- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

The Washington Mystics rebounded from back-to-back road losses with an 87-80 win over the Connecticut Sun last night at Verizon Center.

The Mystics, playing in front of a crowd of 7,216, improved to 7-0 this season on their home court.

Center Chasity Melvin led the Mystics — who entered the game trailing the Sun by 2 games — with a season-high 25 points and 10 rebounds

“This is just a big confidence booster. I mean, Connecticut has had our number for years now,” Melvin said, referring to the Mystics’ first victory over the Sun in eight attempts since the 2004 playoffs. “I was just trying to bring energy to the team and that is what we played off of tonight.”

In a first half that lacked any semblance of defense, the Mystics sprinted to a 52-42 halftime lead, shooting 58 percent from the floor. The Mystics made 23 first-half field goals — the most allowed this season by the Eastern Conference-leading Sun.

“We played a terrible first half defensively,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “It was the worst first half that we’ve ever played.”

The Mystics lost 85-71 at Connecticut earlier this month, to a Sun team without four-time WNBA All-Star forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin. Yesterday, McWilliams-Franklin had 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Without the outside shooting threat of Olympic gold medalist DeLisha Milton-Jones — out five to seven weeks with a left MCL strain — coach Richie Adubato shifted the Mystics’ offensive focus to getting the ball in the post.

The strategy worked, as the Mystics recorded 48 points from the paint while shooting 54 percent from the floor.

The Mystics shut down the Sun’s leading scorer, forward Katie Douglas. The guard/forward, who averages 16.4 points a game, went the entire first half without scoring, shooting 0-for-2 from the field. She finished with 10 points, her third lowest performance of the season.

“I don’t think they were doing anything to me necessarily,” Douglas said. “I’m not going to force anything. I’m going to let the game come to me, so I guess it was just one of those nights … but we are way too old to have our confidence shaken by this.”

The Sun battled back, erasing the Mystics’ lead in the third quarter.

Connecticut forward Asjha Jones tied the game at 59-59 with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 1:30 remaining in the third quarter.

With less than two minutes remaining in the game, the Sun pulled within one point, but the Mystics held off the charge.

With 30.6 seconds remaining, Nikki Teasley scored on a layup, putting the game out of reach 84-78. Teasley finished with 16 points and five assists.

The Mystics posted 19 fourth quarter points.

Guard Alana Beard, who leads the Mystics with 20.6 points a game, had a quiet night offensively (15 points), but anchored the defense with three steals and seven rebounds.

“The way that they went off in Connecticut the other night, we were not going to let that happen again because we knew our defense was better than we showed last time,” Beard said. “This gives us confidence as a team to know we can win without [Milton-Jones] and hopefully we can take this on the road.”

Washington will face the Indiana Fever tomorrow night at Verizon Center in another matchup with playoff implications.

“Everyone is fighting for the home court advantage, everybody is fighting to make the playoffs” Adubato said. “We know how important the home court is. I think Connecticut is the premiere team while Indiana, Detroit and us are all fighting it out.”

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