Emma Meesseman shines as Washington bests Dallas 86-73, Mystics lock up top seed
Mystics secure No. 1 seed in playoffs
WASHINGTON D.C. – The Washington Mystics defeated the Dallas Wings 86-73 Friday night in Entertainment and Sports Arena. The contest, Washington’s second-to-last game before postseason, had playoff implications. The Mystics needed a win against both the Wings Friday and the Chicago Sky Sunday to maintain top seed over the Connecticut Sun, who loomed behind with a tiebreaker over Washington.
“At the start of the season, if you had asked me that on the last day of the season you can control whether you’re in in first place or not, I’d say, ‘yes, let’s go, sign me up for it.’ That’s where we are.” head coach Mike Thibault said.
Years of piecing together franchise puzzles and following Thibault’s blueprint of success led Washington to this situation.
Forward Emma Meesseman is a huge piece of that success and added to it during the 13-point win.
“She got the ball in the post, she got it on pick-and-pop, she got threes,” Thibault said. “I couldn’t believe she passed up the three down in front of their bench in the fourth quarter.”
Meesseman took a season hiatus in 2018 to participate in the FIBA World Cup with her home country’s team, the Belgian Cats. It was her first break from the WNBA in her six-year career and ironically the first time Washington appeared in the Finals. Now the sky’s the limit for Washington, a team with both a productive bench and reliable depth in the roster.
“The last couple of years she’s been working…and adding onto her game,” Meesseman’s Belgian and Mystic teammate Kim Mestdagh said. “She wants to expand constantly and it’s a sign of growing up.”
As an avid role player, Meesseman contributed early with 23 first-half points, six rebounds, two assists and a block as the Mystics led 51-33 at halftime.
“I think we were just moving the ball a lot and using the mismatches well,” Meesseman said. “My shots went in, so I just took my shot. We were playing fast and it was good.”
Washington’s defense focused on Dallas rookie guard Arike Ogunbowale, who entered the game on a red-hot streak of nine-straight 20-point games and three straight games with 30 points.
“They are really good and they have been playing with each other for a while and it shows,’ Ogunbowale commented about the Mystics. “It’s definitely their chemistry, how they move the ball, and play off each other. That is somewhere we hope to get, but they are definitely tough.”
Dallas outscored Washington 25-22 in the third quarter.
Officials assessed Washington with eight fouls, two of them technical fouls against forward Elena Delle Donne and guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, as their dominance unraveled before claiming the victory.
“It was such a herky-jerky game for a while with foul calls and physicality,” Thibault said. “I think it’s good for us to play against physicality like that because the playoffs are going to be more like that. I’m not happy with the fourth quarter particularly.”
For Washington, four players landed in double figures in the win. The Mystics’ bigger lineup of Meesseman, Delle Donne and center LaToya Sanders made 57 of the 86 points scored. Meesseman finished with a season-best and team-high of 25 points and 10 rebounds. The Belgium forward also crossed her 2,000-point milestone with a shifty lay-up at the first quarter mark.
“I don’t really pay attention to that,” Meesseman said of the mark. “I just want to win the game. It’s nice knowing that but it’s not going to change anything in the future.”
Delle Donne and Sanders added 16 points each. Guard Natasha Cloud recorded four points and five assists in the game. Her fourth assist of the game set the record for Washington’s season single assists by a Mystics player at 184.
Kristi Toliver (right knee) and Tianna Hawkins (rest) did not play.
Ogunbowale finished with exactly 30 points to mark four-straight 30-point games. Dallas center Isabelle Harrison added 16 points and eight rebounds.
“I thought her second half was really good. Sort of what we needed,” Dallas head coach Brian Agler said of Harrison. “Aggressive, not backing down, rebounding in a crowd, finishing, hitting free throws, getting to the 3-point line. She did a lot better job on [Emma] Meesseman in the second half.”
The Mystics host the Sky in their regular season finale Sunday at 4 p.m. E.T.
- Points in the Paint: Wings 32, Mystics 40
- Second Chance Points: Wings 9, Mystics 12
- Fastbreak Points: Wings 2, Mystics 2
- Biggest Lead: Wings 0, Mystics 22
- Lead Changes: 0, Times Tied: 0
- Washington has won five straight games overall and nine straight games at home and tied the franchise record for home wins in a single season (13).
- The Mystics won the series, 3-0, against Dallas this season, winning two of the three games by double digits. The Mystics have now won four consecutive games over the Wings.
- Delle Donne shot 2-5 (.400) from 3-point range, setting a career record for 3-pointers made in a single season (51).
- The Mystics outrebounded the Wings, 33-30, and improve to 15-0 this season when recorded more total rebounds than their opponent.