Crystal Dangerfield shines in WNBA debut
Last year, it was Napheesa Collier making a splash in her WNBA debut for Minnesota. On Sunday, it was Crystal Dangerfield's turn. Dangerfield put on one of the best rookie performances of the league’s opening weekend and exceeded expectations on all accounts.
In 21 minutes, she totaled 10 points (on 4-8 shooting), two rebounds, an assist and a steal. Perhaps the most notable element of her box score is that the Lynx, who headed into the second half down nine before securing the win, were +17 when Dangerfield was on the court, a fact that was not lost on Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve.
“I think, you know, whatever point we put her in, she played the rest of the way," Reeve said in the post-game. "She really increased her confidence in what she was doing and obviously we probably don't win without Crystal’s minutes today.”
Lynx veteran Sylvia Fowles also praised Dangerfield’s performance.
“She was everything to what we needed,” Fowles said. “We started off very slow and I think at halftime we had a good conversation with her and were letting her know that our guards set our tone and if they move fast, we move fast. And she came out and did exactly that. She got us into plays, she made shots. She got on board, she got the ball to the right people, so she had a big impact on that win today.”
While a tremendous second half from Dangerfield played a critical role in the season-opening win over Connecticut, it was not a part of Minnesota’s initial game plan. Reeve has previously stated that while Dangerfield may be the best pure point guard on the roster, it wouldn’t necessarily translate to a lot of minutes off the bat. In fact, the Lynx’s other rookie, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 draft from South Carolina) did not see any minutes in the opener.
“Our plan was not that Crystal would see significant minutes,” Reeve shared. “We're always ready when the game dictates something different and that's why she got an opportunity. We were just looking for something different at the guard spot and she made the most of it. You know, that's what UConn players do. I mean, she's ready, she's confident.”
Dangerfield looked ready when she stepped onto the court in the second half. In the fourth quarter Dangerfield looked like she hadn’t missed a beat since college. Her own 4-0 run to cut Connecticut’s lead to just two points earlier in the fourth quarter started with a steal that might as well have played out on the floor in Gampel Pavilion.
In fact, much of the Lynx’s second half comeback looked reminiscent of scenes from Storrs, with Dangerfield and Collier combining for 19 points on 8-17 shooting in the final 20 minutes of the game.
“I'm so proud of how Crystal did coming out with her first WNBA game," Collier said. "She really set the tone for us, especially in that second half. We really fed off of her energy, and I thought she did a great job. So yeah, it felt good to be back in Storrs for a little bit.”
Dangerfield herself was, unsurprisingly, more humble about her performance, crediting a great team effort in the win.
“[Coach Reeve] just challenged the guards to be aggressive. Like I said, Connecticut was really dictating a lot of things. We were kind of back on our heels, picking the ball up outside the paint. You know, she wanted us to put pressure on them,” Dangerfield said. “And I just made a decision, you know, when I go in the game next time. Be aggressive. Do what she's asking us to do.”
Time will tell if Dangerfield’s debut and ability to respond to Reeve’s demands will earn her more minutes going forward. The Lynx return to action on Tuesday, but in the meantime she’s likely left a handful of GM’s wondering how they allowed Dangerfield to fall to the second round.