If the young Washington Mystics want to have a successful season, they’ll likely need consistent contributions from second-year center Emma Meesseman.
The Belgium native looks to continue her solid play when the Mystics host the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Dream on Sunday in the opener of a home-and-home set.
Meesseman went two games without a field goal before shooting a combined 14 for 21 with 30 points and 18 rebounds over her last two games. She had career highs of 16 points and 11 boards to help Washington (5-5) end a three-game skid Friday with a 79-68 win over Chicago.
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"(I) had some games that were tough for me so I had some talks with (coach Mike Thibault), the players to bring back my confidence," Meesseman said. "Knowing players are behind me – I can play basketball, too. That’s what I’m trying to do."
Bria Hartley had 13 points and Tianna Hawkins added 10 for the Mystics.
Seven of Washington’s 12 players are either rookies or in their second season, and the 6-foot-4 Meesseman is being called on to provide quality minutes in the middle. After starting once in 2013, she has been on the court at tipoff for every game this season.
Meesseman, though, did have an easier time against Chicago with its leading scorer Elena Delle Donne sidelined and veteran forward Sylvia Fowles also out.
"We’re going to have to play a lot better when we play them down the road," Thibault said. "… As young as we are, the things we’re trying to learn, it was progress tonight."
Atlanta (6-3), which beat Washington in last season’s East semifinals, will certainly provide Meesseman with a tough test. The Dream’s frontcourt features center Erika de Souza and forward Sancho Lyttle, who are averaging a combined 29.4 points and 23.0 rebounds.
The imposing pair totaled 26 points and 23 boards to help the Dream win their third straight with an 85-82 victory over Minnesota on Friday in a rematch of last year’s finals.
Angel McCoughtry scored a team-high 23 points for Atlanta, which limited WNBA leading scorer Maya Moore to 10 points on 2-for-11 shooting.
"Our pick-and-roll coverage worked to perfection," coach Michael Cooper said.
Tiffany Hayes added 15 points and Jasmine Thomas had 13 as all five of the Dream’s starters scored in double figures. The offensive burst by the starters was needed after they wasted a 17-point halftime lead.
De Souza averaged 12.0 points and 13.7 rebounds in last year’s three-game playoff series victory over Washington. McCoughtry averaged a combined 19.4 points in that series and four regular-season meetings, which the teams split.
This home-and-home set concludes Wednesday in Atlanta.