It’s been a difficult time of late for the Washington Mystics, who went 0-3 on the road last week against Indiana, Atlanta and New York.
Their homecoming present was no gift either, a matchup with the Eastern Conference leading Connecticut Sun.
It was nothing Crystal Langhorne couldn’t handle, at least in the first quarter. The Mystics two-time All-Star got off to a blistering pace, hitting all five shots from the floor and helping Washington take a seven-point lead with a minute to go in the period.
That was when the Mystics’ hot pace waned, allowing Connecticut to score the next 12 points to get back in the game and wind up claiming a 77-70 win at Verizon Center.
Langhorne finished making 10 of 14 shots and led all scorers with 23 points and nine rebounds.
“Of course, I knew they weren’t going to keep letting me shoot the ball,” Langhorne said. “They were kind of slowing me down a little bit. We still played well, other people were hitting shots, it’s just at the end of the game we didn’t execute when we needed to.”
The loss drops the Mystics to 5-22, the worst record in the league. Since the Olympic break, Washington is 1-8, and have lost six straight.
It was an especially rough night for Matee Ajavon, who remained scoreless until the halfway point of the fourth quarter. Unable to convert on a breakaway steal, a hard foul sent her to the line, where she scored her first points with just more than six minutes left in the game, and finished with seven points on 2 of 12 shooting and one assist.
Helping Langhorne on the offensive end for Washington were Noelle Quinn (10) and Shannon Bobbitt (10). Washington also managed to hold onto the ball a little bit better than they have in recent games, committing 15 turnovers to the Sun’s 19.
“You always think you’re going to make plays down the stretch,” Langhorne said. “Every night we’re coming out and we’re expecting to win, so we have to keep believing. It’s tough with the way things are going, but you wouldn’t be a basketball player if you didn’t expect to make a play.”
The Sun were led by Tina Charles with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Charles was one of four Sun players in double figures, including Kara Lawson (16), Mistie Mims (15) and Renee Montgomery (11).
“We had an opportunity down the stretch and again made some not great decisions and weren’t able to close the game out,” coach Trudi Lacey said. “We remind ourselves we’re playing with two young point guards and trying to teach in those situations.”
Lacey was pleased with the way the team fought back in the fourth quarter, taking a short-lived 67-66 lead with 4:06 to go and trailed 71-70 with one minute left. Charles restored a three-point lead with a layup, which forced Washington to sending Connecticut players to the line in the closing seconds.
“I was more pleased with their effort than the last time we were at home,” Lacey said. “Our execution was better, but I felt like the dragon’s head rose again in terms of our holding onto the ball too much and our offense becoming stagnant.”
The Mystics’ last home game was an 81-69 loss the the Atlanta Dream.
“In close games, we have to make plays down the stretch. We’ve talked about it all week in terms of working on our poise and staying calm in crucial situations.”