Usually, I've been to Connecticut more than once or twice by now. Last season, we had a partial plan, after all. But between the money and the schedule, things didn't work out until this month, when I went all Sadie Hawkins on my darling boyfriend and took him up to Mohegan for his birthday to see the Sparks-Sun game.
So, for bouncing t-shirts, GUARDING THE THREE-POINT LINE OH MY GOD, vuvuzelas, six hours on a bus round-trip, and ice cream, join your intrepid and somewhat sticky blogger after the jump.
The good news is that the crowd was fairly substantial, and there didn't seem to be too many people there for the sole purpose of seeing Candace Parker (which, yes, I know that would have been a futile exercise, but people are stupid and not everyone keeps up with all the news). The bad news is that I've seen livelier crowds in zombie movies, and when the Sun got down big, they streamed for the exits like rats off a sinking ship. I thought Connecticut fans were honest and loyal and true; I guess they're just front-runners.
There must be something in the water in LA, or maybe it's just the smog. Compared to her days as a Comet, Tina Thompson's got a real attitude towards the fans. Maybe she just doesn't like Connecticut for whatever reason, but she looked like she would rather have been just about anywhere else, doing just about anything else. Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton was pretty friendly. Ticha Penicheiro has a surprising lack of observation skills for a point guard- you'd think she'd have commented on my boyfriend's Monarchs jersey, but no.
The anthem was very interesting, and I really liked the singer's style.
Things I also liked: the way the Sun structured their benefits for renewing. I don't know if there were any additional gifts, but people who renewed early were entered into raffles for cool prizes. One fan got a signed Asjha Jones jersey, a team-autographed ball, and $100 to spend on gas. Another got a road trip to New York. Another got a road trip to DC. Pretty cool. The t-shirt Gatling gun is also a nifty option, but they have to work on the range and send more people to the upper deck for tosses.
I sort of like Gillom's team colors look, though the purple and black had a little bit of a Monarchs thing going on too. She maintains a more poised demeanor than I had expected from her. Her huddles are insanely long- how LA didn't get called for at least three delay of game violations, I will never know.
Andrea Riley was in for long enough to establish that she shouldn't be in any longer, or if she is, she needs to get in early and get into her rhythm or she won't be any use to anyone. She was sloppy and out of sync. Chanel Mokango made a couple of cameo appearances to give DeLisha Milton-Jones a rest and be a defensive stopper. While her physique is similar to DMJ's, that's about where the similarities end, and I don't know that that's how I'd use Mokango. Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton is a pretty smart player on the floor- she didn't do a lot of the things that would pop up in a boxscore, but she did a lot of the dirty work along the baseline that I love to see players do. I see why LA fans are high on her. Kristi Toliver had her moments of defensive fail, and moments of defensive glory (LaTanya White, we are going to have a long talk about you getting blocked by a tiny turtle), and her shot was usually going down- except when it was completely off-line. A creature of extremes, this Terrapin.
Noelle Quinn had a quiet game until the end, when she hit a couple of shots that really put it out of reach for the Sun. She does have a tendency to reach, which got her into foul trouble. Tina Thompson seemed to have taken some of the criticism about her interior play to heart and headed in a little more on the offensive boards. Not that she wasn't dialing them in from long-range, but she seemed to remember she was a power forward for the first itme in a long time. I don't remember a damn thing Marie Ferdinand-Harris did, which means I need to suck it up and write my notes right after, no matter how exhausted I am. DeLisha Milton-Jones was on fire, hitting from long range like I haven't seen from her in years. She looked rejuvenated. She also looked like the D-Nasty we've all come to know and, er, know. Don't get me wrong, Sunshine is one of my favorite people in the league, but D-Nasty is a piece of work. I thought for sure that she was going to drop the gloves with either DeMya Walker or Asjha Jones (or both). Ticha Penicheiro really surprised me- not just with her willingness to score, which was in plenty of evidence, but with a single play near the end of the game. She and Renee Montgomery were going after a loose ball, and as Montgomery hit the ground, Penicheiro kicked her. It wasn't hard, and it looked almost a little playful, and she did allow Montgomery an uncontested lay-up near the very end of the game, but that's a move right out of the Mabika days. I expect a lot better out of a veteran like Ticha.
I like Allison Hightower, don't get me wrong. And someday she might be a serviceable bench plyer in the WNBA. That day is not now. Her defense is somewhat better than her offense, but that's because her offense is gods-awful. I didn't think there was room in the WNBA for projects with the 11-woman roster, but Mike Thibault proves me wrong again. I don't like the pairing of DeMya Walker and Kerri Gardin on the floor together. They don't complement each other well, and are likely to get in each other's way. Walker lived up to her name, but she put in hard physical work defensively. Her lack of speed is catching up to her. Gardin didn't look like much. Renee Montgomery's line looks a lot better than it was because she decided to start really putting in work in the last minute. I remember screaming, "You could have done that five minutes ago when you had a chance to win!" after she got fouled on her third three (it didn't go in, but it could have, and she was fouled pretty hard). Her head wasn't in the game for long stretches. I'm talking about stupid mistakes- fumbles, bad passes, really awful shots that fell short. I expect better out of Huskies. Sandrine Gruda seems to have fallen into relying on her outside shot more. Not a good habit to get into.
Kara Lawson's definitely hurt. She doesn't play so few minutes without being physically incapable of doing more. She definitely doesn't need Anete Jekabsone-Zogota to pull her off the bench at one point during a timeout unless she's very sore. She didn't play badly in the minutes she had, but I think that would have changed if she had tried to play more. And wow, she's loud. It's one thing to hear a player barking out signals- I hear that all the time. It's another thing to be able to hear her through the arena noise. Tan White learned well the art of full body sacrifice from Tamika Catchings. Every time I turned around, she was flat on her back after taking a charge or diving for a loose ball. She really seems to be coming into her own in Connecticut. Well, except for being blocked by Kristi Toliver. How does that even happen? Tina Charles missed entirely too many easy shots, and maybe that's why she didn't play as much in the second half as I would have expected, or maybe Thibault just liked what Walker was bringing more. Or, for all I know, he's trying to get himself fired by letting Montgomery's flaws be shown and keeping Charles on the bench, and therefore putting the UConn backers out of joint, but that's just a conspiracy theory. Asjha Jones looked like she was still feeling the effects of her injury- she was a couple of steps slower than I recalled her being, and her shot was pretty awful. She had a spurt early in the second half where she looked like her old self, but then it faded away.
Who do I have to kill to get Kelsey Griffin in a Liberty uniform? Whoever it is, point me that way and let me loose. I love that kid's hustle and her ability to be in the right place at the right time. The game needs more players like that. So tell me who I have to kill and I'm there.
Los Angeles gets away with a lot of weird procedural stuff. I know this was a televised game, and because of that, timeouts could be stretched, but there were three times that it hought they could have been tagged with a delay of game. A lot of little violations- not fouls, but infractions- went uncalled as well: travels, 3-seconds, some out of bounds moves, things like that. The officials were not on top of their game today in that regard. And Mauer was standing right there when Penicheiro kicked Montgomery, and didn't say boo. Not on.
Best little moment of the game: Sandrine Gruda almost committed a lane violation on Renee Montgomery's second of three free throws- except that Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton pulled her back. I'm not sure if that was a good deed or a sophisticated psychological ploy to make sure that Gruda was late off the line for the third free throw (which didn't matter, since Montgomery hit it).
I was disappointed in Connecticut's game-planning. You'd think that after the seventh or eighth made three, they'd have stopped letting the Sparks get open behind the line, but no. They stayed in a zone, or were slow on their rotations, and no one seems to have remembered that it's a good idea to stop the ball when Penicheiro is the opposing point guard. She makes things happen. Shouldn't Kara Lawson and DeMya Walker have remembered that?