It will be a long flight home for the JX Sunflowers. The visiting Japanese league team fell 96-52 to the Phoenix Mercury in the first preseason game of the WNBA season. Led by a stifling defense that allowed just 15 first half points -- including just six in the second quarter -- the game was virtually over after the first twenty minutes.
With head coach Corey Gaines resting starters Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, and Temeka Johnson for the game, the Mercury relied on a powerful inside advantage, outrebounding the Sunflowers 45-28.
Guard Alexis Gray-Lawson led the charge for the Mercury with 16 points, six assists, and an outstanding nine steals.
"This is the first WNBA game I actually was able to play in, so I was just excited to play and do the best I could," an enthusiastic Gray-Lawson explained after the game. "Play defense, play smart, and just do what I can for my teammates. It's kind of my thing."
Coach Gaines was equally excited following the performance, remarking, "Really impressed with Gray. I gave her a nickname already. She's a poor man's Cappie. She's definitely aggressive on defense, attacks the basket, she plays hard. She really shined."
She has a big chance to make the roster. She's been doing that the whole camp."
Meanwhile, center Kara Braxton dominated the paint, pouring in 14 points on an efficient seven of nine shooting performance.
"I couldn't be more happier," Braxton said. "The girls gave me the ball a lot. They feel confident in me and passing the ball in, and I got the job done."
The Mercury's newest player, second round draft pick Brittany Spears, played well in extended minutes, scoring nine points in her first professional appearance.
Akane Nihara led the Sunflowers, scoring 12 points off the bench in the losing effort.
Next up on the Mercury schedule is a trip to Albuquerque on Saturday to take on the Los Angeles Sparks.