By SARA ANDERSON
The largest crowd ever came to show their support for new head coach Frank Layden and his Starzz as Utah played the league-leading Houston Comets in the Delta Center Monday night.
“The crowds in this league are a tribute to women’s basketball,” Layden said. “They come early, they stay to the end and they have fun, and I think that is terrific.”
Layden said that the crowd support was one of the reasons why he decided to return to coaching.
“You know a week ago I was seating with the crowd in the game, and I think that is what sports are all about,” Layden said. “Your 20 points behind, and they’re right there, cheering at the end of the game.”
That is exactly what happened to the Starzz Monday as they lost to the Comets 77-57. Despite the deficit, the 15,657 fans never stopped cheering for their team.
“We’ve got great fans,” Layden said. “The fans want you to win real bad.”
The Starzz jumped out to an early 14-4 lead on a Margo Dydek layup with 14 minutes left in the first half.
It did not take the defending world champions long to get back into the game, as star guard Cynthia Cooper hit back-to-back three-pointers. The Comets lead at the half 37-31.
The Starzz faded quickly in the second half as they were outscored 40-26.
“Throughout the first half it was a close game,” said Starzz guard Dena Head. “Houston is a great basketball team, and they definitely showed why they are in first place and why they were champions last year.”
Cooper, who hit six three-pointers, lead the Comets with 32 points. Guard Kim Perrot had 12 and Houston forward Janeth Arcain added 11.
“Houston is a championship team,” Layden said. “They’re a very, very good team, and I would expect them to probably be champions again.”
As for the 7-16 Starzz, Layden said he is pleased with his team’s improvement, but he does not expect miracles.
“I think we are very young,” Layden said. “And I think that in my relation with them I’ve got them in overload. I’m trying to coach years into their heads, and I think what happens is they have a tendency to make mistakes.”
Head, who had 10 points in the loss to Houston, is confident that with a new coach and the fan’s support, the Starzz will be successful in their remaining seven games.
“We have a very good basketball team,” Head said. “And sooner or later we’re going to wind up putting it all together.”
The Starzz will have an opportunity to put it together tonight as they play the Cleveland Rockers at the Delta Center.