- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2005

MCI Center hasn’t been kind to the Washington Mystics this season.

The New York Liberty were the latest to enjoy the Mystics’ hospitality last night with a 77-68 win, handing Washington its third loss in three games at MCI this season. The Mystics will try to avoid making it four when Minnesota visits to conclude the homestand tomorrow night.

It didn’t help that two of the Mystics’ top players, Alana Beard and DeLisha Milton-Jones, were out with injuries. Or that Washington couldn’t stop the Liberty’s Vickie Johnson, who went through the depleted home team with ease to carry New York to its first win of the season.

Johnson scored 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting, often spinning past a less-agile defender for a clear lane to the hoop. She made all four of her 3-pointers and finished with six assists and 10 rebounds, including five offensive.

“If I was coaching Vickie Johnson again, I would be very happy with her performance,” said Mystics coach Richie Adubato, who coached the Liberty the past six seasons and led them to three Eastern Conference titles. “She was incredible.”

The Liberty (1-2) shot 55.4 percent and made eight of 14 3-pointers (57.1 percent). New York outrebounded Washington 28-20.

Rookie point guard Temeka Johnson (13 points, 11 assists) kept the Mystics (1-3) close until late in the second half, when the offense sputtered. Center Chasity Melvin led Washington with 16 points, largely on inside scores off assists from Temeka Johnson.

“It’s a short season,” said Melvin, who was saddled with foul trouble before fouling out with 4:24 remaining. “We can’t dig ourselves too deep of a hole. We need to come out and win on Friday.”

Beard, who has yet to play this season after spraining her right ankle at the end of the preseason, could return tomorrow.

“She’s coming along,” Adubato said. “I hope she’s able to go on Friday.”

Milton-Jones strained her right knee in practice Tuesday. Both she and Beard will be re-evaluated today.

The Mystics’ lone win this season came in the season opener at Charlotte. Before the game, Adubato said the team’s goal was to win three-quarters of its home games. To do that, Washington now would have to win 13 of its final 14 at MCI.

“This is even more difficult because you are supposed to win at home,” Adubato said. “We have to persevere.”

The game was tied at 37-37 at halftime, and the Mystics were within 57-56 with 8:56 left before a 12-4 run by the Liberty put the game away.

Note — The Mystics placed guard Keisha Brown on the injured list with a bad left knee and activated 6-foot-3 center Kaayla Chones. Chones, the Mystics’ second-round pick out of N.C. State in 2004, averaged 2.2 points in 13 games last season.

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