Sometimes in sports, a team has to get good and angry. The Minnesota Lynx played Saturday night like they were very good and angry.
According to Lynx center Vanessa Hayden-Johnson, they have been like this way for the last few days since the team's 73-67 loss to Atlanta July 9th.
"We've been beating the hell out of each other in practice," she admits. "We were hungry for a win."
Their hungriness paid off as Minnesota defeated Houston 85-71 Saturday at home. The victory snapped both an overall two-game losing streak, and a two-game slide at home as well, and brought the Lynx back to .500 (10-10).
"We needed to get back to .500," says Hayden-Johnson. "I think we all were under that pressure and were feeling it."
Seimone Augustus played hungry against Houston.
"I know that I haven't been aggressive since the Los Angeles game (a 88-70 road win on July 3)," she admitted. "I think my teammates feed off me being aggressive. I am going to try to do this more often on a consistent basis."
Augustus scored only six first-quarter points but they came off aggressive moves to the basket, which set the tone for her teammates to follow the rest of the night.
"Seimone was aggressive from the start," notes Coach Don Zierden, "and that what your best player and leader needs to do."
"She was focused," marveled Hayden-Johnson on the Lynx's top scorer. "She said, 'Let's play for us,' and that what we did."
Also, Augustus played mad all night as well. She led all scorers with 27 points. Perhaps she needs to get angry more often.
"My teammates says that when I get angry at practice, it's over with," she says proudly. "There were some calls that were made (Saturday), and some things happened in the game that really teed me off. It was a good thing that it happened."
Minnesota also got solid play from guard Anna DeForge, who finally looked like the player everyone previously hoped that she is -- a flat out outside scorer, scoring 17 points in the win.
"You tell shooters to keep shooting the basketball," Zierden says. This is what he has been telling DeForge to do all season -- when she shoots it, the team succeeds.
"We were executing both outside and inside tonight," says DeForge.
More importantly, the Lynx played with urgency. They took control midway through the opening quarter, after trailing early, and kept it up the rest of the way.
"We're (the coaching staff) serious about this, and they should be serious about this as well," says Minnesota Assistant Coach Jennifer Gillom. "We blew one of our chances against Atlanta -- home court advantage is very important at this point if we are going to make the playoffs. I think they understood that tonight."
The players were beginning to play like robots, says Augustus.
"We just wanted to play basketball (tonight)," claims Coach Z. "There wasn't any game plan."
Hayden-Johnson concurs, "We didn't have a set game plan, but he (Zierden) just told us to go out there and do our best.
"We played streetball," she continues, noting that the team successfully carried their practice intensity to the main court Saturday night.
"We were physically and mentally prepared," notes Lynx forward LaToya Thomas.
The Lynx showed this Saturday as they battled Houston, one of the WNBA's tallest teams, all night. They didn't win the rebounding battle (the Comets out rebounded the hosts 36-33) but Minnesota forced the visitors into 17 turnovers, and ultimately won where it counts -- the final score.
Rookie Nicky Anosike showed her might Saturday as she posted her fourth double-double of the season (12 points, 10 rebounds). Next to Augustus, Anosike perhaps was the Lynx's second aggressive player against the Comets.
"She is a fierce competitor," says Zierden of the 6-3 Anosike. "She's not 6-4, 6-5 but she works hard. It doesn't matter about how many points (she scores) but how (well) she defends and rebounds."
It was more Uptown Saturday Night against Houston than it was a few nights before, when it was "Down and Out in (Lynxland)" in the Atlanta loss.
"When teams make shots, they have energy on the other end of the floor as well," concludes the Lynx coach. "Tonight we made some shots that we haven't been able to make in other games."