June 30, 2022 

Daily Briefing — June 30, 2022: West Coast Clash! Seattle Storm grab nail-biter victory over Las Vegas

Plus: The Sky trounce the Sun in early morning matchup and the Big Ten gets ... bigger?

Happy Thursday! The work week is nearly over, and you can bet I’m cheering you on to the finish line. Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the NCAA Roundup, daily Watch List and Yesterday’s Recap. Day 46 of the WNBA season has arrived, and the halfway point of the season is fast approaching, bringing along the 2022 All-Star Game in tow. Now that the All-Star starters, reserves and coaches have been announced, the next key date to anticipate is the All-Star draft, which will take place on Saturday, July 2 at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN. At 11am, the Chicago Sky gave the Connecticut Sun a wake up call. Then, last night, the Seattle Storm grabbed a win over the Las Vegas Aces in a highly anticipated rematch of the top two teams in the west. In Phoenix, the Mercury left the Fever in the dust, as Indiana continues to sit at just five wins.

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But before we get to that … in potentially massive college sports news, USC and UCLA have entered talks to join the Big Ten conference, leaving the Pac-12 behind. Jon Wilner broke the story for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting that the two schools could be seen in the Big Ten as early as 2024. Implications for Pac-12 media coverage and the landscape of college sports have yet to be seen, including whether the two schools will move all sports to the Big Ten or just a select few.

But first read…

  • Our Tony East takes the temperature in Indiana as the Fever hit their halfway point, reflecting on major changes to Indiana’s roster and coaching staff, and looking ahead to the future.
  • Our Lucas Seehafer introduces you to Moriah Jefferson, holder of the Lynx’s first triple-double and emerging star point guard for Minnesota.
  • Our Em Adler kicks off a new series for The Next: “Basketball, In Theory.” For the first installment, she takes a look at Seattle, breaking down the numbers to explain why the Storm have struggled offensively and offering a direction forward.
  • From the archives*: May 14, 1979 — For Sports Illustrated, Nancy Williamson documented the end of the the WBL’s first season, and the highs and lows that came with it for players, coaches, and owners alike.

*Trying something new: along with our usual highlights of coverage from The Next and otherwise, I’ll also include a classic piece from the archives of women’s basketball history.

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NCAA Roundup

Other than that news above…

Coaching Changes:

  • Rutgers: Added Women’s Basketball Hall-of-Famer Nikki McCray-Penson as an assistant coach alongside head coach Coquese Washington. McCray-Penson was an assistant coach for the 2017 winning South Carolina team and most recently served as head coach for Mississippi State until fall 2021.

Watch List, Thursday, June 30

(Time in ET)

Atlanta @ New York, 7 p.m., Twitter (Local: YES App, Bally Sports Southeast)

Wednesday, June 29 recap

Chicago (14–5) beat Connecticut (13–7), 91–83. Look, some teams are just built for morning games. The score was tight for the opening minutes of the first, the lead changing hands four times before Chicago took a massive 20–4 run, grabbing a massive advantage. The Sky would maintain their double digit lead through the majority of the fourth, but the Sun managed to cut the lead to six with less than a minute left to play. Despite the effort, the clock expired with Chicago comfortably ahead, and an entire rest of the day ahead of them! Overall, the Sky shot 19.3 percentage points better from the field, and 18.4 percentage points better from three than the Sun. Chicago also sank a perfect 17–17 from the free throw line, but committed 24 turnovers to Connecticut’s seven.

Big Candace Parker led Chicago and all scorers with a season-high 25 points on 7-for-11 from the field (4–5 3pt, 7–7 FT), 11 rebounds, seven assists, and a season-high four blocks. Per Across the Timeline, this statline has been achieved on just one other occasion: a 2012 match where, you guessed it, Candace Parker notched just one more point than she did yesterday. Wing Kahleah Copper logged 15 points on 5-for-9 from the field (1–2 3pt, 4–4 FT), six rebounds and four assists on four turnovers and three fouls. Combo forward Rebekah Gardner had 10 points on a perfect 4-for-4 from the field (1–1 3pt) and one rebound in her 18 minutes off the bench.

Just Rebekah Gardner things! A transition bucket that lands her nearly in the crowd (plus some wholesome Sky oldies content), a made free throw, and then a jaw-dropper backdoor cut.

For Connecticut, big wing Jonquel Jones led with a double-double of 24 points on 10-for-23 from the field (4–9 3pt) and 11 rebounds, along with five steals and two blocks. Big wing Alyssa Thomas had 23 points on 8-for-15 from the field (7–8 FT), five rebounds and four assists. Center Brionna Jones notched 18 points on 7-for-11 from the field (4–4 FT), four rebounds, three assists, and two steals off the bench for the Sun.

Phoenix (9–12) beat Indiana (5–16), 99–78. Phoenix took the early lead, but Indiana’s early efforts earned the Fever a slight lead in the late first and kept the score close through the second quarter. Despite this, however, the Mercury were able to maintain and grow their advantage through to the final minutes of play. Overall, Phoenix shot 11.4 percentage points better from the field than Indiana and had six fewer turnovers.

Combo guard Skylar Diggins-Smith led Phoenix with 17 points on 7-for-15 from the field (1–4 3pt, 2–2 FT), six rebounds, seven assists, and four steals on three turnovers. Point guard Shey Peddy notched 13 points on 6-for-10 from the field and six assists. Big Reshanda Gray had a season-high 11 points on 5-for-5 from the field and two rebounds on four fouls in her 13 minutes off the bench.

Peddy grabs a bucket in transition and then uses a dish from Diggins-Smith to pull back the lead for Phoenix and leave Indiana in the dust.

Combo guard Kelsey Mitchell led the Fever and all scorers with 21 points on 8-for-16 from the field (4–7 3pt), five assists, and three rebounds on five fouls. Combo forward Victoria Vivians had 13 points on 5-for-14 from the field (2–7 3pt) and three assists on three turnovers. Combo forward Emily Engstler had seven points on 1-for-3 from the field (5–5 FT), three assists, eight rebounds (six offensive), and two blocks off the bench for Indiana. Engstler becomes just the third player in Fever history to log that statline or better in 25 minutes or less, per Across the Timeline.

Seattle (12–7) beat Las Vegas (14–5), 88–78. The highly anticipated match-up between top teams in the west wouldn’t disappoint. With seven lead changes in the first quarter alone, both teams grappled to gain a significant advantage. It wasn’t until the Storm took an 11–0 run in the early third that a clear leader would emerge, and even then the Aces would claw their way back to tie the game in the final seconds of the third. In the end, it was another 7–0 Seattle run deep in the fourth, powered by combo guard Jewell Loyd and big wing Breanna Stewart, that pushed the Storm up by just enough to seal the deal. Overall, Seattle shot 10.8 percentage points better than Las Vegas from three and committed seven fewer turnovers, while the Aces out-rebounded the Storm by seven.

Ezi Magbegor under the basket, and Loyd and Stewart with clutch shots on the Seattle run to sprint away with the win.

Loyd led Seattle and all scorers with 24 points on 7-for-15 from the field (4–6 3pt, 6–6 FT), two rebounds, and four assists on three fouls. Stewart logged 14 points on 4-for-14 from the field (2–5 3pt, 4–4 FT), seven rebounds (three offensive), two steals and two blocks. Point guard Sue Bird notched 13 points on 5-for-10 from the field (3–7 3pt), six assists and two steals. With this win, Bird has officially passed Lindsay Whalen for most regular season career wins. Wing Stephanie Talbot had a season-high 15 points on 6-for-9 from the field (3–5 3pt), two rebounds, and three steals off the bench for the Storm.

For the Aces, center A’ja Wilson logged 17 points on 6-for-16 front he field (1–3 3pt, 4–4 FT) and a career-high-tying 16 rebounds (five offensive), alongside three assists. Point guard Kelsey Plum notched 16 points on 5-for-12 from the field (3–6 3pt, 3–4 FT), and two assists on six turnovers and four fouls. Wing Jackie Young had 13 points on 5-for-10 from the field (1–2 3pt, 2–2 FT), eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals on three fouls. Center Iliana Rupert came off the bench to score 11 points on 4-for-6 from the field (3–4 3pt) and grab five rebounds (two offensive).

Written by Isabel Rodrigues

Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a contributing editor for The Next from upstate New York. She occasionally covers 3x3 and labor in women's basketball.

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