The crossovers, the drives, the picks.
It all became too much for the Seattle Storm to keep up with, as Chicago’s trio of newly named All-Stars broke down the defending WNBA champions in a 78-69 victory at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., on Tuesday.
Trailing 71-69 with 1:56 remaining, Swin Cash and Tanisha Wright of the Storm each had the ball stolen from them during the Sky’s 9-0 closing run. The Storm gave up 30 points on 17 turnovers.
“We’re just breaking down,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “I don’t think it’s one major thing. We have turned it over in critical times, missed some free throws and had some defensive breakdowns.”
Normally, Chicago (8-8) is the team talking about late breakdowns. The Sky leads the league in turnovers (18.4 per game). Yet, it escaped unscathed against Seattle (7-7) behind guard Courtney Vandersloot’s leadership.
The rookie was named an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve Tuesday in voting by coaches, joining teammates Epiphanny Prince and Sylvia Fowles. Vandersloot, a former Kentwood High School and Gonzaga star, was one of three rookies named to play in Saturday’s game in San Antonio.
Only 16 games into her pro career, she displayed why she deserved the nod before a national television audience. Vandersloot ran her team with efficiency after a turnover-filled opening half, helping Fowles and Prince finish with 24 and 23 points, respectively.
“Right towards the end of the game, I was thinking about how I went to their (Storm) games growing up, and I was even in the stands in college watching them,” said Vandersloot after her first win over her hometown team. Angie Bjorklund of Spokane and Cathrine Kraayeveld of Kirkland are also on the Chicago roster.
“It’s kind of surreal and a good feeling to walk out with a victory,” said Vandersloot, who finished with 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
Agler started 6-foot-4 center Ashley Robinson over forward Le’coe Willingham (6-0) to get some height against the 6-6 Fowles, who entered the game as the league’s leading scorer (20.4 per game).
Robinson joined Camille Little, who missed Saturday’s loss to Minnesota with an excused absence, to be enforcers in the paint early. Seattle led 33-30 at halftime, with Robinson blocking two shots and collecting eight points and eight rebounds while holding Fowles to six points and three boards.
But after setting a key pick to clear some space for a three-pointer by Storm guard Sue Bird that cut Chicago’s lead to 69-68, Robinson fouled out with 3:03 left. She finished with a career-high 14 points as well as 10 rebounds and three blocks.
With Robinson out of the game, Vandersloot was more confident in driving to the hoop for baskets while Prince made wicked crossovers to get open and score. Defensive pressure by the Sky created offensive opportunities.