The collage of rookies battling for spots on the Minnesota Lynx regular season roster put up a noteworthy impression Monday night at Target Center, leading the team to an 82-66 win over the Australian national team.
Waltiea Rolle, a 2013 Lynx draft pick, scored a game-high 17 points, hitting seven of nine shots. Maya Moore added 14 points, seven rebounds and seven steals.
The goals set by Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve were no different than previous preseason excursions
"First and foremost win, and we did that. The second thing was to really evaluate some talent and see what we had. In both areas, we were pretty successful," she said.
Such an evaluation was necessary with most of Minnesota's primary players either resting or injured; Moore was the only member of the starting five on the floor, and two starters in the exhibition against Australia were rookies.
The game was a microcosm of the training camp narrative thus far. Moore seamlessly directed the offense and exploited weaknesses on defense to create her signature transition scoring chances, but the new recruits had difficulty reading passes and formations. As a result, the Lynx let a 16-point lead in the third quarter shrink to one with 17.5 seconds remaining.
On Minnesota's next possession, Moore shrugged as her passing target on the left wing shifted out of position, then knocked down a triple from the top of the key.
In the fourth, the trainees grew in confidence, helping Minnesota pull away for good. Damiris Dantas and Rolle were finishing plays at the rim, with Rolle landing a few put-backs.
"Waltiea was really productive on the low block," Reeve said. "In the second half she created more of her own offense. Our guards got deeper and dropped off to her to give her more simple opportunities."
Rolle was much more quiet in the locker room, but she found enjoyment in playing a competitive game after a week of scrimmages.
"I wasn't really focusing on the points, I was just trying to get us back up," she said.
While the rookies sought acclimation, a familiar face in a new place was mesmerized by Minnesota's camaraderie. Tan White, a free agent acquisition, had 11 points and eight assists on the official tally. With Monica Wright recuperating from arthroscopic knee surgery, White should be an influential figure in the first phase of the season.
"I've always watched them and seen how they play together. They make the game exciting. For me to just fit in with them, it feels great," she said.
Rebecca Allen and Gabrielle Richards scored 17 points each for the Opals.
Asya Bussie, a second-round pick for the Lynx this year, did not suit up due to a strained right quadriceps.
Minnesota's next exhibition tilt is Friday against Phoenix in Orlando, Florida. By that time, at least three players will be cut from the final roster as the team reintegrates their talent up front.