Starzz too much for Mystics, 83-73

Utah's balance, height spell loss for Washington

Basketball

July 21, 2002|By Travis Haney | Travis Haney,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said she told friends before last night's game with Utah that she thought the Starzz had the best starting five in the WNBA.

They went out and showed why in an 83-73 win over Eastern Conference-leading Washington before 16,477 at MCI Center.

Each of the Starzz's starters posted double figures in points. Second-year player Marie Ferdinand, who played in last week's All-Star Game in Washington, had a game-high 21 points and added five rebounds, five assists and three steals.

"I thought Ferdinand had an outstanding game," Stanley said. "We had no answer for her."

Ferdinand's presence was felt by the Mystics at both ends of the floor -- from her lightning-quick jump shot (she was 8-for-11 from the field) to, more pertinent in her mind, her swarming defensive presence.

"I thought tonight we got it going defensively and that created offense for us," said Ferdinand, who was averaging 14.7 points coming in.

Ferdinand and point guard Jennifer Azzi, who had a season-high 19 points, hitting all three of her three-point shots, made life difficult for Washington's inexperienced backcourt, especially in the first half. Utah led 38-33 at halftime and had forced nine Mystics turnovers by the break.

"You can't win a game with nine turnovers in one half," said Mystics forward Murriel Page, who had a career-high 20 points.

Rookie Stacey Dales-Schuman and second-year player Coco Miller were asked to run the point most of the night since starter Annie Burgess was again unable to play because of a lingering calf injury.

"We've been getting by for a few games," Stanley said, "but [not having Burgess] really showed today, particularly against a veteran team. Our lack of experience at the point, and asking people who normally don't play the point to do so, is going to hurt you."

Miller did score nine points, but went 3-for-11 from the field and had four turnovers. Dales-Schuman was held scoreless for the second time this season, the first since Charlotte shut her out June 19.

Stanley said trying to run the team changes Miller and Dales-Schuman's approach to the game.

"At least half of their mind is on executing and running things," she said, "so most of their attention goes away from being a scoring threat.

"By the same token, look at who's defending the wings, Ferdinand and [Adrienne] Goodson. Getting around them is not the easiest thing to do."

Throughout the game, the Mystics constantly fell behind the taller Starzz and clawed their way back only to see Utah's post presence take over to put the team back up.

The perfect example came with 11:30 to go. Mystics rookie forward Asjha Jones, who had a career-high 14 points, hit a 15-foot jumper to put Washington up 57-55. The next three times down the floor, Utah's Margo Dydek -- all 7 feet 2 of her -- scored easy baskets from just outside the paint to put the Starzz back up 61-57. Dydek finished with 12 points.

The baskets were part of a 14-1 run by the Starzz to put them up 71-58, and ahead for good, with a little more than five minutes remaining.

"We played hard," Stanley said. "Utah just had answers. Dydek, down the stretch for them, was huge."

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