- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

There were times during last night's Washington Mystics-Detroit Shock tilt, Swin Cash says, when she thought she was back in a Connecticut uniform, playing Oklahoma for an NCAA title. Just like in that game last March, the Shock's Cash was matched up defensively against Stacey Dales-Schuman.

One scene in particular reeked of the familiar. During a first-half Washington possession, Dales-Schuman as dangerous a perimeter player as there was during her four years at Oklahoma collected a pass near the left sideline and squared herself to the basket. As Dales-Schuman pondered her next move, Cash spread her arms, bent her knees and huffed two deep breaths, then matched Dales-Schuman step-for-step as the Mystics' rookie darted over to the right wing.

But just when it appeared Cash had her assignment cornered, Dales-Schuman sidestepped her and delivered a nifty pass to forward Asjha Jones, who stroked a painless 8-footer. Funny how things change. Last March, Jones a former UConn star in her own right would have been stepping into the lane to help Cash deny Dales-Schuman.

Then again, this entire season has been disorienting to Cash, whose Shock fell to 0-10 with last night's 75-67 loss. After starring for a UConn team that went 39-0 last year, Cash is struggling to adjust to life with the zero in the other column.

"Unexplainable. Not good," Cash said of the year so far. "But it's going to get better. I really believe that."

Cash earned MVP honors in that title game, netting 20 points and 13 rebounds, to send her stock soaring just weeks before the WNBA Draft. In April, the Shock selected her with the second pick overall, passing over Dales-Schuman, who went next to Washington. The decision raised some eyebrows, given Detroit's backcourt woes the year before and Dales-Schuman's status as one of the elite backcourt players available. Given that history, last night's rematch between the two college All-Americans appeared to be the perfect chance to settle the debate.

So who's better? Last night certainly didn't provide any firm answers. Cash shot 3-for-12 from the field and had six turnovers. Dales-Schuman had a quiet night as well. She attempted two shots, one of them an airball. Her penetration attempts, when followed by kick-out passes to her teammates, helped make sure the Mystics' possessions didn't go to waste. Still, throughout most of last night's showdown, it was the grudge match that wasn't.

Then came the final minutes. With 4:26 left and Washington trailing by two, Dales-Schuman assisted on Chamique Holdsclaw's game-tying basket. Over the next 3:41, she forced a turnover on a Cash inbounds pass and reeled off five points in a row to push Washington's lead to five.

Cash had no answers. With 32 seconds left, she hit the front rim on a 3-point attempt that would have made it a one-possession game, then her next shot 15 seconds later turned into an airball.

Dales-Schuman hasn't forgotten the damage Cash did against her Sooners last March. That keeps her guarded about the significance of Cash's struggles last night.

"This is a new phase for both of us," Dales-Schuman said. "Swin was a great college player, and she's improved so much already. She's a leader for her team."

Odds are, there will be more contested between these two. In the future, Dales-Schuman isn't likely to be held scoreless for so long, and at some point, in some city, Cash's Detroit team finally will win a game. Round 1 went to Dales-Schuman just barely but this rivalry isn't going away anytime soon.

"They're both going to be stars in this league," Detroit coach Greg Williams said. "You couldn't go wrong picking either one of them. They will prove that out over the course of their careers."

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