- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Washington Mystics were looking to ignite a run to get them into the playoff picture Friday night. Instead, they reached the low point of their season.

Guard Deanna Nolan scored a game-high 26 points as the Detroit Shock dominated the Mystics 99-62 at Verizon Center. The loss was the worst of the season for Washington, coming just a day after a 21-point drubbing by the New York Liberty.

The Mystics (8-14) were dejected after the game. Their locker room was silent, and each player sat at her locker with her head down, trying to contemplate what had just happened and attempting to figure how to move past the blowout loss.

“The best way is to win,” said forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who led Washington with 13 points. “That’s all we’re looking forward to right now, is playing Seattle. Tomorrow we’ll go over the early problems we had. The first [half] was a disaster. We gotta clean that up in practice and move on to Seattle and what we can do well against them.”

The Mystics were outmatched from the opening tip Friday. The Shock (16-7) established their dominance by scoring the game’s first nine points. The Mystics were slow-footed defensively and Detroit welcomed open shot after open shot. Nolan took full advantage of the Mystics’ relaxed defense, racking up a good night’s worth of points (19) in the first quarter alone.

“We tried the zone, we tried the man, we tried everything tonight to spark our team,” coach Tree Rollins said. “But defensively we didn’t have the sense of where to be.”

Washington compounded its problems with equally poor offensive play. The Mystics struggled to run their plays smoothly and were often forced into taking contested shots. They had more turnovers (11) than field goals (9) in the first half.

Leading scorer Alana Beard was held scoreless in the half. The biggest sign of life the Mystics showed before the break was a flagrant foul by Monique Currie with 1:36 left in the second quarter. Detroit led 55-33.

The Mystics played somewhat better in the second half, but the damage was done. By the third quarter, with Detroit’s lead over 30 points, the Mystics seemed demoralized and could not stop the onslaught. Detroit continued playing sound basketball while Washington faltered, and the Shock stretched their lead to 46 midway through the fourth quarter.

Only a 3-pointer by Crystal Smith with 2.9 seconds left saved the Mystics from losing by 40.

“I don’t know if it’s pre-break coming up,” Rollins said. “I can’t get inside their heads and see what’s in there. As a coach, I can continue to prepare them, continue to put in the reps that we do, continue to put them on the practice court.”

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