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Error-prone Starzz lose to Mercury again

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So much for cutting down the turnovers.

After making 26 Tuesday in their exhibition opener in Phoenix, the Utah Starzz came home to the Delta Center Saturday night and were worse in both losing margin (-18 in an 82-64 drubbing after Tuesday's 74-66 loss) and mistakes (+16 from +12) in their only home exhibition game. A crowd of 4,696 attended - less than half what the Mercury drew on Tuesday.Phoenix was again playing without five team members, at least four of them likely to make the club, who are still toiling in the world championships in Germany, as is the Starzz' 6-foot-5 Elena Baranova.

The WNBA season opens Thursday night when the Starzz host the Los Angeles Sparks. The world- championship players will all be with their respective WNBA teams by then.

Utah has an awful lot of chemistry to mix before Thursday if it's going to look any better than last year, when the Starzz were the shortest, youngest and last team in the WNBA.

The Starzz were not the league's turnover queens then. Sacramento was, with 20.7 a game. Utah was actually fifth in the eight-team league in turnover average at 18.57. But the Starzz will likely threaten that status this season. They made 30 turnovers Saturday. Like their Jazz counterparts, the Starzz also allowed far too many offensive rebounds and second-chance points . Utah had six of each.

In two games against the Mercury, the Starzz have out-mistaked them 56-28.

"Basically a ditto from the last game. Yes, I am worried," said Starzz coach Denise Taylor, who had been so anxious to win these two exhibition games that she didn't use four players on Tuesday and on Saturday gave four of them three minutes or less on the court, despite the fact she must cut three more by Wednesday to get down to the league's limit of 11 (including Baranova).

Actually, Utah started this game slugging it out with Phoenix as the early first half saw 10 lead changes and four tied scores. Utah even went ahead by as many as seven points as 7-foot-2 No. 1 draftee in the WNBA Margo Dydek of Poland sparked an 8-0 run, from being down 13-12 to ahead 20-13 with three blocked shots in about two minutes of play.

"I need to block more shots to help this team out," said Dydek, who totaled six of Utah's eight blocks, 11 points and eight rebounds. "In the first half," said Dydek, "I was tipping the ball out to the perimeter instead of catching it. It doesn't always work, so I need to grab it."

Tammi Reiss, Utah's top scorer with 16 points on 4-for-6 shooting and 6-for-6 at the line, scored four of the points during Utah's early run, and LaTonya Johnson and Kim Williams had the other two baskets. But with Utah up 22-15, Dydek came out for a rest, and when she came back, the Starzz were down seven as Taylor tried to look at different lineups. They never recovered. Never looked like they might recover until an 8-2 run early in the second quarter. That ended when Dydek turned her right ankle and came ouf for a few minutes and Phoenix scoredsix straight with help from two Utah turnovers and two fouls against No. 2 draft choice Olympia Scott, who showed well despite lack of statistics.

"I thought our big people did a very good job of trying to neutralize Dydek," said Phoenix coach Cheryl Miller, who got 19 points from 6-3 Jennifer Gillom, unstoppable on fadeaways vs. Dydek, and 15 points and nine rebounds from free-agent find Pauline Jordan.

The Starzz almost had to take Dydek first in the draft because of her size, and Scott and Johnson were considered among the 10-12 to players in the draft, so they were must-takes as well, even though everyone in the WNBA knew Utah needed a point guard. It picked up Tricia Bader of Boise State in the fourth round and traded for Chantel Tremitiere, but Taylor's still searching for the right person.

"We need to work on our team chemistry and learn to know each other," said Dydek, speaking volumes.