- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2004

The month-long Olympic break apparently did the Washington Mystics no good. In their first action since the Games ended, the Mystics fell into sole possession of the WNBA’s Eastern Conference cellar.

The Indiana Fever placed four players in double figures and snapped a six-game losing streak by pounding the Mystics 75-58 last night before 10,321 at MCI Center.

Tamika Catchings, fresh off her gold-medal winning performance with the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team, did a little bit of everything for the Fever — and didn’t have to battle her ex-college teammate, Chamique Holdsclaw. Catchings, Natalie Williams and Kelly Schumacher finished with 16 points each for Indiana.

This lopsided loss was especially disturbing for the Mystics (12-15), who had a month to figure out how they were going to approach the final eight games of the season. Holdsclaw, who is on the injured list, will miss at least the next two games with a “minor medical problem.”

“I think a lot of practice time can really hurt a team because you practice and you work on things and you do so well,” said Mystics power forward Chasity Melvin, who led all scorers with 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting. “We practice so good, and it didn’t come over to the game today. You would have thought we were in the Bahamas for the whole break the way we played tonight.”

Indiana outscored the Mystics 41-30 in the second half, pounding the ball inside to the 6-foot-4 Schumacher and the 6-2 Williams. Indiana scored 34 points in the paint.

These two teams meet again Saturday night at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Mystics should have a bit of an advantage in the return game; the Fever play at Minnesota tomorrow night before returning home. The Mystics, who travel tomorrow afternoon, will beat the Fever back to Indianapolis for the fourth and final game of the season series.

The Mystics got off to a terrible start last night. Midway through the first half, Washington was shooting just 21.4 percent (3-for-14). The reason was pretty straightforward: Rookie Alana Beard had attempted just one shot to that point.

With Holdsclaw out, the athletic Beard becomes the Mystics’ first option. That message wasn’t relayed to the rest of the team last night until Beard gave the Mystics an 18-17 lead on a coast-to-coast layup with 9:33 left before halftime.

Beard, whom the Mystics selected with the second pick overall in last April’s WNBA Draft, came into last night’s game as the team’s only scorer in double figures (11.2) besides Holdsclaw.

Beard and Melvin led the Mystics with six points apiece in the first half.

“I was just trying to run the offense at the beginning,” said Beard, who finished with 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting. “I was trying to do what the coaches were asking me to keep doing — reverse the ball, pass the ball — and trying to get the team into a good rhythm.”

The Mystics did a great job in the first half slowing Catchings, who scored only five points, but forgot about the rest of the Fever. Guard Kelly Miller, the identical twin of Mystics guard Coco, had nine points on 4-for-8 shooting. Miller came into the game averaging 10.1.

Schumacher added eight points before halftime — all in the paint.

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