Minnesota drop back-and-forth battle with Sacramento in game at Williams Arena

The Lynx are in the midst of a three-game slide that puts them in the cellar of the Western Conference.

Tyler Rushmeyer

Williams Arena felt like a sauna Friday night, but with hometown hero Prince wowing crowds across town Saturday at the Target Center, the Minnesota Lynx were forced to make their regular season debut at the historic arena.

Playing at The Barn for the first time since a preseason contest in May 2005, the Lynx (5-13) played host to the Western Conference-leading Sacramento Monarchs (12-6).

A small, but boisterous crowd watched as the Lynx spent much of the contest playing catch-up until a fourth-quarter rally came up just short in a 85-80 loss.

Nicole Ohlde, who previously played at Williams Arena as a Kansas State forward in 2004, in a game in which the Wildcats lost to the Gophers, said the new venue required some adjustments.

“Obviously it’s different just because we’re not used to playing here,” she said. “But we had a good practice yesterday that helped us get used to the backdrop and everything.”

Despite the unexpected change of venue, Ohlde said it was no excuse for the Lynx’s third consecutive loss.

However, the Lynx did not go down quietly in the contest. Down by as much as 13 in the second half, the fourth quarter saw a resurgence in both the team and the crowd, which seemed to work hand-in-hand to bring Minnesota back into the game.

The Lynx took their first lead of the second half, 74-73, with just over two minutes to play. But the Monarchs quickly countered with a three-point make and cruised the rest of the way.

Seimone Augustus, the WNBA’s 2006 No. 1 pick, scored a team-high 23 points and said the experience at Williams Arena was different than a typical home game.

“It still had a home atmosphere to it, but it’s definitely got a more intimate feel to it,” she said. “The fans were louder tonight and more on top of you. Ö I felt real comfortable out there.”

Augustus, named to the Western Conference All-Star team on Monday as a reserve, said the difference in Friday night’s contest was simply execution.

The Monarchs shot 59 percent from the field and seemed to have an answer for any run the Lynx were able to put together.

Don Zierden, in his first season as head coach, said despite the frustrating loss, the Williams Arena experience was a good one.

“It’s a great facility and the fans were great tonight,” he said. “It can get real loud real fast in there.”

With the tough loss, the Lynx fell into a tie with the Houston Comets for the last-place position in the Western Conference and will face a long climb up the standings if they want to see their first playoff appearance since 2004.

Ohlde, who finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, both well over her season averages, said Williams Arena hasn’t exactly been kind to her over the years.

“I still haven’t had any good memories here,” she said with a laugh. “But it’s a great place to play. It doesn’t have to be a packed house to really feel the energy here.”