- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A poor first quarter doomed the Washington Mystics in last night’s 74-67 loss to the Indiana Fever, their first defeat of the season at Verizon Center.

Shooting 30 percent from the floor, the Mystics (8-6) scored a season-low eight points in the first quarter, falling behind by 14 points to the Fever (11-5).

Indiana pressed inbounds passes and doubled the ball handler much of the quarter, forcing the Mystics into six turnovers. Indiana shot 53.3 percent and converted four of seven 3-pointers in the first.

“We just came out flat in the first quarter and there is no excuse for it,” said forward Crystal Robinson, who finished with 12 points. “I can’t tell you what happened. There is no reason, rhyme or excuse for that to happen. … The great teams come to play every single night. It don’t matter if they are tired. It don’t matter if they are sore. They come to play, and that’s how we have to start approaching games.”

Said teammate Alana Beard, who had a team-high 24 points and 10 rebounds: “We just let it slip out of our hands simply because we had lack of focus out of the gates. We didn’t have focus to start in the shootaround and it translated into the game. There is no excuse, just lack of focus. This could be the turning point of our season. This could be the make or break of the season and we have to get it done.”

Forward Chasity Melvin picked up two fouls in the first four minutes, forcing Mystics coach Richie Adubato to rely on his bench early. Foul trouble plagued the Mystics — who fell to 7-1 at home — all game as they were whistled 22 times.

“We are not very deep anymore,” Adubato said referring to the absence of forward DeLisha Milton-Jones. “Foul trouble can change the game around, especially right now if it affects our big people because we are not deep in that position.”

But the Mystics regrouped and held Indiana’s offense to six second-quarter points. Washington got back into the game by forcing eight turnovers and closing the period on a 10-0 run to trail 28-25 at halftime.

Adubato voiced his frustration when Melvin was called for her fourth foul and received a technical with 6:45 left in the third quarter.

“Basically I had to get the fans into the game, so that’s why I went after the official,” Adubato said. “Afterwards it usually results in a lot of energy and adrenaline flowing with your players.”

Adubato’s outrage served as a catalyst for his team as guard Coco Miller scored on forward Latasha Byears’ steal for an easy layup to give the Mystics their first lead of the game 39-38 with 3:02 left in the third.

A layup by Beard with less than a minute left in the third tied the game 43-43, but the Mystics could not capitalize on the opportunity.

Fever guard Tan White came off the bench and hit a 3-pointer from the left corner, giving Indiana a 51-48 lead with 5:40 left in the game. That shot would ultimately finish Mystics.

“They made every shot from everywhere,” Adbuato said. “They were on fire.”

Tamika Whitmore led the Fever with 22 points, making up for her previous game’s outing against the Sacramento Monarchs in which she was 0-for-6 with no points.

The Mystics’ bench combined for just eight points and two assists on the game. They dropped to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, 21/2 games behind the Connecticut Sun.

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