Tahlequah Daily Press


May 25, 2013

Diggins, Shock fall in opener

Former Sequoyah star logs her first career points in the WNBA in Tulsa's loss.

ATLANTA — For a team playing without a defined starting point guard, the Atlanta Dream looked just fine to Angel McCoughtry.

"Considering it was our first game, I thought it was really impressive," McCoughtry said. "For a first game, it looked like we'd been playing for a while, you know what I mean?"

Skylar Diggins wasn't nearly as pleased with her first professional performance.

Tiffany Hayes scored 21 points and Sancho Lyttle added 18 points and 10 rebounds to help the Dream beat the Tulsa Shock 98-81 on Saturday night in the opener for both teams.

Riquna Williams had 16 of her 22 points in the second quarter for the Shock, who began the season hoping to shake off last year's 9-25 record and become a playoff contender.

Diggins, the WNBA's third overall draft pick, finished with 15 points and Roneeka Hodges added 14 for Tulsa.

McCoughtry, the WNBA's leading scorer in 2012, liked how five Atlanta players had at least three assists. After finishing with 16 points, McCoughtry praised how point guards Jasmine Thomas and rookie Alex Bentley complemented each other.

Thomas had six assists, four turnovers and four points. Bentley, the league's 13th overall draft pick, handed out three assists and finished with five points and no turnovers.

Lindsey Harding, who started at point guard over the last two seasons for the Dream, signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Sparks.

"It looked like we've been here with everybody for a while," McCoughtry said. "We got some new additions, and they fit right in, so I was very proud of how the girls played. It was very good chemistry today, and the thing is we still can get better. I'm looking for a great season.

The Dream began a 21-6 run late in the first quarter to take a 16-point lead on Hayes' fast-break layup early in the second.

Tulsa reserve center Liz Cambage finished with 13 points. Cambage, the WNBA's No. 2 overall draft pick of 2011, left the Shock last year to join Australia's Olympic team. She spent most of the past season playing in China before rejoining Tulsa this week.

Former Sequoyah standout Angel Goodrich made her professional debut for the Shock, playing 11 minutes and scoring two points. She also had three turnovers.

Goodrich and the Shock will play in their home opener on Monday against Washington.

Diggins wasn't pleased with her debut. The former Notre Dame standout, whose fame rose nationally after she signed a contract to be represented by entertainment mogul Jay-Z, was just 4 for 12 from the field and finished with five turnovers and three assists.

"You can't teach experience," Diggins said. "So it's good for me to be out on the court and get that in-game experience and watch the film, learn from it and have a short-term memory."

The Dream scored 12 points off Tulsa's 10 turnovers in the third quarter. When Lyttle hit an 18-footer early in the period, Atlanta led by double digits for the rest of the game.

"The first three minutes of the second half are the most important and we didn't do our jobs," Diggins said. "Most importantly, I think I have to do better handling pressure and calling plays."

Atlanta is coming off a disappointing 2012 season that included the firing of coach-general manager Marynell Meadors before the season ended. McCoughtry was briefly suspended, too, after returning with Meadors from helping the U.S. women's team win a gold medal at the London Olympics last August.

The Dream went to the league finals in 2010 and '11, but they lost in the Eastern Conference playoffs to Indiana. Fred Williams, who replaced Meadors as coach-GM, may have brought some stability after leading Atlanta to eight victories in its last 11 regular-season games.

McCoughtry likes the tone that Williams has set. She said the run the Dream made in the third quarter after letting Tulsa outscore them 28-19 in the second, shows proof that Atlanta could have an impressive season.

"I mean, it's early in the season," McCoughtry said. "There's going to be some things like that, but I was very pleased with what I saw today."

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