Game Notes: Sky 78, Sun 75 (Sun got Vanderslooted!)

Box Score || Recap || Photo Gallery || Highlights || Play-by-Play
Attendance: 6609

Wow. Just…wow. I really can’t put into words how much I enjoyed this game, but I’m definitely gonna try. Let’s start at the beginning…

Prior to the game, the Sky had a tailgating party for fans in the parking lot ajacent to AllState Arena. There was free food (hotdogs, ribs, chips, ;popcorn and drinks), entertainment (Fly Kids and a DJ) and games for the kids (bouncy things). There was a really nice crowd and overall it was a fun event. Mother Nature attempted to ruin the outdoor fun again this year by hanging around with her ominous rain clouds and “frigid” weather, but, in the end, the weather was fine.

Take a look at the attendance number I posted above. 6609. If I’m not mistaken, this was the largest crowd to have EVER seen a Sky home game! The atmosphere was fantastic!

After the first game, it was very apparent that our starting lineup of Canty, Prince, Young, Snow and Fowles was not gonna cut it. They started the game against the Fever very slow and did not look in-sync. I’m ALWAYS going to give the veteran the benefit of the doubt over the rookie, but it was very clear after the first game that Vandersloot should be starting. The small forward situation was dicey as well. I was wondering how long it was going to take Pokey to make changes. Well, it took her one game. ONE! The game 2 starting lineup was Vandersloot, Prince, Kraayeveld, Snow and Fowles. In the past, our coach would have stuck with that initial inferior lineup for about 10 games before making any changes in hope that they would eventually “click”. Good to see that Pokey can adjust on the fly and make the RIGHT decisions. I’m a natural skeptic when it comes to the Sky (too many past disappointments), but these tweaks to the starting lineup increased my confidence in Pokey tremendously. This is the first time in the history of this franchise that we have a real coach…and it feels so good.

With the new starting lineup, the Sky started the game very well and jumped out to a nice lead. The energy in the building and on the court was unlike anything I had experienced before at a Sky game. Althought it was a closely contested game from the opening tip to final buzzer, the Sky were essentially in control the entire game…however, Connecticut did make it very interesting down the stretch. But, with a calmness and a coolness that we haven’t seen too much from this team in the past, the Sky were able play solid defense and execute down the stretch to get the win. Amazing all-around game!

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Let’s break this down player-by-player

The difference-maker and player-of-the-game was definitely Courtney Vandersloot. With her running the point, this is gonna be fun! She had 18 points  (7-10 FG, 4-4 FT) and 5 assists in 30 minutes of play. Those numbers don’t even come close to telling the whole story though. Those were HUGE points and BIG assists. No garbarge time stats for this ‘rook. Also, the numbers don’t say anything about her defense. I personally didn’t know Sloot was such a avid defender until today. She played ridiculously solid defense on Renee Montgomery. She was the only guard on the the Sky that could hold Montgomery straight up. Yes, Sloot picked up 5 fouls while trying to defend Montgomery, but honestly, most of those were BOGUS! …all except the 5th foul. I dunno when Montgomery starting getting superstar calls, but it was ridiculous. Sloot couldn’t breath on her w/o getting whistled. Foul trouble forced Sloot to defend Lawson for a portion of the game. She did a heckuva job with that too.

In addition to everything I mentioned above, Vandersloot makes GREAT decisions on the court. It’s so rare that you see this from a rookie…especially a rookie point guard. I mean, she doesn’t look like a rookie out there. Pokey often goes with a a 3-guard lineup with some combination of Sloot, Prince, Canty or Thorn on the court. Even with all of these other veteran guards on the floor (all of whom have played PG for the Sky in the past), the ball is always still in Vandersloot’s hands and she is the one trusted to run this team. That is freakin’ amazing for a rookie in her second pro game! Funny thing is, she did the same thing coming off the bench in her first pro game last week. Wow. Just…wow.

I could literally go on forever about Vandersloot. I absolutely love her game. I think I’ve found myself my new favorite Sky player. She may be the player that finally makes me forget about my previous favorite Sky player (Dupree!) and stop harboring all kinds of animosity towards this team. The fact that Pokey made the decision to draft Vandersloot gives me even more confidence in the new coach. Maaaan, I can feel the frustration of the previous 5 Sky seasons fading from my mind as I start to embrace this new Sky team being run by an amazing PG.

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My runner-up for player-of-the-game was Cathrine Kraayeveld. She had a great all-around game. Yeah, her offensive numbers don’t look that hot (3 points on 1-6 shooting), but she was active and doing all of the “little things” the entire game. She fought hard in the paint and made good decisions on both ends of the court.

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Big Syl put up nice numbers — 23 points on 11-19 shooting, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks — and had a good game. In my opinion, it was a quiet 23/13 because I didn’t even realize she scored that many until I looked at the box score. Looks like Big Syl’s free throw troubles may return this year. No bueno. I definitely gotta mention the “double block”…y’all know what I’m talking about. That was awesome! Syl and Snow ERASED that mess! Best moment of the game!

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Michelle Snow was solid. She was also part of the “double block” with Big Syl. I dunno about all the jump shots though. I guess she has to play a little outside the paint in order to give Big Syl some space to operate down there, but there’s just something unsettling about watching Snow repeatedly launch 15-footers from the elbow. Maybe that’s her game, I dunno. I didn’t watch her much when she was in San Antonio, Atlanta, Tennessee, etc so I don’t really know her strengths and whatnot. But, as with Big Syl, free throws seem like they may be a problem. No bueno.

Also with regards to Michelle Snow, with her free throw at the 7:44 mark of the second quarter, she became the seventh player in WNBA history to reach 2800 points, 2000 rebounds and 300 blocks in her career. Congrats!

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I love Epiphanny Prince. Since Sloot was hot today, I think Prince deferred to her for some of the offense. However, Prince stayed aggressive and active was great at setting up her teammates. She finished with 7 assists (only 1 turnover) and 3 steals (along with 11 points and 5 boards). The backcourt duo of Prince and Sloot is gonna be reeeeeeally good because they can play off of each other so easily. For example, in this game, Sloot’s shooting was on point so Prince became more of a distributor. Next game it may flip flop with Prince scoring and Sloot distributing. Their styles compliment each other very well.

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The only player to get significant minutes off the bench was Dominique Canty. I really like Canty in the role as 6th man. She really turned her game up a notch during crucial minutes in the 3rd and 4th quarter when Connecticut was making their run and Sloot was on the bench with foul trouble. Canty really couldn’t defend against the quickness of Renee Montgromery and, I think, most of Montgomery’s points came on drives to the basket with Canty guarding her. However, the bigs coulda helped her out a bit more.

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Wisdom-Hylton and Swords put in some good minutes off the bench. Swords looks like a rookie when out there but you can see the potential. She’s definitely gonna need some time to develop. Wisdom-Hylton is an important piece and I think her role will continue and expand as she gets more time with this team.

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Erin Thorn put in some good minutes off the bench, as usual.

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Tamera Young was kind of the odd man out this game. After starting last game, she played less than 3 minutes this game. The thing is, our best line-up has Kraayeveld at the small forward spot. That gives us a HUUUUGE frontline with Kraay, Snow and Syl. When Kraayeveld is out of the game, Pokey opted to go small with a the 3-guard lineup I mentioned earlier (combination of Sloot, Prince, Thorn, Canty) and that worked really well. TYoung may just have to live with getting limited minutes in games like this. But in games against teams that have an elite small forward (for example: Catch in Indy, Taurasi in Phx, Angel in ATL, Seimone/Maya in Minny, SYoung in SASS, etc…) we’re gonna need TYoung for her defense because Kraayeveld can’t defend those players and TYoung can defend them better than Thorn or Canty. No defensive stopper was needed to keep Connecticut’s small forwards (Kalana Greene and Kelsey Griffin) in check so Pokey went in a different direction. Great decision. TYoung seems like an emotional player so hopefully she doesn’t take these types of games personally and realizes that she will be an invaluable asset some games but will see significant bench time in other games. Her minutes will be dictated by specific matchups. I hope she’ll be okay with that.

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Let me give you a few words about the Connecticut Sun…

Renee Montgomery was pretty much the only player on the Sun that looked to be going hard the entire game. She repeatedly drove by Sky defenders and got to the rim. She is BY FAR my least favorite player in the entire league so it pains me to give her that compliment…but it’s true. Perhaps she played so well because she was ticked that rookie Vandersloot was straight up kicking her ass in the first half. LoL 🙂

I enjoyed watching Kelsey Griffin play. She’s versatile and looks like she can develop into something special for the Sun.

Shoutout to Alison Hightower for the sweeeet move for the bucket in the 4th!

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Some articles about the game from around the web…

* A R T I C L E * Fowles’ 23 lead Sky to victory (Chicago Tribune)

“There’s no way they can stay on me all the time,” Fowles said. “You have to kind of pick your poison. … ‘Sloo’ was the one who got us in tune early and it opened up things for me down low.”

“That’s exactly why we were getting shots, because Sylvia attracts so much attention,” said Vandersloot, who finished with 18 points. “That’s what you have to do as guards is knock those shots down so they have to respect that and that’s what leaves Sylvia open.”

* A R T I C L E * Vandersloot shines in her home debut (Chicago Sun-Times)

* A R T I C L E * Epiphanny Prince leads team with new role (Chicago Sun-Times)

“She’s responsible for 25 points,” said Sky coach Pokey Chatman. “Nobody’s going to talk about that. They double and she kicks it to the open person. You can see them connecting the dots and trusting each other.”

* A R T I C L E Fowles leads Sky in home opener (Daily Herald)

“Sylvia Fowles will be judged this season on how much of a beast she can be inside,” Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman, who coached Fowles in college at LSU, told me during the preseason. “I’ve told her, ‘If you knock someone down, it’s OK if you don’t help them up. It’s OK to be a little mean.’”

* A R T I C L E * Chicago Sky win their 2011 home opener (Examiner.com)

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Some of my favorite pics from the game (from ESPN)

Sloot for THREEEEE!

Kraayeveld with the tight D

Pokey! ...my new hero!

Big Syl!

Awesome pic!

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Final thought: this was what I tweeted after the game…

Indeed.

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Sky play again tonight vs. the Washington Mystics in DC. Game is available on LiveAccess.

Let’s go Sky! Make it 2-in-a-row!

~ Chicago Sky Hoops ~

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~ by audsquad on June 11, 2011.

3 Responses to “Game Notes: Sky 78, Sun 75 (Sun got Vanderslooted!)”

  1. NICE read! I really enjoyed that…glad you are finally happy with YOUR team!

    Sloot is gonna kill this season and I can’t wait to see the Sky make the playoffs!

    Way to lift Renee up…then DROP her like a bad habit! I love it!

    So glad you gave love to my GIRL Hightower!!! YAY, love that girl. She plays so hard every time she is in the game!

    I like your page a lot…way to throw in your twitter page.

    I look forward to the next one!

  2. […] View post: Game Notes: Sky 78, Sun 75 (Sun got Vanderslooted!) […]

  3. […] is a new Post at Game Notes: Sky 78, Sun 75 (Sun got Vanderslooted!) « Chicago Sky …. “Sylvia Fowles will be judged this season on how much of a beast she can be inside,” Chicago […]

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