- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 11, 2002

In their first appearance, the Washington Mystics' newcomers put on a show and offered signs of big things to come this summer.

Rookies Stacey Dales-Schuman, Asjha Jones and free agent Maren Walseth combined to score 32 points as the Mystics defeated the New York Liberty 66-61 in the first of two exhibitions before 8,165 last night at MCI Center.

Dales-Schuman and Walseth finished with nine points each, while Jones contributed 14. Mystics superstar Chamique Holdsclaw led all scorers with 19 points and eight rebounds.

Everybody knows what Holdsclaw can do, but the jury was still out on the highly touted newcomers. Not any more, and Holdsclaw won't have to do it all.

"I thought they all played really well tonight, especially Asjha, who did a good job of establishing her presence on the inside," Holdsclaw said.

Jones was worth the price of admission in the first half, when she hit her first six shots before missing a 3-pointer with 3:13 left in the half. Jones added five rebounds and three blocked shots to her line.

"Sometimes I get on little streaks like that when I'm feeling comfortable and they were giving me jump shots because they were playing me to go to the rim," Jones said.

It wasn't as if the Liberty were missing key players because of overseas commitments like the shorthanded Mystics. The new-look Mystics handled the full-strength Liberty without their starting center Vicky Bullett and starting forward Murriel Page.

The way Jones played last night, Page's starting job may be in jeopardy. In her first game as a professional, Jones played like a veteran. The 6-foot-2 Jones showed Mystics faithful a range of offensive moves, including a turnaround jumper in the lane, that has rarely been seen in these parts. Or, for that matter, competently executed by Mystics' big people. Post scoring has haunted the Mystics the last four years almost as much as spotty point guard play.

Jones, the fourth overall pick in last month's WNBA Draft, just dominated the Liberty's post players. Tamika Whitmore, New York's third-year 6-2 forward out of Memphis, had no answer for Jones in the low post.

Jones backed down the 190-pound Whitmore with ease into scoring position, and then fired. Judging by Jones' low-post offense, she has been well-schooled at Connecticut playing with her back to the basket.

"I've always had that move and at UConn I always had the freedom to make that move," Jones said. "[Whitmore] was playing behind me, and once you are behind me, I'm going to hold you off and do a little shot in the lane."

The Mystics opened the second half shooting 1-for-12 from the floor, salting away their 13-point halftime lead. The Mystics got a little complacent and quit doing the things they did well in the first half, namely running the floor.

In the first half, the Mystics had their uptempo game running to perfection. Dales-Schuman, nursing a strained left quad, felt she could have played better in her pro debut; the third overall pick out of Oklahoma, committed four turnovers in her debut as the Mystics new point guard. Dales-Schuman's turnovers were caused by trying to thread the needle in traffic, something that is easily correctable.

"It was just a matter of dealing with the pressure," Dales-Schuman said. "I turned it over a couple times and I'll learn from those. I'm not concerned about that. I'm just concerned about our execution and how we are going to play together."


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