Washington, D.C. -- Sunday's showdown in Washington was a tale of two teams as the Washington Mystics defeated the Minnesota Lynx 87-63. After getting off to a slow start this season, the Mystics have now won six of their last eight games. And after going 13-0 to begin the season, the Lynx have now dropped two in a row.
Washington was led by Emma Meesseman with 20 and Tayler Hill with 17. Renee Montgomery lead the way for Minnesota with 15.
Meesseman has been a key player in Washington's hot streak as of late. She has already surpassed her career averages of 15.1 PPG AND 6.4 RPG. She is currently ranked in the top 15 in the league in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage.
The 6'4" versatile forward has worked to grow her game over the past year to become more of a threat offensively, and that is just what her coach expects.
"I expect our good players to be good every night. I think that's the expectation of your best players is to be like that" Mystics head coach and general manager Mike Thibault said following the win. "What I liked most was her aggressiveness offensively. And that's been kind of a building thing over the last year or so.
"And that's what makes you a more complete player, when you want the ball in a big game. She clearly did. She and Tayler were playing off each other."
Meesseman attributed much of her offensive success this year to just growing up and those within the Mystics organization who encouraged her to become more of a threat offensively.
"Grow up. Just have more confidence. I started to listen to the coaches and what they say like you can be great, just shoot the ball, don't hesitate. That's all in my head. I just listen to my teammates and just play my own basketball. And in the off-season, I play with great players as well. It's just a combination of everything and having more experience."
Perhaps what is most remarkable about Meesseman's growing maturity on the court is her age. When most players are just entering the league, she is already in her fourth year.
"She's going to be important for our franchise to be a really good franchise in the future and to think that she's only 23 is really exciting because she's got a lot in front of her too," Thibault added.
The game was mostly decided in the first quarter, as Washington took control early and never relinquished their lead.
Regardless of past performance against the defending WNBA champs, or their current regular season record, the Mystics came to play, racking up a 20-point lead in the first quarter, 33-13.
Meesseman lead the way for Washington offensively with half of her team's points in the opening quarter, stretching Minnesota's defense. On the other end of the floor, Minnesota struggled to get their typically fluid offense going—In fact, Maya Moore was held scoreless for the first 8 minutes of the quarter.
The Mystics continued their hot shooting for the second quarter, shooting a whopping 56 percent from the field and capitalizing off of offensive rebounds to score 13-second chance points, compared to the Lynx three. Hill would add 6 more points in the second quarter to keep Minnesota at bay as the Mystics headed into the locker room with a 22 point halftime lead, 52-30.
"If it starts good, you know what you can do, and you start playing with more energy, even more energy than you started with and it was just a ball that kept rolling. It's just great to hear the supporters and your teammates and get hyped up," Meesseman said.
"Teams are spending a lot of attention," Thibault said of Meesseman's first half performance. "But because we moved the ball so quickly, and because our guards were able to penetrate during the game, it forced the people who were guarding Emma to have to help a little bit, and we could find her with a little more open room.
"And then she's really comfortable on the baseline in that little ten-foot area away from the basket. "
Halftime did not equate to the Lynx finding their rhythm as Washington continued to dominate under Meesseman and Hill, who at the end of the third would account for 37 of their team's 65 points. The Washington lead was so far out of hand that both coaches started their benches heading into the final ten minutes.
And when it comes to whether or not they knew they could beat Minnesota? Meesseman says they had no doubt.
"It's difficult to explain because we know we can beat any team in this league if we just play our game. It's something that's really hard to do, but when we do it, it's great."