despite Candice Dupree being saddled with foul-trouble, the Sky rode Dominique Canty to a seven-point advantage at the end of the third. It took a revitalized Janel McCarville (10 of her 14pts were in the fourth) and timely shooting, defense and rebounding by Shameka Christon (15pts, 6 rebounds) to overcome the deficit and send the 9,500 Madison Square Garden fans home happy. Their door prize? Detroit in the first round.

While New York's appearance in the playoffs in a "rebuilding year" has surprised many, we would be remiss to send the Sky home without acknowledging the enormous leap forward the franchise has made in just its second season.

First: Chas Melvin, it was good to see you on the bench, smiling and with both eyes intact. Second, Chicago's got some fine young talent, and it's clear Bo Knows Coaching. What a great combo for the future.

Welcome to the Eastern Conference -- you sure made this season a lively one. Now let the playoffs begin!
The Lynx ended the 2007 season with the same record as the 2006 season. But this time they finished the season on a winning streak and more hope for 2008. Playing against the Silver Stars reserves, the Lynx used a huge third quarter to cruise to a 81-55 win.

Shanna Crossley scored a game high 20 points and Sandora Irvin added 10 points and 14 rebounds. Kristen Mann led Lynx four players in double figures with 19 points. Noelle Quinn set a new team record for most assists in a game (14) and tied a team record for assists in a season (148) and Tamika Raymond was perfect from the floor and pulled down 11 rebounds.

"We thought we would win more games," said Roger Griffith. "We thought we would be right there on the edge of a playoff spot. But the way this team fought, the way some of our rookies improved as the year went on, we really feel like we are a player or two away from being a very good basketball team."

Finding an intimidating presence on the inside is the top priority for the Lynx in the off season. Adding a savvy veteran leader is also important and may be even more critical if Svetlana Abrosimova played her last game in a Lynx uniform.
Mo Currie made the biggest shot of her pro career to lift her Mystics over the Sun with a tenth of a second to go: her turnaround three on a broken play off Beard's wild pass disappointed the casino crowd but kept her team's playoff chances alive for a few more hours.

The game had no playoff consequences for Connecticut, but it sure didn't feel that way. The Stix got physical, Scott Hawk got a technical, Sales got a bloody lip, Katie Douglas got hit in the head (but later returned to the floor), and Lindsay Whalen got to show the ABC-TV crowd her talent for astonishing, something-from-nothing drives to the basket.

That trio combined for 57 points: no other Connecticut player scored much, though-- Asjha sat again (she'll be back for the playoffs), and the Sun came out after halftime limp and confused, giving up an eleven-point lead.

Coach Thibault got upset again about the referees, but Whalen got it right: "you can't come out in the second half like we did and expect to win," she said. "You can't do that."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

As a reminder, you can still get tickets for the USA Senior Women's team against Australia. Sunday, Sept. 16th they play down in Trenton (online or charge by phone at 800-298-4200). Wednesday, September 19th, they're up at the Casino in Connecticut (tickets online). The US is preparing for the FIBA 2007 Americas Championships that start September 26.

Cool story: When the Casino date was officially released, an announcement was made during the Sun game that night. Seems anyone who wanted tickets could get "early access" and purchase them that night. Spoke with a couple of people who thought, "Great! I'll just grab a couple right quick," thinking not many would take advantage. Wrong! Line at the box office snaked all over the place...

Cool story. And *exploding light bulb* Smart Marketing.

Wonder what any of the other W teams have done to celebrate and support their Team USA players? Heck, with the W offices being in New York, and Val Ackerman having been the prez. of the W, and now a big mucky-mucky in USABBall, can you imagine if someone had had the foresight to send out an email to Liberty season subscribers, maybe inviting them to a game, organizing a bus with, say, T-Spoon as our "USA Basketball guide?"

Heck, PRACTICES are being held in Manhattan -- how about an open practice, like last October (read all about it!) down in North Carolina. I mean, heck, Jess Davenport IS still listed on the USA roster....

One can dream, can't one? Heck.

Oh, and hey, if you wanted to play this year's edition of "Count and Compare with the New York Times" coverage of the women's and men's national team, it's already Men: 957 words, Women: 0.
The Lib will make the playoffs if DC loses in Connecticut (1pm Eastern, ABC) or if the Liberty beat Chicago (4pm, MSG/ NBATV). McCarville says they're "taking care of business."

DC needs both a Lib loss and a victory over the Sun. "We're anxious," admits coach Rollins.

The Basketcases find an odd photo and hope.
The Courant's Lori Riley on Asjha Jones' good year. "She proved to me a year ago she was ready," coach Thibault says.

Also in the Courant: Nykesha Sales talks about her recurrent injuries. Does she feel healthy all the time? Nope. Will she retire soon? Coach Thibault: "Based on the last few weeks, I think she feels rejuvenated. We'll see." Keesh had a new career high against Indiana about a week ago.
With games on TV almost all day today, why would you want to watch the Comets-Sparks nightcap (9:30pm Eastern, NBATV)? Well, there's Houston pride, of course. It may be Thompson's last game with the team-- and it may be one more chance to see Swoopes play.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Foru games last night-- we'll take them at one go:

1. The Liberty remain in control of their fate: New York opened with a 14-0 run, then played well enough for a solid win over the visiting Sun.

Kraayeveld scored 18, including four three-pointers, but left the game with hip pain after Katie Douglas landed on top of her: she looked fine in the postgame celebration, though, so we might see her back soon.

New York make the playoffs if they beat Chicago on Saturday or Washington lose to the Sun; had NY lost last night, that "or" would have been an "and."

2. When Indiana play their game, things can look ugly. Case in point: last night's Fever win in San Antonio-- neither team scored over 60, and both sides had more turnovers than assists.

The Stars, who shot 35%, also hit a season low in points scored. "It was a defensive battle," said coach Hughes. (Well, what would you expect him to say?)

The win, with Connnecticut's loss, secures the second seed (that is, first-round home-court advantage) for Indiana. "That's the goal that we had," Whitmore said.

3. The Merc sure played their game at Arco Arena: Diana scored 32, and her team tallied over 100 again. "We all have to look in the mirror after a night like that," Monarchs coach Boucek said.

The Phoenix win, and the San Antonio loss, lock up top seed for the Mercury in the West; the SASS lock up second, with Sacramento third.

4. In a game with no playoff implications whatsoever, but lots of emotion anyway, the Storm throttled the Sparks in Seattle. Jackson (back from Australia) and Castro-Marques combined for 56 points.

The Storm looked ready for the Mercury-- and the Merc in first place should be good news for Storm fans: LJ & company have defeated Phoenix twice, but lost every match with the Stars.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Catch speaks: "Right now I'm feeling pretty good."
How did we miss this Liberty blog for almost the entire season?

Click the above link later today, and with luck, you can read even more about last night's big road win.
Okay -- this will make a great "What I did over my summer vacation" essay. Tennessee assistant coaches Holly Warlick and Nikki Caldwell are hopping on their Harleys and riding cross country to raise money for breast cancer awareness.

All funds raised along the 2,700-mile journey, being billed as Cruisin’ for a Cause, will benefit The Wellness Community and other breast cancer charities. The two will depart Berkeley on Sept. 2 following a rally on Sept. 1 that precedes the football Vols’ first game of the season against California. Their route, being sponsored by FedEx/Kinkos, takes them through Las Vegas; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Amarillo, Texas; Dallas; Little Rock, Ark.; Memphis and Nashville.

During the 11-day trip, rallies will be held in Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Dallas, Little Rock, Memphis and Nashville. A celebration concert and rally will welcome Warlick and Caldwell back to Knoxville on Sept. 12.

Businesses or individuals interested in supporting Cruisin’ for a Cause will have the opportunity to do so through sponsorships or pledges. Pledges may be made at any of the rallies or through the Web site – www.VolunteersCruisin.com.

Both will have their laptops with them, so expect "On the Road" reports...and if we're lucky, they'll find the time to check in with WHB.

Ride safe, you two. Too bad my bike has pedals...
Houston fans saw a lousy end to a troubling season: the already-eliminated Comets began their last home game with a seven-point first quarter.

The home team went on to lose, unsurprisingly, to the also-eliminated Sky. Tina Thompson, in what may have been a farewell performance, scored 33, matching her season high: something good, at least, for the season-low home crowd.
As noticed by stever, it is reported that Pokey Chatman will be exiled to Russia.
Nancy predicted the Liberty to land in 5th place in the East, Mechelle 6th. Both could still be right, but New York is keeping it interesting.

In a game that saw 16 lead changes and 13 ties, Shameka Christon's free throws in the final seconds, and the decision to make the switch on defense against Alana Beard as she took the final shot of the game, sealed a 73-72 Liberty win.

The Lib had 3 players in double figures, Christon, Kraayeveld (6-10/15pts) and the very consistent McCarville (8-11, 18pts.) They didn't turn the ball over (as much), and mangaged to "contain" Beard (19pts). Milton-Jones played the entire game (21pts), and Sanford continues to surprise (4-8, 14pts).

This continued the East's improbable, and topsy-turvy, season. It's been fun, in an agonzing, heart-pounding, maalox chewing sort of way, but it's all drawing to a close. If the Lib win out, they're in the playoffs. If they lose one-of-two, they'll need the Mystics to lose.

End Note: Some officials think that the speed, physicality and aggressiveness of the game (not to mention the size of the players) makes the "ball out-of-bounds" call one of the hardest to make.

They missed one last night in the final of the game: replays clearly showed Alana losing the ball off her body (she, too, knew it), but the refs called it Mystic ball, setting up the final attempt. Ah, the basketball gods are fickle...
It was a night of milestones in Minneapolis last night as the Lynx took advantage of the Shock's seven player line-up to capture their ninth win of the season.

Svetlana Abrosimova scored a season high 25 points and became the 51st person in the league to score 2,000 career points. Seimone Augustus added 19 and broke her own single season scoring record for the Lynx. Noelle Quinn added to her impressive assist numbers on the season. While she may not catch Teresa Edwards' record on Sunday, she will be close.

Because of the limited number of available players, the Shock played zone defense for the entire game. The Lynx answered by taking 27 three point attempts - connecting on 13.

And in a nice treat for Lynx fans, they were able to be there for Katie Smith's 6,000 career point as a professional - many of which she scored when she played for Minnesota.

Tim Leighton of the Pioneer Press talked to Smith, Bill Laimbeer and Roger Griffith about the trade that sent Smith to Detroit. "At the time we made the trade, it made a lot of sense for us,'' Griffith said. "Since then, we have moved on. It felt right at the time. Yes, we don't have those players we traded for, but we do have other players in those spots.'' Laimbeer added "Right, wrong or indifferent, she had pretty much run her course here in Minnesota. She is a fine player, but it was clear, with her, they weren't going to win a championship."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

TV alert: tonight's Washington-New York game may be shown on NBATV at 7pm Eastern (that is, live), rather than the Detroit at Houston Detroit at Minnesota game the website says will be shown. (We're planning to turn on the TV at 7pm and see.)

The DC-NY game has big playoff implications. The other one has none.
Whitlock v. Stringer, Round Three.

(We knew that was coming, didn't we?)
...And on the other hand:

The Women's Sports Blog - in a voice quite different from Clay's - weighs in with thoughtful analysis of Anne Donovan, the Women's National Basketball team, and coaching.
The Monarchs looked good in a comeback win over San Antonio. Almost every Sacto player contributed: Haynie's buzzer-beating third-period trey turned into the key to the game.

Like the game in Indy, this one affects the struggle for second place in the conference (i.e. home turf in the first round)."To get this game means a lot," said Yo Griffith. "It's great Monarchs basketball when we play our defense."
Nykesha Sales set a cool career high, Lindsay shot well and sank an important late field goal, and the Sun escaped from Indy with another win despite the absence of Asjha Jones, whose ankle injury isn't supposed to be serious, though she showed up with her foot in a boot.

The Sun are one game from second place in the East: you might say they own the Fever almost as clearly as... the Shock own the Sun.
Chas is healing ok from her grotesque eye-popping injury. (Warning: graphic image.)
Jeff Lippman thinks Kia Vaughn has a "very good case." I don't, in part for reasons suggested here. (But even non-meritorious lawsuits can extract a settlement, and this one probably will.)

Mike DiMauro thinks she's stupid. Aditi says that Kia is being used as a pawn, and it sounds like Coach Stringer isn't terribly happy either.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

With the playoffs approaching, .com has added blogs from players who will be competing. So far, Diana Taurasi, Katie Smith, Sophia Young, Katie Douglas and Kara Lawson have sounded off.

Also new on .com is the latest column from Matt Wurst. He discusses the biggest surprises of the season.
Houston did not play like a team who is not going to the playoffs and took advantage of key missing pieces from Detroit's front line to win 81-73.

The Shock were without Cheryl Ford and Kara Braxton. Swin Cash was limited in her minutes due to her sore back and 6th woman candidate Plenette Pierson had an uncharacteristic off night from the floor. Tina Thompson led all scorers with 25 and Michelle Snow added 13 and the Comets outrebounded the Shock.

Detroit once again got strong games from Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith, but Laimbeer regrets playing them so much. "I told them after the game I played them too many minutes, that maybe won't happen again in the next two games. I probably tried to win this game more than I should have." Those going to the Lynx-Shock game tomorrow night, may get a chance to see some creative line-ups from Detroit.
The game had no playoffs implications, but the Storm were looking to tie up the season series with the Lynx. And an 11-4 run to open the fourth quarter and better defensive effort helped Seattle get the win.

Lauren Jackson still does not feel at the top of her game after missing time last week ("We played like doo-doo, but we won.") and her team agreed it was not a pretty win. But their coach was still pleased. "When things aren't going great, shots aren't falling, the offense isn't flowing and you still come up with a win -- those are good wins," said Anne Donovan.

Despite LJ's sluggish performance, she still finished with 18 points to lead her team in scoring. Seimone continued to push Jackson for the scoring title with 28 points, but did not get hardly any scoring help outside of Ohlde and Abrosimova. Jackson had three other players join her in double figure scoring, perhaps none more important than Wendy Palmer.
Kia Vaughn sues Don Imus. Please, please, let this story die...
Catchings' left foot remains fragile: she's a question mark, not just for the WNBA playoffs, but for USA Basketball in September and beyond. "The tear is still there. It's just smaller," Catch now says.

Tamika got hurt in a game against Detroit three weeks ago: her team has gone 3-7 since, but 3-3 in their last six tries.
Not much drama left in the reg-season West? Don't tell the Sparks: mathematically eliminated already, L.A. struggled to give home fans a win behind Christi Thomas' 18 points.

Instead, L.A. lost in OT to the Silver Stars, who have both Hammon and VJ back and perhaps even healthy. "Vickie Johnson played big," said coach Hughes, whose team remains a half-game back of Phoenix for the top seed in the West.

The Sparks fall to 0-6 in one-possession or OT games since July 1: it's like they've switched karmic places, this year, with the Stars.
Five games last night, the most important in Washington, where Alana scored 18 in the fourth quarter: her team beat the Sun by one.

Nobody but Beard scored for DC in that comeback quarter, but if you're a Washington fan, who cares? Coco bothered Lindsay (5 assists but 6 turns), Teasley played through pain, and DC lowered its magic number to one.

The Sun missed out on a chance to clinch third. "Washington was beating us to those loose balls and missed shots," said Katie Douglas, who missed a buzzer-beating jumper.

More good news for the Mystics: New York lost in Chicago. The Sky came back hard after halftime, holding the visitors to a seven-point quarter. Chas Melvin had to head to the hospital after a scary poke in the eye: she's got scratches on her cornea but word is there's no long-term damage.

The Washington win means the Sky have no postseason; DC can clinch a playoff spot by beating New York tomorrow night. "Some people may see it like we're fighting for our lives," said coach Rollins, "but we're in the house -- we just have to keep the door closed."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Clay argues that Team USA needs a better coach than Anne Donovan (free section).
Imus settles with CBS and is looking to make a comeback.

My summer reading list has included Jayson William's 1999 book Loose Balls. In addition to uncomfortably foreshadowing gun-related anecdotes, Williams mentions his good relationship with Imus, who called him "nappy headed" when the ex-Net was late to an appearance.
The Guru shares his memories of working with Dr. Donna Lopiano. She is stepping down as CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation after 15 years.
Luckily for basketball fans, Mechelle's back from covering the PGA championship.

In her latest column, she writes about the Mystics, their push for the playoffs and the addition of Monique Currie and the expanded role for Nakia Sanford.
Lauren Jackson is having the best season of her career and most would agree she is the best player in the world.

But is she the MVP of this WNBA season? Her coach says “it’s a no-brainer for me – there is nothing to debate.”

There are questions though, because of how one defines valuable. "Lauren Jackson puts up big numbers, but they're a .500 ballclub," Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer said. "The most valuable player wills their team and makes their team more competitive in terms of overall record during the regular season. That hasn't happened in Seattle. "I'm not dismissing Lauren and her talents. She's the best player in the league, but this year she is not the most valuable player."

Despite that line of thinking, Maurice Brooks still has her in the top spot in his latest player rankings on .com and for Doris Burke the race isn't even close.
Like some other players with Caribbean backgrounds, Sancho Lyttle began as a young star of-- netball.
From Detroit, more info on Braxton's DUI: the arrest came almost a year ago.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Kara Braxton gets a two-game suspension after pleading guilty no contest to DUI. She'll be back for the playoffs, unless she does something else dumb or dangerous.

Is it too soon to revisit Clay's gloomy prediction?
A former Houston Comets employee claims that Hilton Koch's shop never paid her.

Best case for the league: she's upset at a misunderstanding.

Worst case: the Comets have joined the WBL. Let's hope it's the only payroll problem they've had.
Some interesting (in an unpleasant way) out of Florida Gulf Coast University.
Former Florida Gulf Coast University women's basketball assistant coach LeAnn Freeland said she was called "baby" and shown material of a sexually suggestive nature by a male colleague during her four years of working at the school.

She said she didn't complain formally to the FGCU athletic administration because "I was already familiar with the inequitable reprimands distributed among 'friends' and 'foes' of the athletics administration.
University spokesperson Susan Evans professed to be shocked. "I've never heard anything along those lines," said Evans, who among her duties was being the school's senior women's administrator from 2000-04.
The box says 11,000-plus at the Garden yesterday, and by the end of the game every single one of them was whipped into a frenzy. Why? Ask Kristie Ackert of the Daily News (thank you for your coverage!):
The Liberty already had retained possession twice on out-of-bounds plays in the final 21 seconds, so when it happened a third time, Erin Thorn knew she had to take care of the ball. With 3.3 seconds left, the Liberty guard took the inbounds pass from under the basket, backed down Detroit's Plenette Pierson and then faded back as she let loose a desperation shot. The ball hit softly off the side of the rim, bounced off the backboard and then dropped through the hoop as the buzzer sounded.
Thorn's heroics sealed the 85-84 win over the Shock (thank you New York Post (!) for your coverage), but it was a team effort, with six players scoring in double figures (thanks Newsday!).

It had been a great game to watch (thanks, Vin @ AP!): chippy (4 techs), physical (Feenstra/Braxton) vs. quick (Jackson/McCarville) in the paint, another chance to watch Deanna Nolan work her magic, and a furious 7-0 run by the Lib to end the game.

New York's victory coupled with D.C.'s loss suddenly makes the race for that final playoff spot in the East verrrrrry interesting.
In a game with two teams already eliminated from the playoff picture, it was the Sparks who continued their home court dominance over the Lynx. This was despite the fact that Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Temeka Johnson and Jessica Moore were out for family reasons or injuries.

Minnesota trailed by as many as 15 during the game and made several runs to close the gap, but L.A. always had an answer. LaToya Thomas led six players in double figures with 23 points off the bench.

The Sparks, like the Lynx, are using the remaining games to evaluate their current roster for next season. But Thomas commented, "I always play like I want to be around. It's a job. That's what we do. I was relaxed. I just played my game."
The Mystics lost a critical game in OT in Sactown. The Monarchs were without Yo and Penicheiro, both injured, but Nicole Powell went crazy, scoring 28 including 5 for 6 from outside.

Powell had been in a bad slump, shooting less than 20% over the past 5 games. "I'm glad to make something," she said.

It was sloppy down the stretch in regulation, with lots of turnovers and missed free throws. Mo Currie went to the line with 3 seconds left, down one shooting two, but made only one. In OT, the Mystics faded.

They now sit at 14-17, only a half game ahead of New York for the right to get killed by play Detroit in the playoffs. BasketCases: disappointed.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Seattle started the second half with a 18-0 run and held the Mystics to 8 points in the quarter. Washington never threatened, shooting 30% for the game. The Mystics held Lauren Jackson to 24 points, but Betty Lennox had a career best 34 points.

LJ had spent the week in Australia to be with her ill grandmother, who passed away on Friday. Lennox said, "I told (Jackson) I would carry it tonight. I just appreciate her coming back and being on the court with us." In addition to Lennox's performance, sympathies to the Jackson family were seen around the league in the form of black armbands. In addition to LJ and Bird in Seattle, the Fever's Sheri Sam and Tully Bevilaqua wore them in Detroit, and Penny Taylor had one in Phoenix.

Beard and Currie had 13 each for the Mystics, who ended a four game winning streak.
The Mercury ran rings around the Sparks: Cappie and Penny combined for 49 and the Merc improved to 5-2 in games where they scored 100+ points.

Oh, and the win made this year Phoenix's best season ever. "It's taken three months," said The Diana, but her team is "finally understanding what works."
In a playoff warm-up, the Shock secured the top spot and home-court advantage in their win over the Fever. Detroit was down ten at the half, but roared out of the intermission with a 28-9 third quarter, lead by Tweety Nolan's 14 points. Nolan would go on to finish the game with 26 points, 10 rebounds.

Katie Smith added 15 points and steadied the effort. Laimbeer said of Smith, "Her energy and her level of defense was everywhere. She guarded all five players, she rotated, she pushed the ball, she passed the ball, she shot the ball. She did everything in the second half.”

Tammy Sutton-Brown and Tamika Whitmore both fouled out. Tan White got the Fever back within a possession, but the Shock held on to the lead.

Ivory Latta got her first career start, scoring her three points 16 seconds into the game. Latta and her fellow reserves will get more time as the Shock will rest their starters this week. Swin Cash will even remain in Detroit today, missing the game in New York.

ABC/ESPN had Carolyn Peck answering questions during the game and went into the locker rooms at the half; keep that for the playoffs. The coaches had live mics; reel that in for the playoffs to only play bits during stoppages.
Houston's hopes to reach the postseason ended with a road loss to the Silver Stars. The low-scoring, close game showed off the home team's defense: Camille Little's late stop drew coach Hughes's applause. "If they had a formula to measure defense," he said, "she would be the rookie of the year."

Becky led all scorers but shot badly, while Shanna Crossley had another great night: 16 points, 4 of 7 from outside. Her hot streak has made her (with Pierson and Perkins) a contender for a sixth woman award.
Connecticut chopped and grated the Sky in Chicago. The Sun's starters ran up a 23-9 lead, coach Thibault pulled them, the Sky outplayed the reserves, and the Sun's starters then came back and made the game a sure thing.

The whole thing was over before the fourth quarter began-- so over, in fact, that some fans allege deliberate tanking. Chicago could still make the playoffs if DC and NY lose all their games.

Both teams used all eleven players; Dydek led the winners with 18, her season high. "That was the most aggressive she's been this year," coach Thibault enthused, "and people found her."

Dydek also generated a great comic moment: when a Claire Coggins trey attempt wedged itself between backboard and shot clock, officials with push brooms proved not quite tall enough to retrieve it. In another matchup, the officials might be running for ladders and stools. Instead, Margo walked over to the stanchion, took the push broom, hopped up a bit, and dislodged the basketball. Aw, shucks.