The Tulsa Shock can wipe another item off the 'to do' list after grabbing a home win from a former rival and 2009 eastern conference champion Indiana Fever.
The 79-74 game was a hard-played, hard-faught, down to the final seconds battle to get Tulsa their first win in their new digs at the BOK Center.
"When you have a team like we have - a young bunch - eventually there's gonna be some winning take place," head coach Nolan Richardson said of the new achievement. "They've played too many teams so close . . . but tonight we were able to finish."
One of the most impressive things about the finish for the Shock is the fact that the bench outscored the starting five by a tally of 43-36. Great, right? That impressive statistic shines just a bit brighter when you realize that the bench was shorthanded due to the recent trade of Shavonte Zellous for a 2011 2nd round draft pick. And that same statistic of bench scoring begins to outright sparkle as you see the points were from just three women - Amber Holt, Natasha Lacy and Plenette Pierson.
In what may be seen as an anomaly in scoring to one is seen as the norm for the Shock head coach. The bench is expected to score and score often in Richardson's system.
"Oh that happens all the time in my style of basketball. That's not a big deal," said Richardson. "That's what their job is to come out and put some points on the board. Sometimes it'll be the other way around, but it doesn't really surprise me that the bench will score as many or more at times."
The importance of the bench is not lost on rookie Lacy either. She and her supporting castmates are well aware of the role they have to play.
"You're only as good as your weakest player and I don't think we have any weak players on our team," said Lacy. "The bench, including myself, always tries to come in and create a spark, whether that be defensive, changing the speed of the game or as in today, scoring."
Holt, whom Richardson referred to as the "silent killer" was the game's leading scorer with 16 points, all of which were gained in her typical quiet and unassuming fashion.
This marks the second consecutive game that Holt has been the Shock's high-scorer, but that doesn't stop her from working to become even better at putting points on the board. She drained 4-of-6 three point attempts after making just one over the previous four contests combined.
"I've been working on it a lot. 4 for 6 that's good. Wow," said an almost surprised but still soft-spoken Holt. "It seemed like it was good and you know it helps the team. I'm glad we got the victory."
Lacy had a 3-point basket of her own to write home about - an almost mid-court buzzer beater to end the 3rd quarter that impressed not only the 4,005 in the stands but also Fever head coach Lin Dunn.
"I thought that half-court three-point shot that they hit really gave them a burst of energy going into the fourth quarter," said Dunn.
Lacy, playing on the bench alongside the aforementioned "silent killer" got a description of her very own after the game by coach Richardson - "spark plug".
"She's been our spark plug, in reality. She's a very smart point guard," said Richardson. "I don't start her; I bring her off the bench right now because when she comes out the face of the team changes."
"I think we're clicking. I think our defense down the stretch was crucial. I think we hit some big shots, big shots, and we finally got some stops. That's huge," Lacy said. "They can't beat us if they can't score and on the other hand we can win if we can score. And I just think down the stretch we buckled down."
Pierson had a quietly impressive outing of her own, not missing any of her attempts from the field or the line, ending with 12 points in 12 minutes. After the game, the veteran Pierson playing with a young bench talked about the win.
"We finally got the monkey off our back in our home gym, now we can go out and protect the home court every night and build on this."
The Shock's next opportunity to expand on their win streak is after almost a full week off against a team they've already met twice before and beaten on their home court, Minnesota.
"I'm very proud," said Richardson in summary. "I thought our execution was very, very good. We ran pattern stuff that was good, we ran the fast break good, we pushed the ball up the floor. We did some things that really we hope we can bottle and play and put it in every ballgame."
Post Game Quotables:
- Nolan Richardson on Tulsa's competitiveness: "I've looked at some tapes of a couple years ago when Atlanta was playing. They were getting blown out by 30. We ain't never got blown out. We've been in every ballgame, so we're not going to be an easy team. The league feels, in the first place, Tulsa is a shot that they'll be able to pick up a victory. I don't think it's going to be that way. I think we're going to be able to hold our own and make a tough game for anybody that comes in this building. I think we'll be able to do that on the road also."
- Nolan Richardson on the draft day trade for Amber Holt and Chante Black: "I saw [Holt's skills] in the tapes when I was getting ready to try to take my seventh pick and get her and Black on the same team. They come from the same place so that makes me right now look pretty good at where my seventh pick went."
- Chante Black on scoring the game's go-ahead basket: "You know, I think that was a team go-ahead play because I mean guards were wide, they were moving, Lacy made a great dribble penetration, was able to just pass it in and I was able to finish that basket."
- Chante Black on getting the home win: "To go through that tunnel and actually cheer and celebrate with our fans who have given great support, it means a lot."
- Lin Dunn on Tulsa's system: "Who was skeptical about it? When you've won a NCAA men's national championship with your system I don't know why you'd be skeptical about it. I expect them to be very good and I expect them to play hard and I expect them to defend well and I wasn't surprised at all at how they played. Not a bit."