San Antonio – As the losses continue to mount for the winless San Antonio Stars, the excuses are beginning to wear thin amongst the coaches and players alike.
All players are now active, and they have had five full games to begin gelling as a team. But in reality, the only thing stopping the 2017 Stars are themselves.
Defensive breakdowns have been the Achilles heel for San Antonio head coach Vickie Johnson’s young squad so far this season, and once Seattle’s Breanna Stewart got cooking on Tuesday night, the Stars offered very little resistance.
Stewart, the number-one pick in the 2016 draft, poured in a game-high 22 points – 12 of them at the free throw line – to pace a balanced scoring attack and lead Seattle to an 85-76 win over a season-low crowd of 4,260 at the AT&T Center.
Alysha Clark scored 17, Crystal Langhorne 14 and Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd had 10 each for the streaking Storm (5-2).
The Storm have rebounded well after a drubbing by the top-ranked Minnesota Lynx Saturday by having multiple players step up. Stewart said that was their goal.
“The fact that at different times, different people were contributing and helping us come out with this win – that’s what we need,” Stewart said. “It’s not just one person – it’s all of us.”
The loss toppled San Antonio to 0-8, which is now the fifth worst start in league history, but Johnson tried to remain positive.
“It’s not frustration, because there are a lot of positive things that came from this,” Johnson said. “We just have to learn how to close, but we outrebounded them by three or four, had 10 offensive boards and shot 81 percent from the free throw line.”
San Antonio would only get as close as 75-69 during an 8-0 run – including a couple of jumpers by Moriah Jefferson on consecutive possessions – with 2:55 left but then Langhorne got loose for a few driving layups and Clark drained a short jumper to help Seattle pull away late.
Stewart easily exploited her mismatches to score nine first quarter points for Seattle, and they never looked back from there in a wire-to-wire win that solidified their place among the elite teams in the WNBA.
“I thought for the most part we played well but we let up a bit in the fourth quarter,” Stewart said. “To start our road trip with a win is pretty great.”
After scoring a season-high 10 points, Jefferson now has 507 career points through 39 games. She tied McBride as the fastest Stars draft pick to reach 500 points. McBride reached the milestone earlier in the season when she scored 9 points in a loss to Minnesota.
San Antonio will look for their first win on Saturday night at home against Chicago.
“I think everyone is just anxious to get a win,” Jefferson said. “But in order for us to get that win, we have stay mentally focused throughout the entire game. You’ve seen in every game we’ve had a lapse for six or seven minutes where we’re just not there. So if we cut down on some of those mental mistakes, stay locked in during the entire game, I think we’ll be okay.”