Sheryl Swoopes scored 14 of her 23 points in the first half yesterday afternoon as the Houston Comets posted a 77-70 victory over the visiting Phoenix Mercury.

Coming into the game, the Mercury was gunning for its first victory in Houston and the first five-game winning streak in franchise history.

Phoenix led 15-8 after five minutes, but in a span covering the last seven minutes of the first half, the Comets outscored the Mercury 23-8, highlighted by two three-pointers by reserve Janeth Arcain, who finished with a season-high 13 points.

Trailing by 16 points in the second half, Phoenix put together a run that brought it within five points with just under three minutes remaining.

Led by eight of Marlies Askamp's 14 points, the Mercury closed to 64-59.

Cynthia Cooper hit a basket and four free throws inside the last two minutes to keep Houston safe.

* ROCKERS 55, SHOCK 53: Cleveland scored five straight points late in the game to rally on the road. The Rockers trailed 51-48 with 1 minute 34 seconds left when Alisa Burras was fouled after making a shot. Burras missed the free throw, but after a double foul on the rebound, the Rockers won the jump ball.

Chasity Melvin made up for an earlier turnover by making a layup and a free throw to put the Rockers ahead 53-51.

Then, the Shock were called for a shot-clock violation, and Merlakia Jones clinched the win with a short jumper to make it 55-51.

Burras and Melvin led Cleveland with 10 points apiece. Val Whiting paced Detroit with nine.

* STING 56, LYNX 52: Andrea Stinson scored 17 points as Charlotte extended its winning streak to five games by winning on the road. The Sting's Rhonda Mapp added 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Brandy Reed had 21 points and 13 rebounds for Minnesota, which lost for the fourth time in five games.

* STARZZ 63, MONARCHS 59: Margo Dydek scored 25 points and Adrienne Goodson added 16 as host Utah rallied for just its third win in 11 games.

Goodson nailed a pair of free throws with 28 seconds left to give Utah a 60-59 lead. On the ensuing possession, Kedra Holland-Corn missed a pair of shots and Dydek was fouled with 13 seconds left. She hit 1 of 2 for a two-point lead.

Yolanda Griffith collected 20 points and 13 rebounds for her league-leading 14th double-double, but the Monarchs still lost for the fourth time in six games.