If the Utah Starzz are going to get a win on this 10-day road trip, the most likely time and place will be this afternoon at the MCI Center against the only WNBA team with a worse record than their own.
Utah (4-12) did not win the last time it played here, exactly one month ago, but that was the first-ever home game for the expansion Mystics franchise, which set a WNBA attendance record (20,674). Nikki McCray scored eight points in the final 2 1/2 minutes to beat Utah 85-76 then.But today's game shouldn't be as festive an occasion for the home team starting at 2 p.m. MDT. It's not nationally televised, like the last time, Utah enters this game on a four-game losing streak and Washington (2-13) has won once since it beat Utah on June 19. It has lost 10 of its last 11. The win was July 11 against sister expansion team Detroit, which took two games this week from Utah.
Also, Washington is without a player who made life miserable inside for the Starzz, burly 6-foot-5 center Alessandra Santos de Oliveira (12.0 ppg). The WNBA's No. 4 rebounder (8.7) is out for the season with strained knee ligaments.
The WNBA's No. 4 scorer, McCray, is expected to be back in today's lineup after missing Friday's 30-point loss at Charlotte with knee bursitis, but she has scored 20+ only once (21) in the last three weeks after opening her WNBA career with games of 19, 26, 20, 29, 18 and 23. Her two best games were against Utah. She has averaged 16.0 in her last five games.
Utah is still without guard Tammi Reiss, who stayed home from this 10-day trip with a sprained ankle. Erin Alexander, recently waived by Los Angeles, has taken Reiss' roster spot and was 1-for-4 with three points in her Starzz debut Friday in a 79-67 loss at Detroit.
In that game, Utah's leading scorer-rebounder-assister for the season, Elena Baranova, had seven points, seven rebounds and two assists. She has suffered recently with Achilles tendinitis.
Wendy Palmer also was quiet Friday (10 points, five rebounds) after games of 30, 22 and 19. She spent the week visiting an uncle in North Carolina; he died Friday after having surgery Monday for a brain aneurysm.
Margo Dydek had 15 points, 11 rebounds and a WNBA-record eight blocked shots at Detroit but scored only four in the second half. Dydek averages 3.44 blocks a game after getting 14 total in back-to-back games with Detroit. Kim Williams led Utah with 16 points, her best of the season. It was Williams' defense in the second half against McCray in the first meeting with Washington on June 13, and a Williams layup at the end, that helped Utah win 78-77.
The Starzz travel to Eastern Conference-leading Charlotte (13-3) Wednesday and are at Cleveland (8-7 going into last night's game at Detroit) Saturday before returning home to play Phoenix Monday, July 27.