The Utah Starzz got a one-point win Saturday night playing "Small Ball," having to use a short lineup because of injuries and quick foul trouble for their big players.
Monday night, Utah put together the second two-game winning streak in its WNBA life with "Tall Ball."A most-aggressive 7-foot-2 Margo Dydek (12 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks) and 6-5 Elena Baranova (14, 10 and three) dominated a limping Rebecca Lobo (six, six and one) and the New York Liberty 71-60 before 6,531 in the Delta Center.
The Starzz scored 26 points in the paint, 20 on fast breaks, and New York shot a club-low 28.9 percent from the field as Dydek and Baranova altered probably twice as many shots as they blocked.
"When (Liberty players) would go to the hole, you could see the post players hesitating, like, `Am I going to shoot?' " said Starzz guard Tammi Reiss. "Their presence is incredible, the shot-blocking ability. The second thing is the rebounding, and how they can tip, and we can secure the ball and run."
Baranova and Dydek were each unhappy with their shooting percentages. "I hope it will change," said Dydek, who for the first time since she arrived repeatedly called for the ball on offense and took it on defense - a good sign for the Starzz. "I will play much better," she promised.
"She was aggressive," said Starzz coach Denise Taylor. "She's tired - they've been beating up on her. She's a young player, and she's making that adjustment, and every game we're seeing some improvement."
Before the Starzz got sloppy, they led by a franchise-record 22 points in their biggest win since June 23, 1997, a 102-89 whipping of the Los Angeles Sparks. At 2-1 on this homestand that ended Monday night, the only team Utah fell to was L.A.
Utah seized the lead for good soon after subs LaTonya Johnson (nine points) and speed-demon point guard Tricia Bader (10 points) entered when Utah was down 13-10. A Bader pass to Baranova 11 seconds later netted a 13-13 tie, and a Dydek jumper and Bader three soon had the Starzz up five. In the second half, that tandem helped the Starzz stem a seven-point New York run and go from a nine-point lead to 18.
"Oh, that was fun," said Utah rookie forward Olympia Scott. "The chemistry is starting to be there."
She has no idea what it was like for the Starzz last year.
"This was the best feeling in the world for New York to come into our house and for us to take it to them," said Reiss, who led all scorers with 15 (5-for-9 shooting) and who's had 32 points on 11-for-17 shooting in her last 52 minutes of play.
"We didn't take it to anyone last year," she said.
"I'm just kind of stunned. I'm just not believing this is the Liberty," said New York coach Nancy Darsch, who kept her locker room closed for 36 minutes after the game, in violation of league rules.
Still, the Liberty didn't complain about being on the road, the altitude or Lobo's limp. They're puzzled by their own play and acknowledged Utah's.
"Utah played fantastic basketball," said Lobo, "and they did exactly what they needed to do to win, and I'm not taking any credit away from them. They ran the ball, they ran the floor, they went to the free-throw line (19-for-24), and they did a fantastic job of doing what they do well."
After winning the last two of the four times they played the Liberty in 1997, and having made a just- short 17-point comeback in the '98 season opener and won Saturday's game, the Starzz had an inkling they'd be twinkling.
"I'm not so sure you necessarily smell a victory coming," said point guard Dena Head, "but the momentum carried over. Not giving up in the last game paid off."
"They were on the road, fatigued, and we tried to take advantage of that," said Taylor.
New York, which has yet to play at home but hosts Utah on Sunday, is 0-3, though it's thought to have the talent to repeat as a playoff team.
Reiss said she could see hunger burning in the eyes of the Liberty's guards, Teresa Weatherspoon and Sophia Witherspoon, in pregame warmups. She could see they were taken aback when Utah came out strong and escalated the attack with each block, shot alteration and frustrated Liberty foul.
The Starzz were still playing without power forward Wendy Palmer (broken toe) and guard Chantel Tremitiere (torn calf muscle). Tremitiere says she'll be back by Sunday in New York, when much of her family will be in the Garden.
Every Starzz player got at least 11 minutes on the floor and scored at least two points. Taylor, however, says she'll have no trouble fitting Palmer and Tremitiere back in. "Oh, no, we want to play nine-10-11 players," she said.