- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Five days ago in the first exhibition game of the season, the Washington Mystics played poorly and won. An encore performance was not in the cards last night.

The Mystics were mauled on the glass and shot poorly in the second and final exhibition of the season, losing to the Cleveland Rockers 69-62 before 7,102 at MCI Center.

The Rockers outrebounded the Mystics 41-30, and the Mystics shot 35.3 percent from the field.

Rockers guard Betty Lennox led all scorers with 21 points. Including Lennox, five Rockers scored in double figures in this game.

The Mystics finished the preseason 1-1 and open the regular season May 23 at the Charlotte Sting.

Despite getting punished on the glass, the Mystics gave up only seven offensive rebounds, which is a good sign. Starting shooting guard Coco Miller was the team’s top rebounder with five.

“We got out butts kicked [on the boards],” Mystics star forward Chamique Holdsclaw said. “They were physical inside. We started out with me and Murriel Page, and I was saying today that we are probably the lightest frontcourt in the league.”

Holdsclaw, who led the WNBA in rebounding last season at 11.6 a game, played 26 minutes and finished with 10 points and four rebounds. The 6-2 Page dislocated a finger in the second half and played just six of the final 20 minutes. In the Mystics’ first exhibition Friday in Minnesota, Holdsclaw scored 20 points and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.

“If we’re going to have the green light to take the open shots that I would like for our players to take, we’ve got to have a commitment to get to the backboard and get second and third shots,” Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said. “That wasn’t there most of the game.

Part of the reason the Mystics were crushed on the glass was they had Page playing out of position at center, something that has never worked for this franchise, and the Mystics are still learning their offensive plays.

“We’re trying to run our sets,” Mystics guard Stacey Dales-Schuman said. “So you run a specific set, and that puts the person that is supposed to get back in transition defense — that puts her under the basket, and the person that is supposed to ordinarily go rebound is not accustomed to getting back. You have breakdowns like that because you’re trying to run your sets.”

The Rockers didn’t bring their big weapons to Chinatown, but what they brought was enough to handle the Mystics. Four of Cleveland’s top five returning scorers from last season’s 10-22 disaster did not dress. Leading scorer Penny Taylor, who averaged 13 points last season, was courtside in street clothes after arriving yesterday from Italy.

Cleveland center Ann Wauters (11.2 points), the top overall pick in the 2000 WNBA Draft, is still overseas. Point guard Jennifer Rizotti (6.8) sat out with a bothersome ankle, and veteran swing player Merlakia Jones (12.2), who did not play overseas this offseason, decided to report yesterday to the Rockers after conducting her own conditioning program.

With all those players out for the Rockers, it seemed like the Mystics should have been able to blow out the Rockers, but Stanley wanted to look at various player combinations. No Mystics starter played more than 10 minutes in the first half, and nine of the 13 players who saw action in the first half scored points.

Rookie forward Tamara Bowie, the Mystics’ third-round draft pick (36th overall) out of Ball State, led the team with seven first-half points. The 6-foot Bowie is battling for a roster spot and didn’t hurt her cause with a solid first half on 3-for-4 shooting.

The Mystics’ 11-player roster (with two more spots on the injured list) is due in the league’s office next Wednesday. Right now, the Mystics have 14 players. The Mystics have seven forwards so expect the cut to come from there.

Note — Washington Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot, who was wearing a throwback Warren Moon Houston Oilers jersey, sat courtside.

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