Hughes tossed as Storm drop third-straight; Dream snap losing streak

Monique Billings retains ball possession against Natasha Howard's defense. Neil Enns/Storm photos.
Monique Billings retains ball possession against Natasha Howard’s defense. Neil Enns/Storm photos.

Seattle – The frustration boiled over for Storm head coach Dan Hughes in the closing minutes of the third quarter Friday against Atlanta.

Incensed with an offensive foul call on Crystal Langhorne, and a technical assessed to Shavonte Zellous, he earned a pair of his own technical fouls in quick succession after arguing with referee Roy Gulbeyan, bringing his night to an early end.

At that point, Hughes had already witnessed a swing of more than 30 points from the game’s opening moments, as an early 11-point Storm lead had morphed into an 54-36 Dream advantage.

It had been awhile since he watched the end of a game from the locker room.

“Long enough I don’t remember when,” he said, “but it has been done before.”

Things got little better in the coach’s absence, as the Storm dropped their third-straight with a 77-66 loss to Atlanta at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Tiffany Hayes led the Dream (3-9) with a game-high 21 points as one of four Atlanta players in double-figures, while Natasha Howard had 20 for short-staffed Seattle (8-8) in the losing effort. Atlanta snapped a four-game losing streak as Seattle turned the ball over a season-worst 21 times, leading to 25 opponent points.

The Storm couldn’t have asked for a better start, opening the game 5-of-8 from the field to take an 11-0 lead less than three minutes in. That would prove to be the team’s high-water mark, as Atlanta responded with an 11-0 run of its own, taking a two-point lead by the end of the first and an eight-point edge at the break.

“Sometimes it just takes a call to action,” said Dream head coach Nicki Collen. “I think this team knows how good they can be. I don’t think they’ve ever not believed that we could walk into any gym and win.”

Hayes said it was their defense that made the difference in the much-needed win, and that her team has been battling consistency this season.

“We’re up and down right now,” she said. “We’ll have a game where we’re making shots, but our defense sucks. We’ll have a game where our defense is great, then we’re not making shots We have to put stuff together, and we’re not putting them together yet.”

After their opening run, Seattle was held to just 13 points over the remainder of the first half.

The second half brought little relief for Storm fans, as Atlanta stretched its lead to 16 at the time of Hughes ejection. Though the outburst ultimately did little to turn the tide, the gesture wasn’t lost on his team.

DAn Hughes leaves the court after receiving his second technical foul and being ejected from the game. Neil Enns/Storm photos.
DAn Hughes leaves the court after receiving his second technical foul and being ejected from the game. Neil Enns/Storm photos.

“When we see Dan having our backs like that, we know that he’s all in with us, no matter what,” Howard said. 

Seattle continues their six-game homestand Friday against Dallas. Hughes suggested that Jewell Loyd is close to returning, after missing the past four games with an ankle injury suffered in Las Vegas.

“Jewell has worked as hard as I’ve ever seen an athlete work to get back,” he said. “Every time I walk in she’s working.”

And after playing a league-high 16 games with an increasingly depleted roster, the break for the Storm comes at a welcome time.

“I think we all need time to recuperate, recharge, and just get our mental states together,” Howard said, “and get everybody back healthy.”

Dribbles

  • Attendance: 8,111.
  • Friday’s game had a distinct Pac-12 flair, with five former all-conference selections on the floor: Maite Cazorla (Oregon), Marie Gülich (Oregon State), and Monique Billings (UCLA) for the Dream, and Jordin Canada (UCLA) and Sami Whitcomb (UW) for the Storm.
  • Against her former team, Blake Dietrick saw limited action, playing just three minutes. Dietrick was waived by the Dream at the end of the preseason, and was signed by the Storm on June 5.
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