NEWARK, N.J. – I’m attending my first WNBA game tonight. I’m here to see former Ram Quanitra Hollingsworth, who is playing with the New York Liberty, take on the Connecticut So-What-If-We-Play-In-A-Casino Sun. I’ll be posting a feature on Q in a day or two, but I’ll try to post some tidbits from tonight’s game for your entertainment.
* The Liberty go scoreless the final 3:00 or so as Connecticut closes on a 10-0 stretch. The Sun take this one, 68-59, and snap the Liberty’s four-game winning streak. Hollingsworth finished with three points, three rebounds and one block in 28 minutes. She also helped limit Tina Charles, who averages nearly 18 points and 11 rebounds, to just 15 and 4.
* Hollingsworth had a nice stretch here in the fourth where she forced a steal, later grabbed a big rebound over Charles and then drew a charge a few possessions later. None of it seems like it’s going to matter, however, as the Liberty have imploded in the fourth. Going nearly three minutes without a bucket down the stretch.
* Is it bad that during the Foxwoods’-sponsored roulette contest, all I can think about is that the wheel only has 22 numbers, instead of the normal 35 (plus zero)? I think that’s bad.
* With 5:38 remaining, Hollingsworth levels an unidentified Sun player with a devastating screen at the top of the key. The ball swings around to Cappie Pondexter, who buries a three to put New York ahead, 59-58.
* 1:51 into the fourth quarter, with the Liberty up three (56-53), Vaughn tweaks something in her leg and struggles to get up and down the floor. Whisenhunt nods to Hollingsworth, who will have fill some big shoes. Vaughn has been the Liberty’s best player tonight.
* For some reason, the Liberty mascot decided to “plank” during a timeout. Nobody knows why, really. We just all hope that planking stops sometime real soon.
*Q draws consecutive fouls in the second half as the Liberty suddenly decide to throw it to her in the post on back-to-back possessions. Q makes 1-of-2 free throws, the Liberty’s first of the night. 39-36 Sun, 6:30 left in the third quarter.
* After filling up the stat sheet with exactly one rebound in the first half, Hollingsworth opens the third quarter scoring for the Liberty.
* Hollingsworth and Kia Vaughn (from Rutgers) went head-to-head in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, but with the Liberty, they play alongside each other for long stretches.
* 3:51 left in the second quarter and Hollingsworth still hasn’t recorded a point, rebound or assist, but the Liberty lead, 31-28.
* Hollingsworth is starting to get into the head of star Tina Charles here in the second quarter. On one possession, Hollingsworth locked down Charles at the top of the key, causing the Sun player to travel. On the other end, Hollingsworth posted up Charles, who delivered a forearm shiver to Q’s back to draw a foul.
* After a quiet first quarter. Hollingsworth opens the second quarter on the bench. The Liberty promptly give up offensive rebounds on three straight possessions. I keep watching the bench to see how long it takes Liberty Coach John Wisenhunt to call on Q. As it turns out, it took just 1:57. Moments later, she tipped an offensive rebound to Kia Vaughn, who scored a bucket to pull the Liberty within 26-23.
* Between quarters, the Liberty displayed a video “remember when”, as part of an effort to celebrate the team’s 15th anniversary. It asks fans to guess which year is featured in the video. The best part was that halfway through, it displayed a full screen logo that said “2000 WNBA Finals”. Wanna guess the correct answer?
* Despite being in its 15th season, the WNBA still struggles to attract fans consistently. So some teams have decided to take a regional approach to stocking their rosters. The Sun boast five UConn grads, while the Liberty is carrying three former Rutgers stars.
* A la European soccer. A number of WNBA teams have begun selling advertising on their jerseys where the team name used to go. The Liberty are now sponsored by Foxwoods Casino. The irony is that the Sun play at the Mohegan Sun Casino, Foxwoods’ direct competitor.
* Mapquest tells me it’s a 41 minute ride from Stanhope, N.J., where my in-laws live, to the Prudential Center in Newark, the Liberty’s temporary home. But I know better. Before moving to Virginia in 2005, I lived in New Jersey for four years. Mapquest approximate times are only good at 3 a.m. I left at 4:30 p.m., hoping to get to the arena by 6:00. Traffic wasn’t bad until I got downtown, so after parking in some shady lot by Penn Station and walking over it was about 5:40. Not bad.
* Naturally, one of the first people I see is longtime women’s basketball writer Mel Greenberg. Mel is based out of Philadelphia, but I’m convinced that he covers every women’s hoops game in the northwest corridor. If 10 girls decide to throw down at the Knights of Columbus in Elizabeth, N.J., Mel will be there.
* Of course I forgot my camera. I want desperately to take pictures of a number of things, especially the woman in the front row with the giant, red afro. No luck tonight.
* Plenty of good seats available. Considering that it’s Friday in Newark and this team is only here for a year, I can’t imagine they’re killing it at the gate. Compound that with Jersey’s tradition of weekend flight to the Shore, and you have one sparsely populated arena.
* This will be a matchup of the No. 2 (The Liberty) and No. 3 (The Sun) teams in the Eastern Conference. The Liberty have won four straight games, a streak that has coincided with Hollingsworth’s emergence. In those four games, Q has averaged 8.2 points and nearly five rebounds a game off the bench.
* Before each game, the Liberty has one player grab the microphone to greet the crowd. Luckily for me, tonight it’s Q who gets the call. With a smile, she thanks the crowd for showing up tonight and asks them to cheer the Liberty on to a win. Short. Sweet.
* Boom. This story is really coming together. Q receives her first New York Liberty start and just the second of her career tonight. I wish I could say I totally planned that. Not like you’d know any different. Let’s stick with the story where I planned this.
* I wonder how the people of Newark feel when they announce “Welcome your New York Liberty!” I guess this is how the people of Anaheim feel about the Angels?