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Mystics spoil Nneka Ogwumike’s return

The Washington Mystics defeated the Los Angeles Sparks 84-80 behind a stellar performance by Tierra Ruffin-Pratt.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Tierra Ruffin-Pratt started for the Mystics last night after Armintie Herrington injured her back in Washington's last game against the Fever. Ruffin-Pratt didn't disappoint, scoring 20 points that helped lead the Mystics over winless Los Angeles.

Nneka Ogwumike made her season debut after dealing with a badly sprained ankle. She would finish with a well-rounded line of 11 points, six rebounds, and five assists.

The contest was evenly matched throughout the first half, with the lead never stretching greater than seven in either way in the opening two quarters. The Mystics moved the ball well; each of their five starters scored during the first quarter. Meanwhile, Los Angeles was on fire from behind the arc, making 4 of their 6 three pointers in the quarter.

Tameka Johnson scored 8 points in the first alone, including a buzzer beater from 19 feet out and the ensuing free throw that came as a result of Stefanie Dolson's last second foul. That free throw would be the Sparks sixth straight point in the last 25 seconds of the quarter, helping them keep the game from getting out of hand early.

Johnson would finish the game with her second double-double in a row, scoring 17 points and 10 assists.

Early in the game, the Sparks played off the Mystics defensively, in an effort to keep them out of the paint and force outside shots. And it worked. Washington struggled from distance early. But, as has been the trend with the Sparks this season, the two teams' fortunes switched in the second half.

Los Angeles made only two three-pointers during the second half, going 0-4 in the final quarter, while the Mystics were able to take advantage of the Sparks' short bench, grinding the ball inside and wearing Los Angeles down.

Center Emma Meesseman ended the game with 20 points as well, including an incredible 12-point performance in the third quarter. True to Washington's form, each of those Meesseman baskets except for one came off of an assist. The Mystics amassed 17 assists in the win, one fewer than their 18 per game average.

Guard Bria Hartley joined Washington on the floor for the first time this season due to a stress fracture, scoring six points in six minutes. As the Mystics grow closer to full strength, so too does Los Angeles; the Sparks are hoping for Kristi Toliver's return to come soon, as her native Slovak Republic were recently eliminated in the Eurobasket Tournament.

The Mystics will try to string together three wins in a row for the first time this season on Friday against Atlanta, while Los Angeles will continue their quest for their first win against the Connecticut Sun the same day.