Sun can't seal the deal
Newark, N.J. — The idea that the Connecticut Sun had the ball down but four points inside the final two minutes Friday should have been fodder for a ceremony.
Consider that the Sun were on their way to allowing a franchise-record 57 rebounds, had recently been besieged by the New York Liberty's 33-10 run, weren't getting much production from reigning Most Valuable Player Tina Charles and were down two injured players.
And so the ensuing 78-68 loss Friday night at the Prudential Center, a source of angst, perhaps, because of a blown 11-point lead in the third period, could have been significantly uglier.
"The Liberty looked like a team that just really got after it in second half," Sun coach Anne Donovan said. "They scored 54 points and I don't think we had that same intensity. It doesn't matter how you might be struggling, you still have to scratch and claw."
The Sun had a 47-36 lead with 5:40 left in the third period. Over the next 9:42, the Liberty outscored them 33-10, culminating with Kelsey Bone's putback with 5:58 left. New York had a 70-57 lead at the time.
"They wanted it more," Charles said. "I don't want to say that's our M.O., but sometimes, we let teams come back. It's definitely disappointing."
Yet the Sun (2-4) managed a rally. And after New York's shot clock violation with 2:06 left, they had the ball down 72-68. But that's when Charles, in foul trouble much of the night, got two shots she's comfortable taking … and missed them on the Sun's next two possessions. Ballgame.
Charles, who had 30 points and 10 rebounds at Indiana earlier this week, finished with seven points and four rebounds.
"I wasn't aggressive. I wasn't attacking and being the force I know I can be," Charles said.
The Liberty (4-2) have the league's most girth, although the game's smallest player, 5-foot-5 guard Lelani Mitchell, finished with nine rebounds. Center Kara Braxton finished with a game-high 13 rebounds.
"New York is a very physical team. When you go to work in the paint like (Charles) did against Indiana, you come away with a lot more bruises," Donovan said. "We didn't get (Charles) the ball in the paint enough. And then she got in foul trouble."
Charles said, "I don't think anybody can deter how I play. I just wasn't attacking."
But the Liberty sure did. Especially in the second half. The Sun held Cappie Pondexter, New York's leading scorer, to two points in the first half. Pondexter exploded for 18 in the second half, including a jumper at the third-quarter horn to give New York its first lead since 2-1.
"When Cappie gets on a roll, you're in trouble," said Donovan, who once coached Pondexter with the Liberty.
Allison Hightower led the Sun with 17 points and Kara Lawson had 16. Kelsey Griffin had nine points, eight rebounds and a career-high four steals.
The Sun return home Sunday at 5 p.m. to play Seattle at Mohegan Sun Arena.
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