Tuesday, June 10, 2008

That look

Besides bouncing back from a loss, a good telling sign of a good team is how they look after that loss.

"If you can see the looks on these ladies' faces when you came into the locker room after the game," notes Minnesota Lynx guard Navonda Moore, "you look in their eyes and see that (we) don't want that to happen again."

In years past, after a defeat, most of the women didn't have that look. Oh, they did not like losing, but they weren't that brokenhearted over it either.

Not anymore.

It was the look after again losing again to Connecticut Tuesday night, 75-66, at home, the Lynx's second loss of the season -- both defeats at the hands of the Sun.

This time, it was Connecticut's Barbara Turner, who scored 16 of her 18 points in the second half, who helped produce that look in the hosts' faces, as the veteran guard-forward helped her Sun outscore the hosts 47-29, and overcame a nine-point halftime deficit.

"Barbara Turner got hot for them," explained Lynx Coach Don Zierden afterwards. "She picked them up and carry them."

Minnesota's evening-long cold shooting (25-for-75, 33 percent), including a 28-percent second half performance, also greatly contributed to that look as well.

"We couldn't throw it in the ocean," says Zierden.

Tuesday's defeat overshadowed perhaps Moore's best performance of the year: 7 points, 4 rebounds and a blocked shot.

"She was aggressive and got to the free throw line (5-of-7), and did some nice things for us," notes her coach. "That was an encouraging sign for us."

However, afterwards Moore couldn't accept this reporter's praise for her on-court work.

"I'm not thinking about that now," she admits. "I wanted that 'W' really bad. We all wanted that 'W' so bad. I am just thinking about focusing on tomorrow, and focusing on Sacramento (Minnesota's next opponent)."

She had that look, which lend credence to what Zierden has been saying since last season -- a change of culture is being created in Lynxland.

"It's hurt to have a decent game," continues Moore, "and you still look at that 'L.' What good feeling you can have out of that?"

Instead, the Lynx players left with that empty feeling, coming up short in their first home loss of the 2008 season.

Instead, they are kicking themselves because they didn't bring their usual energy, especially in the deciding second half.

"We didn't match their intensity in the second half," admits Lynx forward Nicole Ohlde.

Says Moore, "We had some spurts where we had a lot of energy, then we had three to five minutes where we were searching for it. That's not the way that we are."

Despite going up against a veteran, seasoned Connecticut squad, Moore refuses to blame their hit-and-miss energy on being young.

"We are a lot of second-year players and rookies," says Moore, "but when it comes down to it, it is really just playing basketball. This is the game we have been doing all of our lives.

"Intensity is something you can't teach," she adds.

Afterwards, reporters asked Zierden can the Lynx bounce back from Tuesday's defeat to play Sacramento on Thursday.

"They did a nice job responding after the first Connecticut loss (June 6)," he pointed out. "Now we'll see how we will come out Thursday night."

Bouncing back is something Moore and her teammates don't want to do too much more this season.

"Seimone (Augustus) told us that she is getting tired of hearing "bounce back," discloses the second-year guard. "We don't want to keep bouncing back."

Instead, the Lynx players had no choice but to leave the arena, to go into that good, good night Tuesday:

With that look.

Lynx Bits - - -

Augustus's 10 assists Tuesday was both a career and season high: she also kept alive her current double-figure scoring streak alive, now at 66 games, when the third-year guard hit a 22-footer trey with 29 seconds left in the game, to give her 11 points for the game . . .

Nicky Anosike went 2-for-11 against the Sun, her worst shooting game in her young rookie career. She perhaps is dwelling too much on her misses, Zierden believes. "She gets down on herself and is harder on herself as anybody," he says. His advice: "If you focus on what's happened in the past, it will affect your next shot."

Anytime Connecticut comes to town, which is only once a season, it brings people who usually don't want to be seen at any women's hoops game: the Twin Cities' "Mount Rockhead" -- columnists Patrick Reusse (Star Tribune), Tom Powers and Charley Walters (both of the St. Paul Pioneer Press) made their usual annual appearance Tuesday. All of them made a beehive to the Sun's locker room afterwards to again fawn over former U-M player Lindsay Whalen.

This reporter usually avoids such nonsense -- I covered Whalen all four years in college, meanwhile the Rockheads didn't know she existed until her junior year when the Gophers began winning, and broke the bandwagon in covering her.

Former Lynx Tamika (Williams) Raymond did not score in her five minutes of action, going 0-for-2, with one rebound, in her first trip back to Minnesota after being traded to the Sun this spring for Kristen Rasmussen. "We appreciate what she gave us last year in leadership," says Coach Z of Raymond, Minnesota's 2002 first round draft pick. "We had to make the trade, and she was very gracious about it."

"They could've traded me off to boo-boo land, but they put me in a situation (in Connecticut)where I can be successful," Raymond told me prior to Tuesday's game. "I loved every moment at Minnesota. The fans were great and very loyal, and the (Lynx) franchise was loyal to me. I just think it was time for me to move on."

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