Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lynx's new pack members attract record crowd


2,055 people watched the Minnesota Lynx roster play under official game conditions for the first time in 2011 Tuesday, when they hosted the Indiana Fever in preseason play.

If the game took place at Target Center, those fans would fill just over 10 percent of the building's total capacity. At Concordia University's Gangelhoff Center in St. Paul, where the game was held, that number stood for the first preseason sellout in Lynx history. Although results do not count for the season, the Lynx suffered no omens in their 71-66 win against the Fever.

To be sure, the addition of Maya Moore in this year's draft generated buzz not seen since the Lynx entered the WNBA in 1999. Lynx front office members also took on a long outreach campaign to attract kids from neighborhood schools for the noon game. Those students comprised about half of the crowd in attendance.

While courting the young meant decibel levels matched the Lynx's annual Kids Day promotion throughout the game, the Lynx's outreach strategy paid off in an unexpected way when audio equipment problems at the scorer's table prevented a scheduled vocalist from performing the National Anthem. After a few minutes of murmurs and wonders, Fever players performed the song a cappella, and fans young and old quickly joined in.

School kids showed their gratitude to the Fever's gesture as most cheered when Tangela Smith sank the game's first basket, a 22-foot three-pointer.

Those kids quickly reverted to the hometown team, as head coach Cheryl Reeve played everybody on her training camp roster except Alexis Hornbuckle, whose strained hamstring kept her in street clothes.

Although Moore has been hailed as Minnesota's next star since she was drafted, fellow first-round pick Amber Harris showcased the team's revamped post players. The Xavier alum finished with a double-double, netting 10 points and 10 rebounds, showing the versatility that landed her on Lynx radar since last year.

Moore was more sluggish, scoring just four points on two-of-eight shooting, but she did get five rebounds and three assists. She also got a visitor's "welcome to the WNBA" greeting, when Fever forward Tamika Catchings juked Moore one-on-one for a lay-up early in the first quarter.

With a full training camp roster, the preseason game served an effective audition for players considered "on the bubble" to make the final cut of 11 players for the regular season. One predicted battle is the backup center slot between Quanitra Hollingsworth and Jessica Adair. Hollingsworth had one rebound and one assist in 7:23 of floor time, while Adair was limited to 4:37 after racking up four quick fouls, but she scored two points on free throws and scooped one rebound.

Guard Kachine Alexander, a former Iowa Hawkeye who attended high school at Benilde-St. Margaret's, banked a 20-foot jump shot for her only basket of the game. She added two steals in her 7:13 of playing time.

The best performance came from St. Paul native Angel Robinson, who first made local headlines in high school when she led an undefeated St. Paul Central team to the class AAAA state championship in 2007. Robinson finished with four points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal in 13:22.

The Lynx have one more preseason tune-up at Indiana next Tuesday before they decide who stays and who goes.

Click this link to listen to interviews with Minnesota's Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson and Angel Robinson and Indiana's Katie Douglas.

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