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Starzz fail to shine in Sacramento

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So much for the winning streak.

The Utah Starzz aren't yet good enough to win more than one in a row on the road, not even when the host team is trying to figure out how to make up for the recent loss of Ruthie Bolton-Holifield, one of the WNBA's best players. She will be out for the season with knee surgery.The Starzz were out for the count Sunday night in ARCO Are-na anyway.

WNBA draft choice No. 1 (Utah 7-foot-2 center Margo Dydek) sat on the bench much of the second half while WNBA draft choice No. 2 (Sacramento 5-11 point guard Ticha Penicheiro) dominated the second half and led the Monarchs to a 70-66 win.

The same two teams meet tonight at 7 in the Delta Center.

Utah dropped to 3-8, while Sacramento elevated to 3-7.

Penicheiro used a subtle change in the second half to score all 14 of her points and control the game after Utah's 21-2 first-half burst led to a six-point lead at intermission.

"We were very passive, and they were denying our wings," Penicheiro said. "I was not even penetrating or anything. And then we just made an adjustment, and I started to go to the wing, and that's where my shot is better off the 3-point (2-for-4). So I put Lady Hardmon in the middle of the floor with the ball so she could penetrate and kick it out, and that's the adjustment we made, and it worked," Penicheiro said.

Dydek's free throws made it an eight-point lead for the visitors to open the second half, but she spent more than 91/2 minutes on the bench as Sacramento found ways around her and forced Utah to go to a more mobile lineup.

Just after Dydek left the game (without a foul) with 13:40 left in the second half, Penicheiro rebounded a layup that Kim Williams missed and made a driving layup to give Sacramento a 47-46 lead, its first lead since 20-19. That represented a mindset change for Penicheiro, who made three coast-to-coast drives while Dydek was out.

"I can be a scorer if I want to, depending on how the defense plays me," Penicheiro said. "The team needs me to penetrate and attack because I can shoot and score or I can dish the ball. Once I get that in my head to be more aggressive and attack, good things can happen for this team. Sometimes I'd rather pass than score. I have to make better decisions," she said.

Hardmon is starting in place of 1997 All-WNBA first-team shooting guard Bolton-Holifield. Hardmon played for Utah in '97. She was traded to Sacramento in May for Chantel Tremitiere.

Hardmon had seven points, two rebounds, two assists in her first try against Utah. Tremitiere had five points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals and two turnovers against her old team.

The Starzz went to Dena Head, 5-10, to Tremitiere's 5-6, to try to cope with Penicheiro.

Monarch forward Latasha Byears, 5-11, also gave Utah matchup fits, scoring a career-high 21 points, making nine of 12 shots and getting five rebounds. Byears scored the game's last two points on free throws with :05.4 left after taking the rebound of a Penicheiro missed free throw away from Utah's Wendy Palmer with less than eight second left.

Penicheiro gave Utah two chances to win, missing two free throws with 23.4 seconds left with Sacramento up 67-66, but Tremitiere missed a 3-pointer and fouled Penicheiro, who got the rebound. Pen-i-cheiro made the first but missed the second, but Byears saved Sacramento's day.

Elena Baranova led Utah with 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. Dydek had 11 points but just four rebounds. Sacramento got 16 from Linda Burgess and 12 from Adia Barnes.

Utah's only win in five tries against the Monarchs came in overtime just over a year ago at Sacramento. The Monarchs have three straight wins in the series. "They're going to be hungry for a win," Penicheiro said of tonight's rematch. "We've just got to go with the same attitude that we had."