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Dydek finds success from behind the arc

Starzz center scores team-high 21 points in loss

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Margo Dydek is well-known for her shot blocking.

In fact, the Starzz center leads the league in blocked shots with and average of 3.53 per game. She set most of the records, and then breaks them herself.

But in Tuesday night's loss to the Western Conference's No. 1 team, the Los Angeles Sparks, 79-67, it wasn't her shot blocking that got her noticed. In fact, she didn't block a shot, while point guard Jennifer Azzi, a foot and a half smaller, had two stuffs for Utah.

Instead, Dydek wowed the crowd, and the Sparks, by knocking down three 3-pointers in the first half in leading Utah in scoring with 21 points, and continued her much-improved play for the third game in a row.

When her teammates struggled to get open against Los Angeles' stifling zone defense, Dydek didn't panic. She performed.

"They leave me open, so I just shot," she said in her usual matter-of-fact tone. She said the height and athleticism of the Sparks made it difficult for the Starzz to get open, especially underneath. Her shooting from the outside was just another offensive option in her view. The 7-foot-2 center made her first three-point shot against Charlotte on June 14 this season.

The fact that Dydek took the shots wasn't as surprising. Sparks Center Lisa Leslie took three from beyond the arc herself. But Leslie didn't make any. Dydek was perfect.

"She was 3-3 on it, so I'd be kind of silly not to let her shoot it," said coach Candi Harvey when questioned about the wisdom of letting the team's center shoot from the perimeter. "She's very comfortable with that shot, and we've got Natalie underneath to rebound."

"When a player is feeling it you need to let her go," Harvey said.

In the second half, the Sparks guarded Dydek ferociously on the perimeter, and she didn't take another 3-pointer. But don't be surprised if Dydek continues taking that shot in the future, should some unsuspecting team leave the center open outside.

"I like the spot," she said. "It's a great spot to pass to Natalie down low. And if they leave me open, I'll shoot. I just keep doing my job."

E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com