- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2001


Washington Mystics coach Tom Maher usually keeps his suit jacket on well into the game. Last night it came off right after the national anthem.
The heat definitely was on him and the Mystics, who were trying to avoid their ninth straight loss. They responded with their best basketball of the season, beating the Utah Starzz 74-64 before 14,687 at MCI Center.
Washington never trailed in the game and led by as many as 18 points with 16:46 remaining in the second half. The Mystics' second-half advantage never dipped below 10.
"It feels great, man," forward Chamique Holdsclaw said with a grin. "It's like a new season."
Holdsclaw recorded her seventh double-double of the season, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for the Mystics (3-9). Three teammates also scored in double digits: forward Murriel Page (14 points), guard Nikki McCray (12) and center Vicky Bullett (10).
Guard Natalie Williams had a double-double for the Starzz (5-6), leading all scorers with 20 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. But Utah shot just 38.7 percent from the field to Washington's 41.9 percent.
Utah's starting center, 7-foot-2 Margo Dydek, was held to three points, three assists and one rebound on a night when the Starzz the WNBA's best rebounding team lost the battle of the boards 39-28.
"It was our defense and our possession that won us the game," the visibly relieved Maher said.
The Mystics opened the game keying on Dydek on both sides of the floor. It worked. By intermission, Washington had a 36-21 edge its first double-digit halftime lead of the season.
Double-teamed in the paint, Dydek scored all her points and had only one assist in the first half. The Mystics' defensive strategy seemed to affect the entire Starzz offense, which had a 17.6 field goal percentage more than midway through the first half before boosting it to 32.1 by the break.
"We were doubling the post, period," Page said. "With post players like Dydek and Williams, you have to help. We didn't want their post players to get off to a good start tonight."
Washington drove at the towering Dydek at the offensive end, luring the league's blocks leader to the ball before dishing it to a Mystics player on the baseline. Page, who led all first-half scorers with 10 points, scored two baskets in a row using that strategy and gave Washington a 12-3 lead with 14:15 remaining in the first half.
"We knew going into the game that we couldn't shoot over [Dydek], so we made her help and looked for the man that she was helping off of," Page said.
The Mystics also utilized their fast break when Dydek was on the floor, taking advantage of her lack of mobility to get numbers on the offensive end and get the high-percentage shots they needed to earn their first win in more than three weeks.
Notes Mystics starting point guard Annie Burgess sprained her left ankle again, rolling it on a teammate's foot in the team shootaround yesterday. She dressed but did not play, and guard Helen Luz started in her place. Burgess first sprained the ankle June 16 in the final minute of Washington's 86-63 loss to the New York Liberty… .
Holdsclaw continues to lead the voting in WNBA All-Star Game balloting. After the second tabulation, she had 26,929 votes. The Western Conference's top vote-getter, Houston Comets forward Tina Thompson, received 21,517 votes. McCray is second among Eastern Conference guards and Bullett and Page third among forwards and centers, respectively. The game will be held July 16 in Orlando, Fla.

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