San Antonio forced to see Stars in 92-77 loss to Phoenix

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SAN ANTONIO – Kayla McBride notched her fourth 20-point game of the season, but the Stars fell to the Phoenix Mercury 92-77 Friday night at the AT&T Center.

“I thought overall we held our ground and we fought — that’s something to build on,” Stars head coach Vickie Johnson said after the game. “I thought that our team did better than Wednesday, but we have to keep working, keep building and keep developing.”

McBride led all scorers with 22 points, but Alex Montgomery was the only other San Antonio player to score in double-digits with 12.

“I was just trying to be aggressive,” said McBride, who scored 9 points in the first four minutes of action. “We had a great crowd tonight — our fans were amazing —I was feeding off them and just trying to give my team the energy it needed.”

Kelsey Plum started for the Stars at point guard in place of the injured Moriah Jefferson, and the rookie scored 6 points and dished out 6 assists.

Dearica Hamby came off the bench to score 8 points and grab 5 rebounds, while Kayla Alexander recorded 6 points and 5 rebounds.

The game was hard-fought from the opening tip as both teams played aggressively, and Johnson was happy with the way her team fought even as tempers flared in the second half.

“We felt like we needed to prove something after last game against Connecticut, so I think we came out with a little more of an edge,” McBride said. “We’re not going to back down.”

Diana Taurasi got ejected from the contest in the fourth quarter after receiving a double technical with Alex Montgomery, but she still led the Mercury in scoring with 17 points. Brittney Griner scored 15 points and collected 8 rebounds, while Leilani Mitchell scored 15.

Monique Currie, who started the season with the Stars before getting traded on June 28, chipped in 12 points.
As a team, the Mercury made 10 three-pointers and refused to let the Stars back into the game even after the Taurasi ejection.

“We had that run where there was a spurt and the crowd was into it,” said Sydney Colson, who scored 5 points with 4 assists. “It gave the players on court a little more energy, but you can’t have lapses when the best player is out of the game — that’s when you have to capitalize.”

The Stars start a two-game road trip beginning with the Indiana Fever on Wednesday, July 12. Opening tip is scheduled for 11 a.m.

– Heath Clary, SAStars.com

STARS NOTES
·         With her 22 points tonight, Kayla McBride has now scored in double-digits in 13 out of the 15 games she has played, four of which she scored 20-plus points. She also shot perfectly from the free throw line (8-of-8) the 11th time this season.
·         Kayla Alexander notched a season-high 3 assists. The center previously tallied 2 assists vs. Seattle on June 6.
·         Kelsey Plum grabbed a career-high 4 rebounds. Plum previously registered 3 rebounds vs. Connecticut on June 3 and July 5.
·         Sydney Colson matched her season-high 4 assists. The guard also recorded 4 assists at Washington on May 14.
·         After recording 2 steals, Alex Montgomery is now 1 steal away from 100 career steals through seven seasons.

MERCURY NOTES
With her 17 points, Diana Taurasi has scored 15 or more points in 10 of the Mercury’s last 11 games. Her streak of 10-straight games with 15 or more points came to an end on July 5 vs. Washington (scored 12).
The Mercury matched its longest win streak of the season (2), a feat which the team has now done three times this season.
The Mercury extended its winning streak over the Stars to seven-straight games, including four-straight in San Antonio. Phoenix has won 11 of the last 12 matches.
With her 8 rebounds tonight, Brittney Griner is now only 4 rebounds away from 1,000 career rebounds. She will become the fifth player in Mercury franchise history to record 1,000 rebounds in a Phoenix jersey.
Phoenix shot a season-best 58.2 percent (32-of-55) from the field. The Mercury’s previous high was 50.8 percent on May 17 vs. Indiana.

POSTGAME QUOTES

Stars Head Coach Vicki Johnson
(On thoughts on the game…)
“We played better than we did on Wednesday. We had better energy and better focus. I thought defensively we gave up too many threes. We did a good job of attacking in the paint, 30 in the paint versus on Wednesday when we had 20. We had 15 turnovers, but major turnovers that we couldn’t recover from. We outrebounded them, so that’s a good thing. In order for us to be successful, all 11 players have to show up. We all have to bring our A-game, defensively and offensively, and by doing the little things. As a whole, we’re not able to pick up the slack of a player that does not feel like playing today. Everybody has to be ready to perform and step up from the start.”

(On how intense the game was…)
“I knew it was going to be intense. Diana is a very physical player. Brittney is very physical as well. I was just proud of my players for not backing down. We knew Currie was going to be aggressive, but I thought overall we actually stood our ground and we fought.”

(On thoughts of Brittney’s aggressiveness and containing her…)
“That is what we try to do, contain her. It wasn’t bad. She was 6-for-10, she had 15. She is just a big target. Not only that, but she’s even better when Diana is coming out the picks. It didn’t really hurt us setting a screen with the D-Rob’s or anyone else, it’s just Diana. She is 6-1, able to shoot the three, and also make that pass on that dive. Brittney is one of the top three’s in this league, so Brittney is going to be Brittney. I am glad we kept her below her average. She averaged 22 a game, and she had 15. That is a great job. I thought we could’ve done a better job on Diana and we could’ve done a better job on Currie. Their bench kind of really hurt us, and we can’t allow that to happen. Mitchell came in and had 13, and Currie had 12, so we have to step up and defend their bench. The other night against Connecticut, their bench had 37, so we have to make sure that our bench is ready to defend them, and also attack them as well.”

Stars Guard Kayla McBride
(On the game tonight…)
“We felt like we needed to prove something after the last game. Just from Connecticut, we came out with more of an edge. It wasn’t anything against Phoenix, they’re an aggressive team. Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, everybody knows them, so we wanted to bring our best game. We’re not going to back down, that was just our way of showing we weren’t going to back down.”

(On her performance tonight…)
“I was just trying to be aggressive. I felt like I was taking plays off in the Connecticut game. I re-watched it and felt like I wasn’t being aggressive enough. A little bit of it was fatigue but as a leader, that’s not really an excuse, especially today. We had a great crowd out there tonight, the fans were amazing. I was feeding off of them and just trying to give my team the energy it needed. I felt that I didn’t bring it against Connecticut and that’s my job as a leader. I’m a scorer so when I’m being aggressive, everybody else falls into place.”

(On the process of growing as a young team…)
“That’s what you get with a young team and this year of rebuilding. I think we’re still building our foundation and it’s a process. It’s tough as a fourth year player, you don’t want to go through the process anymore, you want to win, but I trust Coach Johnson and Ruth with what they’re doing. This is my home, I’ll do anything to make sure that we’re on top again.”

Stars Guard Sydney Colson
(On the game being aggressive…)
“It wasn’t surprising that is was an aggressive game. I think we kind of saw it building up. We try to take our defense seriously and when you have a task with somebody like Alex Montgomery had with Diana Taurasi, I thought she was doing a good job. I’m sure everybody saw tension building up, but we tried to let that fuel us a little bit. They’re a third quarter team, they always come out better in the third quarter, so I think maybe there was some things that could have prevented it. But it is what it is.”

(On the loss tonight…)
“We missed a lot of the schemes we were supposed to be doing. We had that run and there was a spurt, the crowd was into it and our bench was too. It gave the players on the court a little bit more energy, but when we have lapses, we just can’t allow that.”

Mercury Head Coach Sandy Brondello
(On the game…)
“It was a hard-fought game. The Stars have only won one game in the season, but they still compete hard. It was more about us focusing on the game plan and for the most part we did that. We had too many turnovers and gave up too many offensive boards; we have to improve in that area. Most important thing is to get a win on the road.”

(On bench production…)
“Leilani [Mitchell] is a key player for us. She can make plays and also get the assists. She’s been struggling a little bit with her shot so it’s good for her to get a little more confidence back. We need everyone. It’s great to have Mo [Monique Currie] back with us. We know what she is capable of. It gives us another scorer off the bench and another spark.”

(On things to improve…)
“We are a relatively new team but I like the pieces we have. I think we complement each other. We have a good inside/outside attack. We have players that can play really good defense. I like where we are at. Now it’s just making sure we take one game at a time and continue to get better. We just have to keep working and getting better every day.”

Mercury Center Brittney Griner
(On the game…)
“We got the win. That’s always good. They were making runs to get back but we withstood them. We had some break downs but we bounced back.”

(On what can improve…)
“Rebounds and second chance points. We are able to make adjustments in the games and change things so that’s good.”

Mercury Guard Leilani Mitchell
(On the game…)
“I thought we played together. I think we keep improving and we shot the ball well.”

(On bench production…)
“Overall it was a great team effort. We had the starters that played well from the get go. The D [defense]was on fire. The second half is where B.G. [Brittney Griner] really took over and then the bench came in to put some points up.”

(On playing in front of President Lisa Borders…)
“Its good! It’s nice to have her here supporting us, all the teams and the fans in the stands.”

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