The Sacramento Monarchs' aggressive play on both ends of the floor finally paid off with their first win.
The Monarchs used Nicole Powell's 19 points and contained the WNBA's best one-two offensive punch _ Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter _ to pull away in the second half for a convincing 90-71 win over Mercury on Friday night.
Sacramento held Taurasi and Pondexter to a combined 21 points, won the rebound battle 42-31, and beat the Mercury to loose basketballs most of the game in holding a 22-6 edge in second-chance points.
"That's our identity, we want to outhustle, outwork, and outdo every aspect on the floor so we can frustrate teams," said DeMya Walker, the Monarchs' veteran post player. "We feel like we did that tonight and never let up on them."
The Monarchs (1-2), who opened the season with a pair of losses to Seattle, were aggressive from the start and it showed at the free-throw line. Sacramento made 27 of 34 attempts, while Phoenix (2-1) never went to the free-throw line until the third quarter and made all 12 of its attempts.
"Sacramento is a great second-chance team, that's what they are really good at," said Taurasi, who went scoreless in the first half and finished with 11 points. "They were an 0-2 team playing at home, they really wanted that first win."
DeWanna Bonner had 13 points for the Mercury, while both Tangela Smith and Pondexter had 10. Taurasi and Pondexter came into the game averaging a combined 47.5 points. Pondexter didn't score in the second half and took only one shot in 11 minutes.
"It was a great defensive effort, it takes a collective focus against a team like that," Monarchs coach Jenny Boucek said. "We hope to take momentum from this game into tomorrow. There's not a lot of time for them to make adjustments."
Scholanda Robinson scored 13 points and Lauren Harper had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Monarchs.
With Taurasi scoring seven quick points, the Mercury pulled within 48-47 at the 6:45 mark of the third quarter. But Sacramento came back with a 13-2 run and led 66-53 heading into the final period.
Displaying hustle and strong defense, the Monarchs established an early lead and took a 39-32 advantage into halftime. Walker scored seven points for Sacramento, which made 17 of 21 free throws and owned the lead despite shooting 30 percent.
Taurasi went to the bench at the 9:44 mark with her third foul and played nine first-half minutes.
"It's difficult to try and affect the game from the bench," Taurasi said. "It's on me for getting two dumb fouls early. I'm pretty confident we'll play a lot better tomorrow."
Sacramento played without starting point guard Ticha Penicheiro, who has a sprained right thumb. Despite her absence, the Monarchs committed only eight turnovers.
Although the Monarchs dominated for much of the opening quarter, the Mercury used the outside shooting of Pondexter and Temeka Johnson to pull within 22-17 heading into the second period.