Lynx, hometown hero draw record crowd

by Dan Miller

Minnesota Lynx point guard Helen Darling didn’t know who the 16,227 Target Center fans were cheering for Wednesday afternoon.

“It was just loud,” she said. “The kids were screaming, I don’t know who they were screaming for, but hey, we’ll take it any day.”

In the only day game of the season, Darling and the Lynx (10-9) held off hometown hero Lindsay Whalen and the Connecticut Sun (11-9) 66-63 in front of the largest crowd ever at a Lynx home game. The previous high was 14,171 against Orlando in 1999.

Many of the fans were young. Groups of children wearing daycare shirts could be seen in the stands as well as young fans with maroon and gold Minnesota t-shirts.

When Whalen’s name was announced in monotone for the visiting Sun, she received a standing ovation.

“We knew Lindsay was going to be a big draw (to the game),” Lynx coach Suzie McConnell Serio said. “The fans wanted her to play well and she gave them a great show.”

Whalen scored 18 points in 35 minutes for the Sun and fans cheered for each of her baskets. Fans even applauded when she cut the Lynx lead to one point with 3.8 seconds left in the game.

After the Sun missed three consecutive shots, Whalen grabbed a rebound, made a reverse lay-up and was fouled. She made her free-throw to complete the three-point play and cut the lead to 64-63.

Lynx star Katie Smith, who finished with 15 points, made two free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining, and gave the Lynx their third-straight win at home.

Lynx rookie Nicole Ohlde scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

“With this team everyone can score,” Ohlde said after the game. “That’s the story of this team, anyone can come off the bench or one of our starters can step up and have a key game.”

The Lynx, who have won five of their past six games, will play at the New York Liberty (9-10) on Thursday.

Whalen’s offensive output was the most of her young professional career.

But Whalen said she wasn’t trying to prove anything or impress anyone in her first professional game in Minnesota.

“I didn’t put any pressure on (myself),” she said. “I just tried to go out there and do the same things I do every day. I didn’t try to do anything too crazy or out of character.”