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Starzz have no Sol, lose ground in playoff chase

Expansion Miami hands Utah an embarrassing loss

SHARE Starzz have no Sol, lose ground in playoff chase

Sol 76, Starzz 65

MIAMI — Filleted by Sol.

How embarrassing is that?

Losing to an expansion team full of ex-Utah Starzz came pretty darned close to eliminating the current Starzz from the playoff race they thought they'd be in.

"We're still in the hunt. There are a lot of games (eight) yet to be played. We've just got to keep building," said ever-optimistic Starzz coach Fred Williams.

But the fact is that Miami's Sol won its second straight game Friday night in American Airlines Arena, 76-65 over Utah. And that sent the Starzz back to a .500 record (12-12), 2 1/2 games behind idle Sacramento, which holds the fourth and last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

As Sol household name Sheri Sam watched her last basket go down to give her 23 points to lead everyone in the game, she gave the Starzz the old throat-slashing gesture.

How bad is that?

A throat-slashing from an expansion club. Utah's first loss to a 2000 expansion team.

After winning three straight games last week, including one at Sacramento last Saturday to draw within a game of the No. 4 spot, the Starzz have now lost two in a row. On Sunday afternoon the Starzz go into Orlando to meet the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference before coming home to Salt Lake City again.

This was a game Utah figured to win. With a 12-6 start, it looked like the Starzz might be back on track, but they shot miserably from the field (20-for-52 without one made 3-pointer in the game) and the line (23-for-32), were outrebounded by seven by an average-rebounding team, and got nothing done defensively against the worst-shooting team in the WNBA, which made 11 percent more shots than its season average.

"The breakdown was defensively. We didn't play no defense," said Starzz Croatian guard Korie Hlede (15 points). "We tried zone, it worked for a couple of minutes, but they still got a couple of scores. Defensively, we just didn't show up."

"I just felt it was the little things," said Williams, citing not boxing out on rebounds, letting the Sol have second and third shots and not making outside shots to help Natalie Williams (16 points, 10 rebounds, her 14th double-double) inside.

Miami led by as many as seven in the first half and pushed it to 13 (48-35) as Utah was shooting 10-for-34. Utah went on an 11-2 run to get within six (52-46), but just as Phoenix had on Wednesday, the Sol just tiptoed away each time Utah rallied. Layups by Dydek and Dalma Ivanyi cut the lead to 68-63 with 48 seconds left, but free throws made it 13 again before Williams tipin at the buzzer.

Starzz point guard Jennifer Azzi scored 16 points and had six turnovers. Late in the game, she got a scare when she whacked her broken shooting hand trying to make a steal, but postgame X-rays showed the hand was fine. She was even told by the doctor that the broken bone is healing nicely, alleviating some worry. She has a minor bruise.

Miami also got 17 from center Marlies Askamp and 10 from former Utah player Kristen Rasmussen, a rookie center waived four games into the season and picked up by Miami. She scored 17 points in Wednesday's Sol win over Portland. Former Utah point guard Debbie Black, 5-foot-3, had seven assists and a blocked shot — as many blocks as Starzz 7-2 center Margo Dydek, who scored three early baskets and then fizzled.

Former Starzz center Elena Baranova watched the game from the sidelines. She was traded to Miami in December for Kate Starbird but blew out a knee playing at home in Russia in April. She is, however, spending the summer in Miami and brought her mother to the game.

For the second straight game, Utah was down to nine players with forward Adrienne Goodson sitting out with Achilles tendon problems and Naomi Mulitauaopele (knee) not even making the trip. Fred Williams said he may attempt to get another post player early next week to fill in for Mulitauaopele.