The Los Angeles Sparks (8-3) continued their home winning (5-0) with a rout of the Washington Mystics (2-6) Monday night, 101-70. Rookie Nneka Ogwumike, back with the team after missing the last game due to her college graduation, led the Sparks with 24 points, seven rebounds and four steals.
While the Sparks came away with the victory, Washington led early in the game but their last lead was 25-23 with 6:04 remaining in the second quarter. The Sparks’ biggest lead was 36 points. They outscored the Mystics 57-34 in the second half and 66-30 in the paint.
Los Angeles came out strong in the second half and never looked back.
“We just wanted to come out with a lot of intensity on the defensive end,” said head coach Carol Ross. “This game was about the best defense I’ve seen in a long time. There wasn’t a significant shift other than our intensity.”
She was impressed with Ogwumike’s production.
“No question about it, Nneka is quick and athletic,” said Ross. “She’s able to do a lot of things defensively that allow Parker to do things defensively as well. It’s great to have her back. I asked her if she was going to be much smarter now that she had that diploma in her hand—and I think she was!”
Four other Sparks were in double figures. Jantel Lavender came off the bench for 16 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes. Kristi Toliver scored 15 points and six assists, DeLisha Milton-Jones had 13 points and four rebounds, Candace Parker finished with 11 points and eight rebounds and Alana Beard scored 10 points and also added five assists plus five steals. The Sparks shot 53.6 percent from the field.
Michelle Snow led Washington with 15 points and seven rebounds. Natasha Lacy finished with 12 points, Monique Currie had 11 points, and Noelle Quinn contributed 10 points and five rebounds. Crystal Langhorne, who came in to the game averaging 15.9 points per game and 7.1 rebounds, was limited to just two points and four rebounds.
The Sparks stay at home to host Tulsa on June 20. The Mystics continue on their road trip and play Phoenix the same day.
Sparks Forward DeLisha Milton-Jones
On the win tonight:
“Tonight, we came back home, we were able to re-group. We had a nice focused shoot-around today, and Coach Ross really challenged us as a team and we answered the call tonight.”
On the Sparks defense:
“The saying is always true: defense really does win games, and definitely wins championships. We have to focus on one game at a time. If we play every night with tenacity, the score board will be in our favor. We hope to take the road trip as a learned lesson.”
On playing Tulsa next:
“You’re only as good as your last game. We can’t go into the next game living off the success of this game. For Tulsa, we have to roll our sleeves up. They play 40 minutes of high intensity basketball. They are scrappy, and we have to be just as scrappy to win.”
Sparks Forward Nneka Ogwumike
On the win tonight:
“It’s really great to come off that road trip and play like this. We don’t want to take any steps backward. Now we know we have to play hard no matter where we are.”
On the Sparks defense:
“Defense was a huge key of the game. Coach Ross stressed that we had to keep people from doing their favorite things, and I think we did an amazing job of containing their best players. Now we need to create identity with that. The offense will come if the defense is there.”
Mystics Head Coach Trudy Lacey
“Normally, we play very good team defense, and tonight we just put them on the line too much. On the flipside, we turned the ball over. They scored 29 points off of our turnovers. L.A. is a very good team. They came off a tough road trip, so we knew they’d be fired up. I just don’t think we responded well.”
On Crystal Langhorne:
“It’s tough to get the ball to the post when they turn it over so much. So I think that was the main problem.”
On the potential of her team:
“I think tonight was uncharacteristic of the way that we played. Every single game that we’ve been in, we took the world champions to a buzzer beater; we beat Indiana; we had Chicago on the home floor; and to say that after 8 games we haven’t reached our potential is sort of a stretch.”
Mystics Forward Michelle Snow
On the turnovers in the game:
“We know we have to take care of the ball, and we typically do that, so we just have to bounce back and get back to who we are and what we do best. That is getting people easy baskets. They had 30 points in transition—that’s the game right there.”
On what the team needs to do:
“We have to bounce back. We already proved we played well together. We’ve proven that we know how to pressure and push people into the help side, and we want to get into our run game, so we have to get back to the way we know how to play.”
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