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Sun make Mercury fall

By Ned Griffen

Publication: The Day

Published June 26. 2010 4:00AM   Updated June 26. 2010 1:44PM
Sean D. Elliot/The Day
Connecticut's Tina Charles puts up a shot over Phoenix's Candice Dupree in the first half of WNBA action Friday, June 25, 2010 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Mohegan - The Connecticut Sun hated watching 90 minutes of their defensive bloopers earlier this week.

Friday, they made sure it wouldn't be subjected to that again any time soon.

The Sun beat the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury Friday, 82-79, with defense and good old-fashioned hard work before a sellout crowd of 9,518 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Connecticut (9-4) struggled offensively most of the night, but defended high-powered Phoenix about as well as could be expected.

"You could tell on our defense that (the video) made a difference?" Sun point guard Renee Montgomery asked with a sly grin. "I can't sit through 90 minutes of film ever again."

Friday was just the third time Phoenix (5-8) was held under 80 points. The Mercury began the game averaging a league-best 93.4 points.

Connecticut held Phoenix to 37.9 percent shooting (25-of-66). The Mercury were averaging 44.6-percent.

The Mercury's Diana Taurasi made 12 of 13 free throws for a game-high 26 points, but she missed 13 of 19 shots.

Connecticut shot only 37.5 percent, but scored enough to win.

"No matter what, you can control your defense," Sun forward Asjha Jones said. "That's what we like to talk about. You can't control making shots. You can shoot good shots and they may or may not go in, but defense you can control the way you defend people.

"If you make it tough and they make great shots, hey, good for them. They're great players. For us, we really wanted to focus on that and I think we did a better job than we did in the last home game against Chicago. We tried to really help each other a lot more. We wanted to play team defense. I think we did a better job. It wasn't perfect, but we got big plays when we needed them."

Connecticut rookie Tina Charles had 23 rebounds, breaking her franchise record. She had 19 last Friday against the Los Angeles Sparks.

Charles was one rebound short of tying Chamique Holdsclaw's league-record set on May 23, 2003). Charles did Michelle Snow for the second-most in a game. Snow had 23 in overtime on Aug. 4, 2006.

"She is a monster," Phoenix's Candice Dupree said of Charles, who also scored 19 points. "She is posting up really well, getting shots on the block and obviously crashing the boards. She is big and doing a great job for them."

Connecticut had to overcome a wretched start as it missed 12 of its first 14 shots and trailed, 17-5, with less than four minutes left in the first quarter.

Phoenix, on the other hand, made 7 of its first 10 shots.

Things quickly changed as the Mercury missed 19 of their next 24 shots in the first half, allowing the Sun to pull within four, 47-43, at halftime.

The teams exchanged second-half leads with Phoenix ahead, 73-70, with over four minutes remaining.

Connecticut answered with a 12-2 run to take an 82-75 lead with 1:56 left.

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota scored eight of her 11 points during that run, including two 3-pointers.

"We had the lead two minutes to go up by three," Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. "We missed two layups. They hit two threes. We tried to grind it out, but we couldn't get any offense going."

Sandrine Gruda had 17 points and nine rebounds for Connecticut. Kara Lawson (10 points) was the fourth Sun player to score in double figures.

"Considering our start, (it's) terrific to come back to win," Sun coach Mike Thibault said.

n.griffen@theday.com

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