Sunday, May 24, 2015
Atlanta Dream Classic and WNBA COMES TO LOUISVILLE -- Sunday Cardinal Couple
SUN, MYSTICS WIN IN ATLANTA DREAM CLASSIC.
6347 fans watched the two WNBA pre-season games in the KFC YUM! Center on a Memorial Day Weekend Saturday night...Louisville's first-ever WNBA games in the Atlanta Dream Classic.
Fans of the Indiana Fever and Atlanta Dream didn't get what they hoped for...the Connecticut Sun rallying from an early deficit to knock off the Fever 76-68 and Washington taking control early against a depleted Atlanta roster to defeat the Dream 79-55.
WNBA Basketball is a bit different than the college ball normally played in the KFC YUM! Center. The games are four quarters instead of two halves and the music decibel level rivaled that which was being played down River Road at the Abbey Road on the River festival.
Mix music is the soup du jour during a WNBA game and it goes on non-stop, even when the teams are on the court playing. A bit different...and geared toward the younger generation. The jury is still out (at least for me) on that...
We actually tried to get a short interview with the D.J. playing the tunes but were rather brusquely informed by his "handler" that every second of his time was booked and that would be impossible.
(I hope he didn't have to pee while at work...or maybe they had that built in for him also...)
CONNECTICUT SUN 76 - INDIANA FEVER 68
The first game of the night looked to be a blow-out in the making early on...and it looked like Indiana was going to deliver the romp. The Fever held a 22-8 lead over the sun after Natalie Achonwa (yes she played...with a heavily wrapped knee) hit a hook shot with 2:01 left in the quarter.
Connecticut closed the quarter strong with a 11-4 run, though...Chelsea Gray scoring five points and the Sun continued to cut into the Fever lead in the second quarter by scoring the first eight points and taking a 27-26 lead on a Kelsey Griffin three with 6:34 until half.
The Fever regained their composure, though...and regained the lead...going up 35-31 after Achonwa hit a free throw with 2:23 left in the second quarter. They got a steal and Achonwa layup at the buzzer to go in up at the half 41-36.
Jeanette Pohlen led the way for Indiana in the first twenty minutes with nine points and Achonwa added seven. Chelsea Gray led the Sun with nine points and Kelsey Griffin contributed eight.
The Fever held the lead throughout the third period until a Kelsey Bone "and 1" gave the Sun a 48-47 lead. Layshia Clarendon's jumper gave Indiana a 57-54 edge with 14 seconds and it looked to be the final goal of the quarter but Gray hit a jumper at the buzzer to get Anne Donovan's team within one with 10 minutes to play.
The fourth quarter belonged to Connecticut. They regained the lead on a Bone layup to start the fourth quarter and a Bone put-back gave them a three point lead at 62-59. The Fever stayed within striking distance...a Pohlen jumper made it 67-65 Sun with 5:48 to go.
Connecticut went on a 8-0 run over the next five minutes...aided by the strong board play of Elizabeth Williams...and led 75-65 until Shenise Johnson hit a three for the Dream with 37 seconds left. Kayla Pederson added a free throw for Connecticut with a second left for the final 76-68 score.
The Fever no doubt missed Tamika Catchings and Shevonte Zellous who did not play...but Connecticut was without Chiney Ogwumike..so the star power was missing on both squads. Shenise Johnson tried to keep Indiana in the contest with seven of the Fever's 11 final quarter points...but the Sun shone brightly in the paint in the fourth to get the win.
WASHINGTON MYSTICS 79 - ATLANTA DREAM 55
Missing starters were key in the second game...Atlanta leaving starters from 2014 Tiffany Hayes, Erika De Souza and Sancho Lyttle at home in the nightcap.
The crowd greeted former Cards and current Dream starters Angel McCoughtry and Shoni Schimmel with a rousing welcome and the two seemed fired-up to be back in front of the Louisville fanbase.
The ball just wouldn't go in the basket for Atlanta early on.
They fell behind the former UConn Huskies trio of Stefanie Dolson (who was rocking purplish-blue hair), Kalana Greene and Bria Hartley. The three had 18 of Washington's 24 first quarter points. The Dream went 4 for 17 in the first ten minutes and managed just 10 points...Angel and Shoni going a combined 0 for 7.
It got worse for the Dream in the second quarter as Washington continued to get easy layups and solid three point shooting from Hartley. Angel broke loose in the second quarter...scoring 10 of Atlanta's 13 points...but the Mystics doubled the score on the Dream at the half 46-23. Shoni was making some nice passes and defensive stops but was still scoreless.
McCoughtry played just 1:11 in the third quarter and Schimmel logged over nine minutes...finally getting on the board with a desperation three as the shot clock expired with 4:12 left in the quarter.
The basket drew the biggest cheer of the evening.
Speaking of cheers, I'm not sure I'm a real big fan of an event's PA announcer repeatedly chanting "Defense" or "Let's Go Dream" into the microphone during action. Isn't that why there are cheerleaders and spirit groups? Once again, small beer really...but it got annoying. I'm sure a number of local high schools would have gladly lent their cheer squads or dance teams to the event.
"Sho-time" hit another three at the 2:45 mark, elicting another loud crowd response but Atlanta wasn't cutting into the Mystic lead and was trailing 67-40 with one quarter remaining. It was Shoni's final basket of the evening.
The teams played fairly evenly in the final stanza. Angel sat while Shoni logged all ten minutes in the fourth...picking up two more assists for a team high six. The Dream actually outscored the Mystics in the final ten minutes 14-12 to lose 79-55.
Atlanta got inspiring play from Sequoia Holmes and Ify Ibekwe off the bench but missed the 60% of their starter base that wasn't there. Also disappointing was that Washington's Kara Lawson was there but did not play.
We wanted to see if she would try interviewing her teammates and opponents while running up and down the court. The "headband cam" and accompanying audio feed is coming in the WNBA...we just know it !
Both Schimmel and McCoughtry met with the media following the game. Both were thrilled to be back in front of the Louisville fan base...Angel playing in the KFC YUM! Center for the first time and almost wistfully commenting that it would have been nice to spend four years in the arena.
Angel had a bag of ice strapped to her knee when they entered the media room but professed that nothing was wrong...it was just "getting old" aches and pains.
Other tidbits from the post game chat:
- Shoni hasn't read Jude's book yet...being quite busy with "playing hoops, sleeping and getting up and doing it all over again the next day..." but marvels that her sister was able to do it at the age of 21. She also hopes they can travel Europe playing ball together after the WNBA season is over.
- Angel still avidly follows UofL WBB...noting that she would be "watching at 3 a.m. in Turkey" to support the team.
- When asked if playing against three Washington players that formerly played for Geno Auriemma reminded her of the old days of facing the Huskies...Shoni jokingly made a vague reference to officiating and burst out laughing with Angel and the media.
All in all, a great evening of the WNBA in the YUM! 6347 for a pre-season exhibition double-header isn't bad at all. Whether or not a franchise could do that consistently here without the benefit of the two greatest players in Louisville WBB history on their roster is debatable. I'd go, how about you?
It was fun to have women's hoops back and it just whetted our appetite for the 2015-16 UofL WBB season.
Meanwhile, a level up from Denny Crum Court, the lines were long to meet Jude Schimmel and buy an autographed copy of her DREAMCATCHER book.
A short conversation with co-author Rick Laemmle revealed they brought 300 books and ran out of them -- necessitating a hasty trip to go pick up and bring back more.
Jude, ever-smiling and greeting each person in line...Shoni showing she is ready to assume the starting point-guard role for Atlanta. It seems the Schimmel's "held court" on two levels of the KFC YUM! Center Saturday evening and it was a pleasure and treat to see them "back in the house" they helped build and fill.