- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Before last night’s game against Houston, Washington Mystics coach Richie Adubato said his team needed to “get out and run and get some early stuff” to neutralize the Comets’ size advantage.

That “stuff” came early and often as the Mystics set a first-half franchise scoring record on their way to 93-79 win before just 5,892 at Verizon Center. Washington won its third straight on 56-percent shooting, taking advantage of the short-handed Comets, who were without injured WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes.

The Mystics (4-1) matched their best five-game start in their nine seasons by regularly beating the Comets downcourt for easy scores and shredding Houston’s zone defense with backdoor layups and outside shooting. Washington’s Alana Beard made her first five shots on her way to a game-high 22 points, and point guard Nikki Teasley (11 points, 11 assists) ran the high-octane offense superbly.

“They shot and executed as well as any team I have seen in a long, long time,” said Comets coach Van Chancellor, who has won four championships in his 10 seasons in Houston. “We just couldn’t stop them. They shot [66.7] percent in the first half. We couldn’t do anything. We tried switching defenses and nothing worked.”

Washington set a new first-half scoring mark by taking a 55-44 lead, beating the old mark of 50 points. The Mystics made 22 of 33 shots in the first half, including 13 of 18 in the first quarter.

The Mystics scored 90-plus points for the third straight game and fourth time this season, also a team record. They also made all 18 of their free throws. The Mystics were so efficient they had 25 assists and only nine turnovers.

“We have a better attack [than last season] and 3-point shooters everywhere,” Adubato said. “And that opens things up and allows us to go down low.”

The Comets’ (5-2) five-game winning streak was snapped, in part, because Swoopes did not make the trip with back problems. Second-year guard Roneeka Hodges made her first start in Swoopes’ place and made the most of it, hitting her first five shots — all 3-pointers — and finishing with a team-high 21 points. Comets All-Star forward Tina Thompson finished with 19 points.

Washington made its first five shots and broke out to an 11-5 lead on Beard’s fastbreak layup after a steal by Crystal Robinson. Houston closed Washington’s lead to 28-26 later in the quarter before the Mystics closed the period on a five-point run on a putback by reserve Latasha Byears and a 3-pointer by DeLisha Milton-Jones.

The Mystics expanded their lead to 49-36 on back-to-back 3s by Teasley and zone-buster Laurie Koehn in the second quarter. Coco Miller’s baseline jumper set the first-half scoring record and gave Washington a 51-38 advantage. The Mystics biggest first-half lead was 55-40 on Robinson’s fastbreak layup.

“It is very contagious when you have a point guard like Nikki Teasley, who can distribute the ball,” Beard said. “We want to get the ball out. We want to push it. But when it comes down to executing in the half-court, we can do that too.”

Chasity Melvin anchored the Mystics in the post with 14 points, while Byears (eight points) sparked the pull-away run in the second quarter.

The Comets scored six points to open the second half, making it a 55-50 game, but Teasley answered with another 3-pointer, and Washington expanded the lead to 70-54 later in the third quarter.

Notes — The teams combined to make the first 16 free throws of the game with Washington making nine. Houston’s Thompson broke the streak late in the third quarter. … The 28-minute delay in last Saturday’s game was because of a power surge, and the system has been replaced, a Mystics spokesperson said.

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