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the MSG employee (and her fabulous family) who offered me a seat with her “group” so that I could be near the two South Korean students who I escorted to their first Liberty game. She’s a two-time cancer survivor, with three young children who are GREAT company. So. Much. Fun. And so much generosity of spirit. A classic WNBA experience.

Of course, it helped that the Liberty won. Not to be a party pooper, but when it takes the ferocious effort of the soon-to-be-retiring Swin to inspire your team to to a close win over a struggling team... I’m not impressed.

On the flip side, a shout out to the “Not in MY house” Dream who stopped the Sparks.  With authority. Admit it – you lost money on that bet.

“We just wanted it,” McCoughtry said. “I told the team this was the game that could be the turnaround for our season. If we can beat them, we can beat anybody in this league. I hope the girls take this win and build their confidence so we can contend in this league and do some damage.”

Sucky Sancho news, though.

In case you haven’t notices, Elena is DAMN good. Delle Donne Brings Versatility To Life In MVP-Caliber Performance

As the Sky make their push for the playoffs over the last dozen games, they’ll need EDD at her MVP-best. Which is right where she was on Sunday in Seattle. 

Delle Donne poured in 35 points on a neat 14-for-24 shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds, and drained the game-winning three right over Breanna Stewart’s outstretched arm with just one second remaining.

For the geeks amongst us: Free Basketball: Analyzing The Historic Number Of WNBA Overtime Games

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and a little nerve-wracking.

Even with both teams missing important “bigs” (Cambage, Jackson, Fowles & Delle Donne) many thought the U.S. would cakewalk over the Australians. Obviously, the Opals didn’t get the message. Marianna Tolo help them execute their game plan beautifully – target BG, keep her out of the paint, and get her into foul trouble.

With Griner limited to 17 minutes and 6 points, the US offense had to re-discover what it was to play a half-court game, the defense had to step up, and Tina Charles had to release her inner beast. Fortunately for the Americans, all that happened and they moved into the gold-medal game with a less-comfortable than it looked 82-70 win.

They now face Spain, who overcame the fabulous Turkish crowd and a pesky Turkish team, 66-56.  For Turkey, both Lara Sanders (aka LaToya Pringle) and Nevriye Yilmaz were strong in the post, but the team simply didn’t have enough guard skill to pull out a win. Spain’s Sancho Lyttle was Yolanda Griffith-esque in the paint, and Alba Torrens (28pts, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) was... torrential and tormenting and terrific. I loved the moment in the fourth where she intercepted a pass, drove for the basket, and raced back on defense, giving her bench a screamed “Yeah!” on the way. Said Geno:

“Spain deserves to be in the championship game. They deserve to be there because they played well the whole tournament and because they beat the home team in front of a great crowd in a great game,” U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. “They have earned their way to the game.”

Today’s game is on ESPN2, 2:15 EST. It will be an interesting match up, with both teams ranked in the the top 4 in FIBA’s points-fg%-rebounds-assists. Mechelle thinks Spain will be USA’s toughest test yet

So Sunday, the Spaniards will try to hand the United States its first loss in a world championship final game since the days when Cheryl Miller and Lynette Woodard were the Americans’ stars.

Of course, the Spaniards don’t need to hear about how history is against them Sunday, and likely don’t care, either. They can just look at the makeup of Team USA to know how difficult their task is, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that they are giddy with excitement about making the final for the first time in their nation’s history.

Said Maya:

I think we had some turnovers (the USA committed 19 turnovers and got just 2 steals, while Australia had 12 turnovers against 7 steals) that we didn’t have to. We want to do a better job of keeping them (their opponents) off the free-throw line. Just be a little smarter on defense. Just some communication errors, but those are all fixable.

On Spain:

They are great. They are a really passionate team. They’ve got talent at every position. They don’t quit. They’ve got some versatile post players. They can shoot the ball and pass the ball pretty well. We have to be disciplined in our job against them and make sure they don’t get anything extra.

I think two of the best teams are playing the Final. I think each team has proved that they are worthy of being in this game. It’s going to a game worthy of being the Final of a World Championship.

I’m looking forward to see how quickly Griner can translate the lessons of the Australian game onto the court.

While you’re waiting, check out game photos from thesixthwoman.

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You had a feeling this would happen… and it did. U.S. 94, France 72.

Griner and Charles combined to make 14 of their 18 shots as the U.S. dominated the paint, outscoring France 62-24.

“That was the plan,” point guard Sue Bird said. “We wanted to get stops on the defensive end, run as fast as we could and then get the ball inside. We were able to generate really good shots and there are enough players on this team if you get them their looks that they’re probably going to make them. Everyone took their shot.”

Wrote Mechelle:

It’s hard enough to contend with the Americans when they’re having just an average shooting game. When they are hitting practically every shot they even think about, just forget it.
***

The thing was it wasn’t just the inside game that worked for the Americans on Friday. It was everything. This was one of those rare times when if you shot 50 percent, you were the least accurate player on the team.

The U.S. quickly and efficiently cut their way through the French and swept into the semi finals of the World Championship. Of course there are nits to pick (those threes, Gruda’s goodness) but really, that’s only because Geno and his crew need something to pick at during this mornings walkthrough.

From USA Basketball

Shooting a USA World Championship record 70.7 percent from the field (41-58 FGs), the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s World Championship Team (4-0) took control of the game early in its 94-72 win over France (3-2) and never looked back to advance to the semifinals of the 2014 FIBA World Championship on Friday night at Fenerbahce Arena in Istanbul, Turkey.

“When you come out and shoot the ball the way we shot it in the first half, it’s kind of difficult for the other team to kind of keep pace,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut). “We just have so many good offensive players. They’re a very physical team and they’re a very good defensive team, and they rely on their defense to keep them in games. But, the way we started the game and the way Tina (Charles) and Brittney (Griner) kind of set the tone early on. We were able to get them established in the lane. Then we just played off of that.

Next up for the US: the Australians, who entered the semi’s by defeating Canada 63-52. (Shout out to Mini Mi and her key threes)

“We expected a fight,” Australia coach Brendan Joyce said. “We weren’t surprised with that first quarter, we talked about the defensive end a bit, trying to reduce the scoring, the second quarter, things were going well, we tightened up a little bit.”

While I appreciate Sue Birds description of the Opals (“Even though they might not have Lauren Jackson and Elizabeth Cambage and whatever, they have an identity within themselves, and they really play to it.”), it’s hard to imagine the Aussies can give the US much of a match, especially with Griner and Charles hitting on all cylinders, but, stranger things have happened.

Of note, Australia hasn’t faced particularly stiff competition this tournament (CubaKorea, and Belarus), but they have used the games to regroup. We’ll see how well Marianna Tolo is prepared to step in for the missing bigs. Paulo Kennedy asks: Opals kick-starting something good?

While every team dreams of dethroning the undisputed queens of international basketball, few outfits hang with the USA for more than a half.

A big question for the Opals is how to approach the game?

Do they continue with the same aggressive approach and back their system? Or do they make adjustments to slow the game a little and take away some of the Americans’ strengths?

While some subtle adjustments are required in pool play, I’m a firm believer in sticking with what you’re best at, because doing something you’re not as good at is unlikely to deliver victory.

In the other semi, it will be Spain against the home crowd… and team, Turkey. For many, Spain has been the class of the opposition. It’s why Paul wonders, Can ‘basketball alchemist’ Mondelo work his magic?

The question of whether anybody can actually get anywhere toppling the all-conquering USA is a common one at any major tournament.

Traditionally, it has been Australia and Russia who have been the major challengers to their superiority, but now Spain look like they could assume the mantle of closest rivals.

After all, they have Lucas Mondeloat the helm – someone I am now labelling as a ‘basketball alchemist’ for his ability to produce success and primarily gold, for both club and country.

Put quite simply – I believe if anyone can, then Mondelo can.

Of course the play-caller is only one part of the Spanish asset-base, which looks to be magnificent at the moment.

It will be exciting to see them play in person. They handled China efficiently, 71-55, behind Sancho Lyttle’s 24 points and 7 rebounds. Really appreciate the Spanish press in attendance, btw.

The Turkey/Serbia game was a hoot to attend — though my ears are still ringing. The crowd was loud (I mean REALLY loud) and enthusiastic – living and dying with every basket. It was a back-and-forth game with UNC grad Latoya Pringle (Now Lara Sanders) putting on a gutty, fierce show. In the end, clutch free throws and some smooth shooting from Turkey’s “other” big, Nevriye Yilmazi, gave them the 62-61 victory.

There were scenes of jubilation for Turkey after overturning a double digit deficit to beat Serbia 62-61 in dramatic fashion and reach the Semi-Finals of the FIBA World Championship for Women.

Flat and uninspiring at both ends of the court when trailing 36-26, it had looked like the dreams of the host nation were in serious danger of being shattered.

But a remarkable turnaround ensured – no better highlighted by veteran legend Nevriye Yilmaz, who had been an eye-watering 0 of 14, but made her next three shots in a row to play a part in the revival.

“I am so happy with this victory and to beat a tough team like Serbia,” said Yilmaz afterwards.

It’s kinda nice to know that the refs are “on our side” when we play internationally: World Cup: Canada, France, Serbia, China make quarters; losers blame America

BTW: PHOTOS: Check out thesixthwoman’s tumblr for some sweet game photographs.

While we wait for tonight (and perhaps nap to stave off this wanna be cold) a little more of scenic Turkey, this time the Hagia Sophia:

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Atlanta Dream Forward Sancho Lyttle Undergoes Successful Surgery, Will Miss 6-8 Weeks.

Speaking of “littles,” after the WUG’s littles did a superb job against the Russian’s bigs and won gold, it’s now the young’uns turn: USA U19 Women conduct first practice in Lithuania.

WATN? Former Purdue star Katie Gearlds takes 1st head coaching job at Marian University

Ouch: Diggins.

More ouch: Griner.

Jayda talks to da Rooth: WNBA Talk: Atlanta Dream’s Ruth Riley

Mechelle on the impact of Harding and Toliver on L.A.’s backcourt

Los Angeles guard Kristi Toliver always has had that one particular grin on court that makes me think of a little kid who just grabbed two extra cookies when nobody was watching.

It’s not obnoxious or mocking or dastardly. It’s just … well, I guess you could call it mildly, mischievously gleeful. Like, “Ha! Threaded that pass!” or “Hee hee! Nailed that shot!”

Whenever Toliver was having a good time on the court, you could tell. Conversely, when she was not happy, that was pretty obvious, too. But the even-keeled Kristi — the one who has become more and more reliable for her competitive consistency, whether her shots are dropping — actually is a regular presence these days.

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Vets, rookies give Mystics new life

Snow, an 11-year veteran, and Hill, the No. 4 draft pick in April, represent the extremes in experience for the Mystics.

On one hand, you have the 6-foot-5 center who has seen it all in the pro game and been able to steadily keep a job. On the other hand, you have a 5-10 guard who’s learning more every day about what it takes to earn minutes in this league.

“When you’re young,” says Mystics point guard Ivory Latta, “you need that veteran who will get in your grill and say: ‘Hey, you are at the next level. Everybody is faster, quicker, they jump higher, they get in the passing lanes. You have to adjust.’

“Tayler — she’s going to be great. She just has to get into the rhythm of how the WNBA is played, and it takes some time.”

Where I’m going to be tonight: Liberty Host Eastern Conference Rival Connecticut Sun, by Ros Gold-Onwude

The Connecticut Sun (2-3) are hampered by injuries of their own. Streaky shooter and solid defender Renee Montgomery is out with an ankle injury. Shooter Tan White is out with a broken finger. Kara Lawson missed a game with a sore back but returned to play on Wednesday against the Indiana Fever. Due to all the injuries the Sun brought in veteran guard Iziane Castro Marquez who brings size and another scoring option to the wing. The Sun bounced back after a three game losing streak with a 73-61 win over the Indiana Fever on Wednesday June 12th. Reigning MVP Tina Charles carried the Sun with 30 points and 10 rebounds in an inspired effort. Lawson returned to the court to add 12 points but seemed limited, only shooting 5-14 and giving up 6 turnovers.

Speaking of New Jersey,  C Viv in the Nine for IX Short: ‘Coach’ Preview

Check out a preview clip from the Nine for IX digital short film “Coach,” the Best Documentary Short winner at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. “Coach” will debut on espnW.com on June 18, while the Nine for IX documentary series begins July 2 on ESPN.

Nate ponders the Three keys to the Atlanta Dream succeeding without Sancho Lyttle

Adding to the discussion of rosters and money, Clay says, In the WNBA, injuries change everything

So even though the Liberty knocked off Atlanta Sunday, starting 75-year-old Katie Smith every night is simply not the way to win consistently in this year’s very tough and competitive WNBA. As time goes on, the 12 teams are not only getting more talented, they are developing identity and pride, and a group like the San Antonio Silver Stars, hampered as they are by their own injuries, are going to play tough almost every night out. Even downtrodden and unlucky Tulsa is not guaranteed win, as the Shock have taken some of the league’s best into overtime.

This flew under my radar — and it’s interesting, because about five years ago, a NCAAW coach was talking to me about “concerns” at Nike. Nike LGBT Sports Summit underway in Portland

Folks are tweeting the event: #LGBTSportsSummit

The second annual Nike LGBT Sports Summit started this week at the same time the city gears up for the Portland Pride Festival.

The summit held in downtown Portland includes more than 100 leaders in LGBT sports community.  There are various initiatives, all centered around ending bias and discrimination of LGBT athletes and their fans.

Cyd Zeigler of OutSports.com is one of the founders of the summit, and credits Nike for hosting the event.

And Nike unveils line of sneakers celebrating gay pride – The colorful #BeTrue Free Run 5.0 shoes are available in the U.S. for $115, and profits will benefit the LGBT Sports Coalition.

In addition to the professional activists and media, the attendees include athletes, coaches or representatives affiliated with colleges and universities around the country, as well as the NCAA, USOC and USA Wrestling. And there’s an anticipated increase in the participation of active and former athletes and coaches. More than a dozen current college athletes (gay and straight) will be joined by another dozen coaches, including Portland State women’s basketball coach Sherri Murrell. Murrell is the lone out coach in Division I, and her perspective — on her responsibilities as a mentor to her athletes and as a responsible citizen to the wider community — might help move the national conversation beyond questioning an LGBT person’s fitness to coach, or beyond concerns over sexuality or gender identity, and back to simple ability.
Bill Laimbeer is standing in a piece of real estate that he used to own. Both his feet are firmly planted in the paint as he’s calmly instructs the players that Bill Laimbeer the GM has provided him how to feel for the balance and weight of a defender. Later he’ll show some of his guards how to properly curl off of an off-ball pick. Every now and then he’ll smile, too.In their 16-year existence, the New York Liberty, one of the WNBA’s original eight teams, have never won a title. There have been three finals appearances, but the last one was in 2002. Last year they finished the season 15-19. Laimbeer, on the other hand, is a three time WNBA champion—2003, ’06 and ’08—the second most in league history. It took him less than two full seasons to lead the Shock to their first WNBA title. The Liberty are hoping for an even faster clock this time around.

And some sad news that I saw, but couldn’t get to: Memorial service set for Melissa Erickson, former Washington player
Melissa Erickson, a former Washington basketball player, died Wednesday after a seven-year battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). She was 34.
A public memorial service has been set for June 21 at 5pm at Alaska Airlines Arena, or Hec Ed as Erickson and her teammates knew it when the Huskies advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight her senior season in 2001.

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basketball “stuff,” but it is cool how basketball can distract you from “stuff.”

So, I did manage to catch my first live Lib game of the season last Sunday. Thoughts:

  • Shout out to Hasim, the Lib’s media person, for being so welcoming. (RU! RU!)
  • It’s REEEEALLY easy to get lost in the bowels of the Rock.
  • Yes, back in the day there WAS a lot of media at Lib games. Not so much now. But it still was heartening to see some familiar (stubborn) faces doing what they want to do – and love to do – in service of the game and players.
  • Speaking of someone who loves to do what she does: lovely chatting with coach Coyle. She knows next year will be a challenge, but is excited to be in the MAAC.
  • The best part of going to the game was seeing the “regulars” in the stands. And shouting “REEEEFFFFFFFF SCHOOOOOOOL!”
  • The game: The ESPN headline credits Cappie with the win over the Dream, but really it was Mini Mi and the Old Lady. Watching the 39-year-old Katie Smith dog Angel all game was a lesson in ferocity and stubbornness. Yes, Angel got her points, but on 4-16 shooting.
  • What about Mini Mi? Well, in the season preview, coach Bill stated he wanted “strong-minded women that want to be themselves, but want to play within the structure, and want to know where they stand every minute of every day.” Leilani Mitchell sure as heck knew where she stood at camp: “In front of everyone he said, ‘I don’t like small guards.'” Mitchell is generously listed as 5’5″. “It’s hard when your coach doesn’t have confidence in you.” Her response? Play with a sense of freedom and abandon. She made the team (to the surprise of some) and, while she only made one basket Sunday (a key 3), it was everything else she did that made an impression: 7 rebounds, 3 steals and +13. Which earned her praise from her not-short coach. And the fans.
  • Cappie looked outta sorts in the first half, her shots all coming up short, as if she had no legs. And then something clicked in the second half. After the game coach Laimbeer spoke about her leading by being part of the offense, “not just jacking up shots.” So I started wondering about her transition to working under a Laimbeer-esque coaching style and how that will impact her attitude and game-sense.
  • The rooks did good. Honestly, was there EVER a time when you could say, “The Lib have three rookies on the floor” and not have it because the game was outta reach? Favorite moment: Angel and Bone arm wrasslin’ each other for the ball. Bone does not let go, and Angel gets in to her face a bit, as if she believes a rookie should release control to an All-Star. Yap, yap, yap like my miniature Dachshund used to do at our bigger Kerry Blue. Bone just stood there, patiently, until her teammates stepped between the twosome.
  • Yes, it’s fun to watch the Dream get all emotional. But, while it’s tempting to draw a conclusion about their “chemistry,” don’t get fooled. It works for them. “That’s how they’ve always been,” said Smith post-game. The only thing “bad” I can see about Atlanta folks barking at each other or the refs is when they use their barking as an excuse not to get back on defense.

Speaking of Smith, the fabulous Jim Massie catches up: Former Buckeye Smith, 39, still climbing upward

Check in with L’Alien for more info on this past week’s games, like:  Charles dominates ice cold Fever

Check this week’s Top Plays. (Mark, you’d a very poor inspirational speaker…)

Other stuff:

Ah, yes, INJURIES!!! John Altavilla writes: Short WNBA Rosters Are A Problem For Sun, Other Teams. On a related note, Pilight wonders: Is there enough talent for WNBA expansion? The Rebkellians discuss.

Kwai Chan at the Meniscus: WNBA 2013: One year, big difference for the Washington Mystics

There is no jumping or shouting in the Verizon Center…yet.  But what a difference a year makes for the Washington Mystics, who defeated the Minnesota Lynx, 85-80.

Mike Thibault, who has the most wins of any active coach with 209-135 (.608) record in the last 10 years, is the new head coach of the Mystics.  Eight of the 12 players on the 2012 roster are gone, and have been replaced by four rookies and three veterans.  With these changes, one would think that just getting a team on the floor would be an accomplishment in itself.

Not so much fun being in Indiana these days: Fever not feeling, looking like champions – Defending WNBA titlists are off to 1-4 start, worst 5-game start since 2001

Michelle says: Griner’s popularity reels in fans

It’s more than two hours before tipoff at U.S. Airways Center on Memorial Day, and a Phoenix Mercury staff member is erecting a banner of Brittney Griner that shows the exact physical dimensions of her height and wingspan and the size of her hands and feet.

Immediately after he is done, a group of kids rush over and put their hands and feet up against the banner to compare.

The big girl is a big deal here.

From Media Planet:  WOMEN IN SPORTS: NO LONGER ON THE SIDELINES: Title IX opened the gates for female athletes—a halo effect empowered women to own, manage and work in the once male-dominated industry.

Case in point: Laura Gentile, espnW vice president, launched the digital initiative as a voice for women who love sports. “One of the best parts of starting this business was connecting women in sports to discuss issues and work together. Women have made a lot of strides,” she adds, ticking off names including WNBA’s president Laurel Richie and USA Today’s Christine Brennan. 

No Sancho? Williams is going to change things up a bit.

Prince leaves Chicago. Again.

No Ice, Ice Baby Tonight: From Odeen Domingo:#WNBA suspends @phoenixmercury Candice Dupree 1 game for making contact w/ game official Sat. Will not play tonight vs @LA_Sparks cc: @WNBA

All Star Voting Time! Who do YOU think deserves a $5000 bonus?

So what did you think of the Complaint Cam… I mean Borg Cam … I mean I Need my Dramamine Cam… I mean Ref Cam? WNBA debuts live high-definition ‘Ref Cam’. A ref speaks. And this: WNBA successfully debuts ref cam in Indy.

Nate keeps his promise: 2013 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year watch list: Weighing scoring & value added in the post-Bonner era

After a three year run of Sixth Woman dominance (it’s difficult to argue that anyone was snubbed in the three years she won the award), Connecticut Sun guard Renee Montgomery won the award last season in familiar fashion in the world of basketball awards: she had among the highest scoring averages of any reserve in the league on a team that won its conference.

However in a year in which Bonner is starting (for now?) and Montgomery will miss significant time due to injury (WNBA voters tend not to give awards to players who missed significant time, which is fair in 34-game season), there is a chance the award will go to someone who isn’t quite a dynamic scorer.

In college news:

Swish has Gary Blair, Jim Foster reflecting on their careers at induction ceremony and some Hall of Fame interviews: Peggie Gillom-Granderson, Jennifer Rizzotti, Annette Smith-Knight and Sue Wicks:

Who had the greatest influence on Wicks?

“When I was a professional in Europe, players I would see, the way they held themselves, the pride that they had, the way that they played in total obscurity most of the time, I modeled myself after them. Along the way I would find someone who had a quality I really admired and I would try and emulate them.”

Coming back from an ouch: CU Buffs’ Rachel Hargis healing after MCL tear

Bye: Beckie Francis out as Oakland women’s basketball coach and Mines, women’s basketball coach Felderman part ways

Ooops: NCAA bans UNO men’s and women’s basketball from 2013-14 postseason

Yikes: Memphis Tigers women’s basketball team loses four players – Starter Abdul-Qaadir off to Indiana State as grad transfer

Wow! Congrats! Meia Daniels named new HPU women’s basketball coach

“We are pleased to be able to promote Meia Daniels to our head coaching position as well as our Senior Woman Administrator (SWA),” said Howard Payne Director of Athletics Mike Jones. “She has been mentored by two outstanding coaches in Chris Kielsmeier and Josh Prock and was a great collegiate player. She knows how to win and how hard you have to work to be successful at this level. These experiences will serve her well as she enters this new phase of her career.”

As a player, Daniels was 109-12 over four seasons leading the Lady Jackets to three American Southwest Conference championships, four NCAA III national tournament appearances and a NCAA III National Championship in 2008. A 2008 graduate of Howard Payne, Daniels holds numerous HPU and ASC records and is second in career scoring at Howard Payne with 2,118 points.

Some of you may remember Howard Payne’s run to perfection in 2008 because of the WHB or from this piece.

From Storming the Floor:

“After the incredible, unprecedented run through the 2013 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament that Shoni and Jude Schimmel, Umatilla, led the Louisville Cardinals on, ICTMN reached out to some of the most amazing and historically important Native hoops players to get their thoughts on the state of Native basketball, how to succeed in life and where they’re headed next—including from the Sisters themselves. “Let’s give them something to talk about!,” we promised. And so we kicked off a Conversations With Champions series, sitting down with eight basketball trailblazers, champions and builders for some one-on-ones. Here is a recap of the series, in case you missed any of the engaging discussions. These are men and women you need to know.”

Thank you: Iconic Elba coach Nowak retires and  Elba girls basketball coach Tom Nowak retires – Popular basketball coach compiled a 457-133 record

“It was really very rewarding to have gone through generations of family,” said Nowak. “To see the dads play football for me and then their daughters playing basketball — maybe both parents and children winning sectional titles.”

In the 2011-2012 season, Nowak coached his girls to their first state championship in the program’s history. Fittingly, the Lancers earned a perfect 25-0 season in their quest for the Class D title in Nowak’s 25th year as coach.

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but Chicago DOES have Sylvia. The fact that the Sky couldn’t beat a Plenette-less and Vaughn-less Liberty makes me wanna take a hard look at their coaching. The fact that Chicago shot an embarassing 6-21 from the free throw line makes me wonder about their focus. Which makes me wanna look at their coaching.

And then, of course, they turn around and roar back in the fourth to take Indiana into overtime. And lose. (1,500 free throws? I guess the refs love Catch, huh? :-)

The SASS is enjoying its East Coast swing, and Mystics fans are enjoying (?) the Dive for BG (goin’ well, ain’t it?). A lot riding on today’s game against Tulsa.

Shocked, shocked! That Glory got a technical. Didn’t help Tulsa against the Sun, though.

Speaking of the Sun, watch out. Kara’s kickin’ butt (All hail, vegan athletes!) and, for all of those folks bemoaning the “boring season” because Minny is “so good”: look at the standings now that the Lynx have lost three in a row. I’m sure Minny’s (and the rest of the League’s) walking wounded will appreciate the Olympic break.

A game Debbie would have enjoyed: Monster games by Lyttle and Bonner – Dream win 100-93. (And no, I didn’t think Hayes would be a starter — did you?)

Not the news Storm fans (or USA Basketball) want to hear: “Sue Bird – hip flexor, Ann Wauters – strained calf, Tina Thompson – awkwardly bent ankle.” Needless to say, the Sparks took advantage, and Parker was three assists from that triple-double Lobo wants her to get. Boy, LA’s starters play a lot of minutes…

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The Rise of Seimone Augustus

A few months before the most successful season in Seimone Augustus’s professional career, she got a letter from a fan.

In it, the fan told her that if Augustus were to play as hard as she could on both sides of the floor, the Minnesota Lynx’ star guard would be “truly unstoppable.”

Augustus took it to heart, much more than the average fan letter. Largely because it was sent by Tamika Catchings.

WNBA’s Miller twins still tight and Rochester’s Coco Miller has forged enduring career in WNBA

Coco Miller spent much more time watching basketball than playing in the first game of the WNBA Finals Sunday night at Target Center.

But the 33-year-old Rochester native and Atlanta Dream backup guard wasn’t complaining. Eleven seasons in the WNBA have given Miller perspective, and a keen appreciation of how lucky she is to still be living out her childhood dream.

Think of that — 11 years. We always talk about “under appreciated” players. Can you think of  two less-respected (by fans) players in the league?

Lindsay writes! Lynx’s Whalen wants to bring a title to her home state

This might explain her last game: Dream’s Lyttle out of comfort zone

Lyttle undoubtedly will be as happy to see de Souza as anyone will. De Souza’s absence has had a big impact on Lyttle’s game. It forced the Dream into a smaller lineup; forced Lyttle into the center spot, away from the face-up game she has played so well from the power forward spot; and forced her out of her comfort zone.

WNBA president Laurel Richie ambitious for Finals, addresses league concerns

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and pull out your reading glasses. From Richard:

WNBA Finals Mega-Preview Part 3: The Bigs – Brunson/McWilliams-Franklin vs. Lyttle/?

Here’s where this series gets really interesting. Despite the strength of their bench, Minnesota have relied heavily on their starting five all season long. That group contains two true post players in rebounding demon Rebekkah Brunson and everyone’s favourite WNBA septuagenarian, Taj McWilliams-Franklin (she’s actually only 40, but the ‘Taj is old’ jokes never get old).

In the second half of the season, Atlanta had a very similar reliance on their starting five, including the quickness and length of Sancho Lyttle at power forward and size and strength of Erika de Souza at center. But when de Souza left to play for Brazil in the FIBA Americas tournament after Game 1 of the Eastern Finals, the Dream went small. Lyttle was generally the only post on the floor, occasionally spelled by backup Alison Bales, and wing Iziane Castro Marques had two outstanding games as de Souza’s replacement in the starting lineup. The speed of the small lineup and Castro Marques’s shooting is essentially what carried the Dream into these Finals. de Souza is expected back in time for Game 2, but it’s going to be very interesting to see how Atlanta approach their lineups and matchups throughout this series. Is their four-perimeter player group too quick for Minnesota to handle? Or will Brunson and McWilliams-Franklin dominate that small lineup in the paint to such an extent that the Dream will be forced back to a more traditional five?

WNBA Finals Mega-Preview Part 4: The Wildcards – Moore vs. Price/Castro Marques

It might seem a little strange to consider the current Rookie of the Year, Minnesota’s second-leading scorer this season and one of the most well-known female basketball players in the USA a ‘wild card’ heading into this series. But it seems fair to me. Maya Moore admitted to some nerves in their opening playoff series against San Antonio, and when the Silver Stars had the temerity to defend her with players far smaller than her like Becky Hammon and Tully Bevilaqua she struggled to take advantage of the mismatch. She was also the primary defender being lit up when Jia Perkins caught fire and led San Antonio to a Game 2 win. But Moore improved as that series went on, then had fun firing away against Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals. Plus Penny Taylor didn’t have an awful series by accident, and it was Moore defending her for most of the two games.

Mega-Preview Part 5: The Benches

In terms of pure talent, Minnesota would appear to have more in reserve, but they haven’t exactly been proving it for most of the season. Alexis Hornbuckle, Charde Houston and this year’s 4th overall pick in the draft Amber Harris will probably see very little time in this series. Monica Wright may receive some opportunities to impress, especially if Cheryl Reeve tries to counter Atlanta’s small lineup, but she’s struggled to produce in limited chances this season. The bulk of the backup minutes are likely to go to Candice Wiggins and Jessica Adair.

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Mystics’ Currie, Harding replace Jackson, Lyttle

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the W All-Stars could make it a fun game:

Atlanta Dream teammates Sancho Lyttle and Iziane Castro Marques were added to the WNBA All-Star roster on Tuesday.

The pair are joined by Washington’s Crystal Langhorne, Phoenix’s Penny Taylor, Indiana’s Katie Douglas and Minnesota’s Rebekkah Brunson.

The six supplement the five players selected by the fans last month: Seattle’s Lauren Jackson, as well as San Antonio’s Becky Hammon, Jayne Appel, Michelle Snow, and Sophia Young.

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The photo is scary.

And here’s petrel’s take on the game and close encounter.

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