The Washington Mystics were missing a few players in their season opener up in Connecticut, but that didn’t stop them from earning a season opening win last night on the road. Stefanie Dolson (18 points, 12 rebounds) and Ivory Latta (15 points, 5 assists) led the Mystics to a 73-68 win over the Connecticut Sun. The Mystics were without Kia Vaughn(hip) and Bria Hartley(foot) and the Sun were without Chiney Ogwumike, Allison Hightower, and Kelsey Griffin.
Both teams struggled to shoot from the field, as neither team shot 40% from the field or 30% from beyond the arc. It may have been strong defense, first game jitters or a combination of both. The Mystics had a one point lead late in the fourth quarter, they had swung the ball well to find Kara Lawson in the corner for a wide open three. She missed the shot, but followed it to get a rebound and gave Washington a new shot clock. The ball went back out to Latta, who called for Meesseman for a high screen. Latta drew both defenders and passed to the now wide open Meeseman who drained the long two to put the Mystics up 69-66 with just 1:41 left in the game.
The Mystics got a much needed stop on the ensuing possession as Camille Little missed a three point attempt. Washington then turned the ball over on a botched screen-and-roll between Latta and Dolson. The Sun’s Kelsey Boone (14 points, 6 rebounds) grabbed the errant pass and found Alyssa Thomas (13 points, 7 rebounds) who raced down court for the layup in transition, cutting the Washington lead to just one. Latta and Dolson would go to the high screen-and-roll again, this time the defender stayed with Dolson, but it was a switch leaving a big on Ivory. She sped by the defender, but the layup wouldn’t fall.
It was Connecticut’s ball with 45.6 seconds left in the game, after their timeout they got the ball to Alex Bentley (17 points). She gave the ball up before running around a Boone screen to get it back. With Lawson fighting to get over the screen, it was Dolson charged with hedging until Lawson could recover. Bentley went towards Boone for another screen, but rejected it and tried to attack Dolson. Stefanie didn’t reach, kept her hands high and contested what ended up being a difficult floater for the smaller Bentley. A huge stop by the Mystics, from there the Sun had to foul and Bentley fouled Latta. Ivory went to the line and knocked down both shots to give Washington a 71-68 lead.
While Armitte Herrington didn’t play much, she was on the floor on the ensuing possession for defensive purposes. Joining her were Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Lawson, Meeseeman, and Dolson.
Connecticut inbounded the ball, ran some of their offense before getting the ball to Thomas. She caught it in the lane, but had to spin away from Dolson and into Meesseman who contested the shot very well. Dolson secured the rebound, Thibault promptly called a timeout. Latta was than fouled, knocked down both free throws and the Mystics left Connecticut with a win.
The Mystics held a 12 point lead at one point, it looked as if they were going to break the game open. The Sun always seemed to respond when needed, their largest lead of the game was eight.
The struggles from the field held Washington back from opening up the lead, they ran their offensive sets well enough to get good looks, but weren’t able to knock them down. First round pick Ally Malott got some action in the third quarter, she attempted just one field goal. Natasha Cloud got more time than Malott, she struggled with her shot as did most of her teammates, but did end up with three assists and four rebounds.
The story of this game was the development of one of last year’s rookies in Dolson. She looked comfortable and assertive all night long, it was a career night for her as far as points go.
While the Sun aren’t expected to be in the picture later on in the season, a road win is still a road win. Sometimes the toughest thing in sports is to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat and Washington did that last night.
They’ll face the New York Liberty at the Verizon Center tonight at 7pm Eastern, the Liberty got an 82-73 win over the Atlanta Dream last night to start their season off with a win.