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Starzz hope to catch the Sparks on the rebound

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The measure was lost in the despair of a double-overtime failure, but Denise Taylor pulled a pretty effective coaching ploy Tuesday.

If it has lingering productivity Thursday night (8:30 MDT) at the Forum against the Los Angeles Sparks, the Utah Starzz just might break this six-game losing streak that matches the longest in their young history.On Tuesday, before playing the Houston Comets, who are tough and physical inside, Taylor told Starzz' 7-foot-2 rookie Margo Dydek that the expansion Detroit Shock had a 5-9 guard averaging more rebounds than she was. Korie Hlede was getting 5.5 rebounds a game and Dydek was averaging (Taylor said) 5.2 (actually 5.9). "I was like, `Look at this,' " Taylor said, showing Dydek the USA Today story.

In one game, Dydek's average bounced to 7.0 as she grabbed a WNBA-career-high 16 boards to go with 27 points, also her career best.

Taylor says she gave everybody extra goals for that game, mainly for rebounding. Elena Baranova got a career-best 17 boards, though her shot deserted her. Taylor thought that had a lot to do with how physically Houston defends.

Thursday night the Starzz meet the WNBA's top individual rebounder, Lisa Leslie, more a finesse player than, say, Houston's Tina Thompson. Leslie averages a league-high 10.9 rebounds to go with her 20 points a game. She had 24 and 12 at Utah. Baranova is up to 10.7 rebounds and scores at a 13.7 clip while Dydek averages 14 points, 7.0 boards and a league-high 2.89 blocks.

The Sparks have indefinitely lost popular and productive 6-8 Haixia Zheng to surgery for a knee that was injured last week. Zheng played 16 minutes and had 10 points, three rebounds, at Utah. She was limping much of her time on the court. Guard Tamecka Dixon (18 vs. Utah) averages 15.0 points, ninth in the WNBA. Utah checked point guard Penny Toler (2-for-11 shooting), but she had six assists and seven rebounds.

Los Angeles (2-6) lost Tuesday at Sacramento (2-6), its second loss to the Monarchs. "They're coming off a loss, so they'll be fired up," Taylor said of the Sparks, who won 86-78 at Utah to open the season.

"We'd rather have L.A. lose," reasoned Starzz point guard Chantel Tremitiere. "They already beat us, so they need another loss to a conference team."

Tremitiere, who made her first start for Utah Tuesday and had just two turnovers in 37 minutes of play, will start again Thursday night She started every game last year for the Monarchs. Off the bench, she scored 13 against L.A.

"We have to start from the inside out," said Tremitiere, who seemed to accomplish that Tuesday, getting the ball to Dydek. When she was out, that didn't happen as much.

"The more patient we are," Tremitiere added, "the more impatient L.A. will be."

She also mentioned that Utah must keep Leslie off the boards. She had eight at Sacramento, with 21 points.