20080517/HOUDET
Shock Open Season with Victory over Comets

Detroit 85, Houston 66 (F)

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., May 17 (AP) -- Alexis Hornbuckle won a national championship in her last game. On Saturday, she moved to the pro level without missing a beat.

In her WNBA debut, the Tennessee star had eight points and a franchise-record seven steals to help the Detroit Shock beat the Houston Comets 85-66 in the season opener.

"I knew I had to be ready to play, and I just wanted to give us some energy and defense,'' Hornbuckle said. "I was over-thinking things early on, but I settled down.''

Hornbuckle helped the Lady Volunteers defend their NCAA title last month. She had a game-winning jumper in the semifinals, so her teammates weren't surprised by her performance.

Katie Smith scored 21 points and Plenette Pierson added 17 to lead the Shock, who have played in the WNBA finals in three of the last five seasons.

"She was great, but coming from Tennessee, we knew she was used to playing at a high level,'' Smith said.

Hornbuckle got extra playing time because Deanna Nolan was limited to 17 minutes by a sore ankle. Nolan got hurt while playing in Russia, and spent most of the second half on the bench.

"I thought it was extraordinary that she was able to get on the floor at all,'' said Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer. "She couldn't get it loose after the half, so we had to sit her.''

Laimbeer chose to start Elaine Powell at point guard and move Smith to Swin Cash's vacated small-forward spot.

"I like Plenette in that role, and I thought E.P. did a great job,'' he said. "We might stay with that group, but it depends on Nolan's ankle and the matchups.''

Tina Thompson led Houston with 17 points, and Mwadi Mabika and Matee Ajavon added 12 each.

"Detroit's a good team - they've been to the finals, and they've won several times, so you have to come out and play them hard,'' Thompson said. "We didn't do that.''

The Shock took control with a 20-1 run that stretched between the third and fourth quarters.

"We looked a little confused with some of our defensive assignments in the first half, but I thought we really settled down in the third quarter,'' Laimbeer said. "We got some steals and we didn't give them any second shots.''

The Comets finished with 23 turnovers, leading to 25 Detroit points, and allowed 20 offensive rebounds.

"Detroit did a great job defensively, and they played a very physical game,'' Houston coach Karleen Thompson said. "But we need to work on our chemistry as a team. It's basically just effort - that was a big thing tonight.''

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