Just the Facts, Ma'am: Despite being outrebounded and outshot, the New York Liberty pulled out a 75-71 win over the Washington Mystics. Cappie Pondexter led all scorers with 19 points, with Kia Vaughn chipping in 14 and Plenette Pierson 13. For Washington, Crystal Langhorne was one rebound shy of a double-double, finishing with 18 points and nine boards to pace the Mystics.
For trials, travails, popularity, vengeance, and Rutgers legends who wore #23, join your intrepid and deceptive blogger after the jump.
Weekday night game- you know what this means, no introductory fun times. At the half, the Liberty are down by four, and given that it's been five on eight most of the first half, that's a miracle. The Mystics have only been called for one team foul in the first half... and that was a foul to give with five seconds left in the half. We'll ignore the numerous travels by Crystal Langhorne or Matee Ajavon mauling poor Leilani Mitchell.
Fortunately, Sue Wicks' Ring of Honor induction will make me happy. (Look, MSG flack, it's a good sign that you should stop talking if two mic's stop working when you touch them. Shut up and let Sue be awesome.)
I think my fellow fans have more faith in Victoria Dunlap than Trudi Lacey does, or at least than she did in this game. I didn't even realize she played until I looked at the box score. Kerri Gardin had one brief spurt where she looked like the dangerous weapon she was when she first signed with Washington, but was otherwise a place where we could stash our weakest defender and take advantage of mismatches. Jasmine Thomas' line looks a lot better than she really was- two of those three shots went in by sheer luck, and she looked like she was in over her head for several stretches. Her speed will be a boon to her one of these days, if she learns to corral it, and she seems like she might be able to properly learn the position. I just don't know if she's going to do that in Washington. DeMya Walker's hair looks awful, and we didn't get to see any of her trademark flops. I think that's completely unfair. If we're going to see DeMya Walker miss easy shots once she gets in position, and otherwise play like a shell of an All-Star, we should at least get to see one of her Oscar-winning performances.
I think Kia Vaughn may have gotten into Nicky Anosike's head after a quick start in the first half, because she was pretty much a non-factor for the rest of the game, and she spent a lot of time on the bench. While part of me is disappointed, because I like Anosike, the rest of me does the dance of joyous self-satisfaction. Crystal Langhorne put in a lot of extra effort and scrapped hard on the boards. I'll give her that. However, I can also be exceedingly annoyed at the four-step lay-ups and the off-the-ball holding. I know everyone does it, but she needs to learn to be subtle about it if she's going to do it. Marissa Coleman also did a nice job on the boards, but I felt like she didn't take advantage of her opportunities- Nicole Powell's inability to close out on the corner three left her open an awful lot. I laughed when she ran into a screen by Leilani. No, that is not backwards. Yes, Leilani stonewalled her with a screen. Kelly Miller was brilliant in the first half, keeping Washington in it with her shooting and running things with a steady hand. She wasn't as much of a factor in the second half, though that may have had to do with Lacey's inexplicable desire to keep Thomas in the game when she was fumbling. Ladies and gentlemen, the Washington Mystics!
Whoever punched Essence Carson in the stomach, please be aware that Kia Vaughn will find you one of these days. Kia does not approve of people messing with her teammates.
Alex Montgomery was a hot mess. I'm pretty sure she thought she was supposed to be on Team ACC, and that was why she kept passing and all but handing the ball to Washington. Her defense picked up in the second half, though. Since I'm pretty sure that's what we brought her in for, that says a lot. Quanitra Hollingsworth seems to be shying away from contact more and more as the season progresses; I don't know if she finds the physical play somewhat offensive, or if she can't take the rigors of a full season, or if something else is going on, but come on, Q. You're 6'4. Use it. Go in, grab the board, and put it back up. Don't let it go down to other players' level. Not the greatest game for Essence Carson, but she had one nifty assist to Cappie Pondexter on a loose ball that she bounced sharply to Cappie for the lay-up. It was sweet. Sydney Colson looked pretty good and more in control of herself than usual. The three-pointers helped, too. She's still not ready for the level of play in this league, but she at least looked like she could be ready.
The bad news: Leilani Mitchell is still not much of an offensive option. The good news: at least she's playing tenacious on-ball defense and putting in effort when she gets caught on a mismatch. If we can at least get that out of her, that says a lot. Nicole Powell didn't score a lot, but she showed her rebounding ability and her ability to find her teammates. Her hands were good, though I'm not thrilled about this whole thing where she's bringing the ball up while we've got a point guard on the floor; I was under the impression that that was the point guard's job, and Nicole's not such a great ballhandler that I'd rather have her dribbling than Leilani or the Whiz Kid. Plenette Pierson had a maddening game, best summed up by two offensive possessions: on the first, she left an open, fast-break lay-up short off the rim and gave up the resulting defensive rebound; on the second, she hit a contested sweeping hook thing and drew a foul on the play. There were times when she looked brilliant, and then there were times when we were screaming "PLENETTE! What are you DOING out there, my God!" Because this infatuation with the three-pointer has to stop. I mean it. Cappie Pondexter had hot spurts right when we needed them, and that's all I've ever asked of her. Win the game and get out of the way. She looked disconcerted by the Washington defense, which I guess makes sense, given who was on her, but you'd think experience would win out. This might very well have been Kia Vaughn's game, despite other people's lines. She was going inside, she was getting her shots, and I do think she took Anosike out of her game.
I do love team chemistry: after Essence took that hit to the gut that left her doubled up in pain on the logo at center court, and after she had made her way back to the bench during the resulting timeout, Plenette came over to talk to her, with body language that clearly indicated that she was going to find who did it and make them pay as much as she could. I've seen more of this kind of thing this year from this team: they're willing to stand up for each other, and they're not willing to take crap from other teams, which is a bit of a change from recent years.
These officials. I try not to comment on the officiating without having evidence or at least specific complaints. But the level of traveling that was accepted in this game was abominable. I shouldn't be able to count four or five steps. I shouldn't see a player crossing midcourt with 15 left on a fresh shot clock without losing possession. I shouldn't see a player hit in the gut with no call. I shouldn't see blatant defensive holding without a call. Twardoski, Simpson, and Holtkamp let this game out of hand, and considering the criss-crossing rivalries and points of pride in this game, we're lucky there were no serious injuries. Did we benefit from the lax calls? In the second half, yes. But in the first half, it was absolutely ridiculous what Washington was getting away with. I have said this before and I'll say it again. I don't expect perfection from officials, but I do expect consistency. Don't ignore a player being pulled off the ball at one end of the floor and then call an accidental touch foul on the other.
I'm really starting to get sick of the Rutgers boosters. Look, I understand that you're passionate about your alumnae, but the cheers shouldn't be louder for opposing players than they are for home team players. This goes double when you're cheering more loudly for opposing players than you are for your players that come from the same school. (This is why I loathe the increasing regionalization of teams. Our Girls Syndrome is mean to professionals from strange, faraway lands like Arizona and Texas.)
Finally got to meet my Swish Appeal colleague Ray! Hi, Ray!
Have I mentioned lately that I miss Sue Wicks? Because I really miss Suuuuuuuue. Yes, Sue, you don't like to speak in public, that's why you rambled for three minutes and only stopped because all of the Mystics were standing there staring at you and waiting to warm up. That's why you name-checked all of our greats and Kisha Ford. (Who I loved, and who has made quite a post-basketball life for herself, but who is not exactly VJ or Becky Hammon.)
I liked the feeling of having conquered something that came out of winning this game. We looked rusty, which will happen with a nine-day break. But we found it in ourselves to win this one. Phoenix will be a wee bit more of a challenge, though...