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Balanced Mercury breaks 100 points in convincing win over Tulsa

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The Phoenix Mercury used a 15-point run to start the second quarter to pull away from the winless Tulsa Shock, 100-78, Friday at US Airways Center to improve to 3-1, its best start in five years.

Diana Taurasi led Phoenix with 16 points, Erin Phillips and Anete Jekabsone-Zogota each scored 15, and Brittney Griner recorded 14, with five rebounds and four blocks. Mistie Bass grabbed eight boards, and Candice Dupree dished five assists.

“We had a good practice week, and we put it into action tonight,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said. “Tulsa’s a good team, and the next game will be a little closer. One player scored a lot of points, but for me it wasn’t a big deal because we contained everyone else.”

Tulsa, which lost its first three games by a combined eight points, received a game-high 27 from Riquana Williams, who comes off the bench to average seven points per game but set the WNBA record with 51 points last August.

“We have a young team that’s learning some things, but the positives are showing,” said Tulsa coach Fred Williams. “She’s (Williams) the Sixth Player of the Year from last year, and this year she’s doing the same, she knows her role, she can score a lot of points quickly and do some things defensively.”

Taurasi and Roneeka Hodges opened the game with threes on each team’s first possession, and after a fairly even first quarter, it ended just as it began, with Williams and Phillips hitting from long range in the final 15 seconds.

Phoenix led 22-19 after one and built a 34-19 lead before Williams hit a jump shot at the 6:10 mark, Tulsa’s first points since her three tied it at 19-19. Phoenix would go on to score 22 unanswered against players other than Williams, who scored the ensuing basket, as well. DeWanna Bonner’s three at the buzzer gave Phoenix a 47-36 halftime lead.

“We worked on defense, so to come out and play defense like that is great, it got our offense going,” Bonner said. “The bench really played great for us, Anete knoked down some shots, if we keep playing like that and everybody keeps up those minutes, I think we’ll be OK.”

The Mercury pulled away in the third, taking a 76-56 lead, with Taurasi and Williams each scoring nine.

“They’re a tough team, they’re young and bouncy, but we figured them out,” Taurasi said. “It’s more the rebounding and getting into a flow, and we did that for the most part.”

Skylar Diggins added 20 points for Tulsa, two off her career-high set last season against the Mercury, Courtney Paris collected 10 points, and Glory Johnson posted seven points and eight rebounds.

In her first game versus Baylor teammate Griner, rookie Odyssey Sims played 10 minutes and didn’t take a shot, as Coach Williams said she was feeling “under the weather.”

Phoenix outshot the Shock from the free throw line 34-of-39 to 9-of-12, with Griner shooting 10-of-12. Jekabsone-Zogota was 4-of-4 from the field with three of those being from long range and was also a perfect 4-of-4 from the line.

The Mercury will host Seattle at 7 p.m. Tuesday before a five-game road trip that begins in Tulsa June 6. The Shock visits the Storm on Sunday.

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