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Starzz hope they can thwart Charlotte’s Sting operation

SHARE Starzz hope they can thwart Charlotte’s Sting operation

The WNBA-leading Houston Comets came into the Delta Center last Tuesday after beating last-place Washington in Houston on Monday, and the Utah Starzz took the defending champions to double overtime before falling by two points.

Tonight, the Charlotte Sting come into Utah for a 7 p.m. tipoff under worse circumstances than Houston had and worse circumstances than the last time they were here.The Eastern Conference-leading Sting, 8-3, lost 86-75 at Los Angeles Tuesday night as the Sparks broke a five-game losing streak. The Sting have lost two of their last three games, having fallen to expansion Detroit before winning by two at Phoenix.

"That's the way our (WNBA) season is," says Utah coach Denise Taylor, whose team completed a back-to-back series with Sacramento, losing in California by four on Sunday and winning by four in the Delta Center Monday to move to 4-8 for the season. "There's not a lot of time in between."

She was secretly hoping that L.A. would give the Sting a tough game, and it did. It was 68-66 with less than six minutes left. The Sparks went ahead for good with 2:45 left on a Lisa Leslie basket; she led all scorers with 24. Charlotte scoring leader Andrea Stinson, who stands fifth in the WNBA scoring with a 16.3 average, had 21 at L.A., with 14 coming in the second half. Stinson also had 10 rebounds to jump her average from 4.7 a game to 5.2.

"It's good if you can take advantage of it," Taylor said, noting the Starzz today had none of those 4 a.m. wakeup calls that go with the crowded WNBA schedule (30 games in 68 days) and the commercial-air travel.

With the Starzz having only four home games in July (this is the second), it would surely be nice if they could take advantage of any Sting fatigue.

With her players, however, Taylor focuses on the Starzz. "We've got to concentrate on continuing to improve," she says.

Since losing 91-83 to Charlotte in the Delta Center June 25 - a game that also followed a Sting journey the night earlier to L.A., where it won 77-73 - Utah suffered the all-time worst WNBA loss (96-63 at Phoenix June 26).

And then the Starzz put together four consecutive competitive games. That started with the double-OT loss to Houston followed by a 58-57 win July 2 at Los Angeles to break Utah's six-game losing streak, Sunday's last-minute loss at Sacramento and Monday's last-minute win at home. After fighting bronchitis last week, Elena Baranova roared to life against Sacramento, scoring 36 points and grabbing 23 rebounds in the two games.

Utah may be without starting guard Tammi Reiss tonight. She didn't practice Tuesday after spraining an ankle Monday night. Point guard Chantel Tremitiere also sat out Tuesday's practice with a stomach ache.

Charlotte has been without 6-foot-2 center Rhonda Mapp (foot injury). Besides Stinson (4.6 assists as well), the Sting got stats from Vicky Bullett (13.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg), who had 13 at Los Angeles; rookie Tracy Reid (13.6, 4.4), 19 at L.A.; and rookie point guard Christy Smith (3.0 assists), 11 points, all in the first half, Tuesday night.