By ELIZABETH TRAYNOR Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Washington Mystics needed Emma Meesseman’s career-best effort to beat Connecticut and end the league’s longest winning streak.
Meesseman had a career-high 22 points and tied her best with 13 rebounds to lead Washington to a 69-63 victory Friday night, snapping the Sun’s six-game winning streak.
Meesseman was the key to the offense for the short-handed Mystics, who were without Kara Lawson (illness) and Jelena Milovanovic (strained right knee). Meesseman shot 11 for 14 from the field (79 percent) while the rest of her teammates were just under 30 percent (16 for 54).
“I don’t even know what to say,” Mystics coach Mike Thibault said. “Emma Meesseman, that was sensational tonight.”
Kia Vaughn and rookie Bria Hartley scored 12 points apiece for Washington (7-9), and Ivory Latta added 10.
Katie Douglas scored 18 points to lead the Sun (8-7), who had not lost since a 74-66 defeat to Washington on June 5. Alex Bentley had 11 points and rookie Chiney Ogwumike added 10.
Connecticut was just 3 for 15 on 3-pointers while dropping to 1-5 on the road.
“(Meesseman) played like a veteran foreign player who took advantage of our younger players. She did a great job stepping away from the basket,” Sun coach Anne Donovan said. “And even down low, she showed our team those international post moves.”
The Mystics got off to a strong start, making their first seven shots to take a 14-2 lead with 6:40 left in the first quarter.
Connecticut, 1 for 4 with two turnovers during that opening stretch, started making its shots and took a 17-15 lead in the final minute of the opening period.
Douglas made two jumpers as the Sun scored the final six points of the first half to take a 33-31 lead at the break.
When Thibault realized that the Sun had 13 points off Mystics turnovers and eight more off offensive rebounds, it set the stage for a fiery halftime speech.
“I can’t even repeat what I said,” Thibault said. “They were challenged a little bit at halftime, about a lot of things. The good part is that they responded.”
The Mystics started the second half the same way they began the game. Hartley had nine points and Meesseman scored six as Washington used a 17-2 run to take a 48-37 lead with 3:52 remaining in the third.
The Sun pulled within four in the final minute, but Latta made two free throws with 4.9 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Washington controlled the paint, outrebounding the Sun 38-25, a key advantage against a Connecticut team that likes to pick up points on the offensive glass. Much of that rebounding strength came off the bench, Thibault said, a key contribution given Washington was down two players.
“When you have soldiers down, everybody has to step up and do extra, and be big, and that’s what we did,” Latta said. “No matter if we have seven, eight, nine, twelve players, we’re still going to go out there and compete to the highest level.”
Still, it was Meesseman’s play that made the difference.
“She’s a great shooter. She’s a great pick-and-roll shooter, and she does the other little things as well, but you know, Coach has definitely been getting on her about shooting,” Latta said.
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