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May 29, 2011 at 1:37 PM

Game thread: Tulsa at Storm exhibition

STORM WINS: Yummy stats are here. Most felt Ibekwe played well and the numbers back it up with her finishing with seven points, four rebounds, and three steals in 14 minutes. Sure, she made some mistakes, but she didn’t look out of place and, as Agler says, “has so much potential.” The Storm won 76-70 behind 20 points from Cash, who shot 50 percent from the field. She also had seven boards and four assists. Bird was fussy with her 33 minutes, finishing with eight assists and five points. She pushed herself Sunday and you could tell the offense at times needed more work together. Holt led the Shock with 25 points on 9 of 15 shooting from the field while Cambage had 10 points, eight rebounds, and one hissy fit — placing the ball hard on the ground when she couldn’t get a layin to drop, in 26 minutes. “I was so nervous,” she said. “The first quarter I was so sick and had to run back and get it out of my system. But even getting off the plane yesterday, I was just so nervous going into training. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me, but all of the girls are supporting me so much and all I can do is improve and get meaner on the court.” Swoopes was talking to Cambage pregame and is just the right player to instill some toughness in the native Australian. But the Storm isn’t worried about that. They’ll face the Shock five times this summer and has just four days to prepare for the opener on Saturday. Things will be a lot different, particularly since the Mercury were swept by the Storm seven times, including the postseason, last year. The Storm could experience a lot of payback, hope they had enough training to prepare for it. “It felt like a preseason game,” said Bird, whose team allowed 12 points off seven turnovers in the fourth quarter, watching a once 23-point lead dwindle to five with 33.7 seconds remaining. “Watching it, I’m sure you could see sometimes we looked really good, sometimes not so good. That’s about us just working through some stuff. I know Brian is trying some combinations and seeing what works. That’s what preseason is about. Are we 100 percent happy with 40 minutes? No, of course not. We know there’s a lot to work on. We saw it tonight and we can go ahead and work on those things.” The Storm has won its past six exhibition games at KeyArena and finished this year 1-1 for the third consecutive season.
MAILBAG: Via Twitter, a reader asked about Jackson’s fitness. She looks great, totaling 15 points with 3:16 remaining in the game. It’s hard to tell when she’s hurt, but doesn’t look like a player who had offseason surgery or hasn’t played since January.
STARTERS BACK: The original starters are back in the game. We’ll see if Agler does any more experimenting to close. Swoopes is playing well with a three-pointer and assist to rookie Kayla Pedersen (Stanford) to help pull the Shock within 69-59 with 4:24 remaining.
VET TIME: As he said, Agler is playing the vets extended minutes. The offense moves well without players like Bird on the court, but the defense still needs tightening. Holt broke loose, again, for a score. Agler is going with a big lineup now, running Cash at SG with Monroe, Little, and Jackson in the post. Holt still scored, totaling 22 with 7:45 remaining in the game Seattle is up 63-49.
HOT HOLT: Yeah, the Storm might want to work on its defense. Holt has a game-high 18 points, getting good looks inside and making some treys. Seattle leads 57-45 at the end of the third.
KICKIN’ BACK?: Storm appeared to ease up slightly on defense, allowing the Shock some easy scores to start the second half. Tulsa also made some defensive adjustments to force some turnovers. Seattle is still up 50-37 with 3:13 left in the quarter. Cash is scrappin’ hard, getting on the floor for a loose ball and calling timeout to keep possession. Seattle, didn’t score, though, Holt putting it in at the other end for a 50-39 deficit. Cash just burned her for three. Good stuff.
HALFTIME: The Storm leads 45-25 at the break, Wright highlighting the close with a steal against rookie G Darxia Morris (UCLA) that Wright pumped faked into a layin with less than a minute left in the half. Again, there aren’t stats anywhere, so all I can accurately tell you is that Ibekwe has seven points and Little has nine to lead the Storm. Holt has seven points for the Shock. Ibekwe looks good, but this is against a team playing its first exhibition matchup and that won six games last season. Jackson is playing with a burst of energy and Little’s game is tight. Cash was the big free agent signing last winter, but Little may have been the biggest snag. If she weren’t on a team of All-Stars and Olympians, she’d be an All-Star.
SORRY MATE: Yeah, Australians Liz Cambage (Tulsa) and Jackson are friends, many calling the recent No. 2 draft pick the next Jackson. Cambage is doing well with good ball-handling skills for a 6-8 center. Still Jackson worked her on defense, smacking the ball away when Cambage brought waist-level on a post move. The steal was eventually converted into a Jackson three-pointer to put the Storm up 31-16 with 4:33 remaining in the half.
STATS DOWN: Another preseason game, another broken stat machine. No formal number crunching until it’s fixed. I can tell you Little leads with nine points and the Storm is yo 26-13 with 7:16 remaining in half. Latta just nailed a three-pointer.
YOUR DAY: After practice on Friday, C Ashley Robinson told Ibekwe repeatedly that it was “her day.” The good vibe is continuing as Ibekwe picked up a steal immediately when she entered the game with 3:33 on the clock. She missed the open layin, but Robinson eventually turned an offensive board into a score. Ibekwe scored on a slithering layin with 2:15 remaining in the first quarter to put the Storm up 20-6.
QUICK TIME: Yeah, the Storm is executing better. They’re up 10-0 with 8:20 remaining in the opening quarter. Bird, Wright, Jackson, and Little scored, the team going 4-for-4 from the field to start. Tulsa immediately called time, tossing up an airball and turning the ball over.
BIG APPLAUSE: Former Storm stars Betty Lenonox and Sheyl Swoopes received arousing applause from the KeyArena crowd. Swoopes last played in the WNBA in 2009, when she was cut by Seattle. Lennox played in LA last season, signing with Tulsa as a free agent. Second-year coach Nolan Richardson said neither is a lock to make the team, although he does like the leadership they bring in the locker room. “They have to earn their spot,” Richardson said. On a side note, Clarence Lennox was back at the arena wearing a sharp yellow ensemble. Is it in his little sister’s contracts that she only play for teams with yellow colors so that he doesn’t have to really show his allegiance has changed? If Lennox suits up for Indiana next, you know something is up.
SPECIAL MOMENT: The Storm held a moment of silence for former WNBA C Margo Dydek, who died Friday in Brisbane, Australia. Dydek led the league nine times in blocks and was favorite among fans, players and coaches for her gentle spirit. She leaves behind husband David and two sons. Jackson is wearing black electrical tape around her left bicep.
They’re baaaack! The Storm is getting ready for its exhibition finale at KeyArena, the first game in the facility since defeating Atlanta in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals last fall.
There’s new merchandise on concourse (wicked cool shirts), new pictures on the wall entering the team’s locker room and new red paint inside the cubbyhole lockers. But the team is the same in coach Brian Agler retaining his starting unit and two reserves off the bench.
New things could be second-round draft pick Ify Ibekwe (Arizona) locking up a roster spot. Agler said the organization is “going to really invest in Ify.” And is deciding on what other player between posts Jacinta Monroe, Krystal Thomas and PG Sharnee Zoll could make the 11th slot of the roster. But Agler didn’t cement Ibekwe or the others on the roster due to other teams across the WNBA beginning to make roster moves this week.
Agler does expect to make a cut sometime after the game, the team taking Monday off.
“What I like about Ify is her instincts for the game, athleticism and she can score multiple ways,” Agler said. “Now, what she needs to improve on are the same things that most rookies need to improve on — developing that mental toughness defensively, being able to think on the floor and make adjustments and playing a lot of (power forward) in college to (small forward).”
Agler told the team on Saturday that “training-camp is over.” He wants the team to shift its mentality to getting ready for the regular-season opener on June 4 against Phoenix at KeyArena.
The team has had solid practices, but Agler wants to see it transition to the game against Tulsa. He expects turnovers, especially with the Shock’s noted pressure defense, yet he wants the Storm to play improved defense and execute better offensively than what happened in the 71-66 loss to Los Angeles last week.
Much of the problem then was the absence of PG Sue Bird (back spasms). She’s returned to practice the past two days and will start along with three-time MVP Lauren Jackson, who also missed the LA game to rest. Jackson, a 6-foot-6 PF, underwent minor Achilles surgery in February. Newcomers Katie Smith (Achilles) and Belinda Snell (ankle) are out due to injuries.
Well, plenty of familiar faces are trickling by press row, some packing yellow Storm ThunderStixs, so, it must be that time again. Let’s get you ready with the starting lineups:
F Tiffany jackson
F Jennifer Lacy
C Liz Cambage
G Ivory Latta
G Amber Holt
F Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright

Tonight’s officials are
Scott Twardski, Maj Forsberg, and Brenda Pantoja.



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