Live from Press Row - Storm vs. Tulsa (Preseason)
Storm Wins; Now to the Regular Season
Final: Storm 76, Tulsa 70
The preseason isn't about winning or losing, but as long as they're keeping score you may as well win. That's what the Storm did today despite the Tulsa Shock making things interesting down the stretch by applying full-court pressure and forcing some turnovers. That winning wasn't paramount in Brian Agler's mind is evident from the fact that Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson were both on the bench in the closing seconds. The three other starters and young players made enough free throws to hold on for the 76-70 win.
Offensively, the Storm relied on balance and hot shooting. Swin Cash's fourth-quarter surge gave her a team-high 20 points. Lauren Jackson and Camille Little unofficially added 15 apiece. Cash and Jackson combined for seven of the Storm's 10 three-pointers. Defensively, the Storm was excellent in the first half before the Shock was able to find more openings after halftime to make things interesting.
With this game behind us, Agler has maintained training camp is over. We now turn our attention to the regular season. After taking tomorrow off, the Storm will have four days to prepare for Opening Day and determine a final roster. Stay with us at StormBasketball.com all week long as we preview the 2011 campaign.
Mostly Regulars for Storm
Fourth Quarter: Storm 72, Tulsa 61
With the start of the regular season six days away, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler is mostly using his typical rotation down the stretch. Three starters are still in there along with Ashley Robinson and Ify Ibekwe. Ibekwe continues to be impressive. She's got seven points, four rebounds and two steals and has provided a nice dose of energy off the bench.
While Agler prepares the team for Opening Day and the Phoenix Mercury, the Storm's business staff is hard at work getting ready for what should be a very exciting show. The action starts at 11:30 a.m. with the Celebration of Champions as players and coaches are presented with their rings and the Storm's 2010 championship banner is unveiled. Arrive early to be in your seats and be among the first 8,000 fans to get a rally towel replica of the banner. Then we'll get down to business as the last two WNBA champions square off in a rematch of last year's Western Conference Finals. If for some reason you don't have your tickets yet, get yours now!
Fourth Quarter: Storm 66, Tulsa 51
After the Shock got as close as eight points, the Storm responded with an 11-4 run to push the lead back to 15. Storm frontcourt players scored three at a time - first a three-shot foul for Swin Cash, then a Cash three and a Lauren Jackson triple. Unofficially, the Storm has made 10 three-pointers in 19 attempts.
A couple of former Storm players have come back to KeyArena today. Betty Lennox and Sheryl Swoopes both signed with the Storm as free agents during the offseason. For Lennox, this is a chance to go back to the state where she grew up. As usual, Betty's brother Clarence is here watching from courtside and nattily attired in a suit with Tulsa gold and black.
Swoopes is back in the WNBA for the first time since she played for the Storm in 2008. She greeted a handful of familiar faces, both players and staff, when she made her way out for pregame warm-ups. At 40, Swoopes still has that familiar shot. She knocked down a trademark long three-pointer during the third quarter.
Storm Maintaining Lead
End Third Quarter: Storm 57, Tulsa 45
Not as much offense from the Storm in the third quarter. Just 12 points in the period as the outside shots stopped falling after an early Tanisha Wright three-pointer. Meanwhile, Amber Holt shot the Tulsa Shock back into the game with 11 points in the third. She's got a game-high 18 overall and has been very impressive.
Nice shooting in the Smithsonian Channel Half-Court Shootout. One of our contestants quickly banked in an attempt from center court to win the contest.
Heading to the Bench
Third Quarter: Storm 50, Tulsa 37
Just before the timeout, Sharnee Zoll checked in for the Storm. The Virginia product is playing alongside Sue Bird right now and will likely spell her at the point before long. As soon as she entered the game, Zoll did a nice job of stepping up and drawing a charge from a driving Tiffany Jackson.
Cambage Making Progress
Third Quarter: Storm 48, Tulsa 34
This is our first look at 6-8 Australian center Elizabeth Cambage, the No. 2 overall pick of this year's WNBA Draft. The talented 20 year old has the potential to be a great WNBA player, but she's also going to have to make some adjustments to the American game. She struggled a bit in the first half and did not have a field goal while turning the ball over a couple of times, but we've seen Cambage play more effectively in the post here after halftime. Cambage has been patient in the post and has displayed some impressive range for a player of her range.
Doppler is excited to be back after a long offseason. During the timeout, the WNBA's best mascot got the wave started here in KeyArena. That's a new Storm tradition.
Dominant Half of Basketball
Halftime: Storm 45, Tulsa 25
From start to finish, the Storm controlled the first half of basketball here at the Key. The first half really showcased the Storm's depth. Five players scored at least five points. They were led, as usual, by Lauren Jackson's 11 points. Jackson was 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and knocked down the only two-point shot she attempted. Camille Little added nine points, Swin Cash scored eight and Ify Ibekwe came off the bench to score eight. Brian Agler mentioned before the game that Ibekwe can score in a variety of ways, and we saw just that during the first half. Ibekwe made a three and another long jumper, but also scored off the dribble.
Expect to see more of the Storm's young players after halftime. Besides Ibekwe, third-round pick Krystal Thomas got a quick stint. Thomas is one of three players (fellow post Jacinta Monroe and guard Sharnee Zoll are the others) battling for the last spot on the Storm's roster. Agler reiterated before the game that the Storm will continue to consider players off the waiver wire in addition to the group in camp, but a good performance today could help one of the invitees solidify their case.
Storm Stays Hot
Second Quarter: Storm 36, Tulsa 19
While the Storm offense had a tough time getting untracked in the first half of Wednesday's preseason opener against the L.A. Sparks, the one thing the Storm could always count on was good outside shooting. That's continued tonight. Behind three triples from Lauren Jackson, the Storm is 6-of-12 from downtown, accounting for exactly half of the team's 36 points thus far. The Storm has also benefited from eight steals.
Fans getting up and moving during the timeout for the first Fan Dance of the year. Clearly, some fans have been paying attention to the Dance Troupe. Le'coe Willingham looked like she wanted to get out and join the Dance Troupe during yesterday's performance at a very fun Stormin' the Lake event. Willingham is known as the team's best dancer.
Second Quarter: Storm 28, Tulsa 16
Storm guards are doing a nice job of finding Camille Little in the paint and, in turn, Little has done an excellent job of finishing. Little has made all three of her shot attempts thus far and is also a perfect 3-3 at the free throw line for a game-high nine points. Her closest threat is Tulsa's Amber Holt, who has scored all seven of her points here in the second quarter to help the Shock already put up 10 points in less than half of this quarter after scoring just six in the first period.
Ibekwe Shines in First Quarter
End First Quarter: Storm 24, Tulsa 6
Before the game, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler reiterated his praise for second-round pick Ify Ibekwe, who appears close to making the team's final roster. Agler feels Ibekwe has the potential to contribute in the WNBA, though that's not likely to happen this season barring injuries.
Ibekwe is the one newcomer who has been part of the Storm's rotation thus far, and she showed the talent that the coaching staff has seen in practices. Ibekwe had a pair of steals and scored five points, scoring in transition and knocking down a three-pointer. The all-time leading rebounder in University of Arizona history also grabbed one board.
Storm Goes to the Bench
First Quarter: Storm 13, Tulsa 2
Just about midway through the first quarter, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler will make Ashley Robinson and Le'coe Willingham the team's first substitutions, replacing the starting frontcourt. Expect some big lineups today as Agler uses his regular rotation players despite the fact that both backup wings (Katie Smith and Belinda Snell) are sidelined.
Tulsa has four reserves in the game and the action has gotten a big sloppier. The Shock did get on the board thanks to a transition opportunity.
First Quarter: Storm 10, Tulsa 0
This feels kind of familiar. The Storm has come out playing incredibly crisp basketball, making all four shot attempts including a pair of three-pointers as part of a 10-0 run to start this game and the 2011 season at KeyArena. Two things to like so far are the Storm's ball movement on offense and Lauren Jackson's defense against fellow Aussie Elizabeth Cambage, who has struggled to get anything going against LJ and is playing much farther away from the basket than she would ideally like.
Agler Wants Improvement
This being the preseason, Storm Head Coach Brian Agler isn't worried about the score of this afternoon's game. His focus is simple: improvement.
"I want to see improvement on our defense and I want to see us play a little more efficiently offensively," said Agler. "As we know, it's still early and we're still trying to get back together and play together, so I would expect us to turn the ball over because of that. We should also see some more persistence defensively. We'd like to play a little bit more in transition. Having Sue (Bird) on the floordefinitely helps that.
"I just want to see improvement from Wednesday. That's my main focus right now. Not worrying about who we're playing or what's down the road a week from now. It's just us, right now, have we gotten better from the last time we played?"
Welcome to the 2011 Storm season! A little more than eight months since the last time we were here to celebrate the 2010 WNBA championship, the Storm returns to KeyArena to take on the Tulsa Shock in preseason play. The Storm will have its regular starting lineup on the floor today, though reserves Katie Smith and Belinda Snell will not play due to injury. Tulsa brings an intriguing roster to Seattle, including No. 2 overall pick Elizabeth Cambage and former Storm veterans Betty Lennox and Sheryl Swoopes. Although the results don't count in the standings, we're anticipating an exciting game. If you're in Seattle and couldn't make the game, catch all the action on our new radio home, 1090 KPTK AM. Otherwise, follow along here and don't forget to share your questions at web@stormbasketball.