Comets, Cooper shoot over Mystics

16-2 run to close 1st half downs Washington, 81-54

Pro Basketball

June 08, 2000|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The revitalized Washington Mystics came into last night's game with the three-time defending Women's National Basketball Association champion Houston Comets hoping to make a statement that they belong with the league's elite.

A statement was clearly made, but more by the Comets, who thwarted the Mystics with a punishing defensive attack on the way to an81-54 victory before 15,040 at MCI Center.

The Comets (5-1) gambled consistently on defense, forcing 21 Washington turnovers (14 off steals alone), which they converted into 24 points.

"They came in and played like true champions," said Mystics guard Nikki McCray, who shot 2-for-10 from the field on the way to a season-low five points, 16 off her season average.

On the other end, Houston, playing here after winning a tough decision the night before at home to Sacramento, appeared tired at times, with forward Sheryl Swoopes visibly shaking on the bench during a second-half timeout.

"We could have picked them apart," McCray said. "They were overplaying and that left us open, but we weren't hitting shots. We were putting up a lot of prayer shots."

But the Comets weren't so weary that they didn't blister Washington with torrid shooting, hitting 59 percent of their shots, while the Mystics (2-2) shot a season-low 39 percent, including a dismal 4-for-17 from three-point range.

Washington, which had not beaten the Comets in four previous meetings, cut a nine-point deficit to one on Murriel Page's three-point play with 7:39 left in the first half.

However, reserve Beth Cunningham was called for a flagrant foul after Page's free throw. And the Comets hit both free throws and a basket on the ensuing possession to launch a crushing 16-2 run to close the half.

"We are very immature right now," said Mystics coach Nancy Darsch. "The low energy of the defense and the lack of execution on offense is really what continues to kill us."

Swoopes and guard Cynthia Cooper scored 20 points each, while forward Tina Thompson, the other member of the Big Three that has been around for all three title runs, had 17.

"Playing those back-to-backs really sucks it out of you," said Houston coach Van Chancellor. "But we have a day off [today], and I'm going to lay around in Washington and go see my man, the president, and see if he'll let me hang around with him again."

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