Young Sun lose to Liberty in season opener
Mohegan - The Connecticut Sun training camp was all kittens and rainbows after the franchise was forced to refurbish its roster to the requested exits of Tina Charles and Kara Lawson.
The peaceful, easy feelings aren't an act, either. Even outsiders have noted how the Sun have been more upbeat, gung-ho and cohesive.
It's all a refreshing change from last season's perpetual purgatory.
But Connecticut received quite the reality check in Friday's season-opener at Mohegan Sun Arena. It couldn't make shots and struggled to defend the New York Liberty in a 75-54 beating before 6,039.
"We came out and laid an egg," Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said. "No doubt about it. We didn't have a good showing tonight, and I know they're disappointed about it.
"It was not our night tonight."
Prized rookie Chiney Ogwumike, the No. 1 overall pick in last month's WNBA Draft, had 13 points with five rebounds in her Sun debut.
Second-year guard Alex Bentley, one of seven new players, was the only other Connecticut player who scored in double figures (10 points).
The Sun shot 30 percent. They had 18 turnovers, compared to 21 made field goals.
"It wasn't obviously what we wanted to come out and do," fifth-year veteran Kelsey Griffin said. "Our game-plan execution wasn't great, but we knew with this team, we knew bringing in a new group that there was going to be growing pains. Do we want them? No, but the thing is to learn from games like this. This game is a failure if we can't learn from it."
Charles couldn't have asked for much more in her return to Connecticut, finishing with had nine points and nine rebounds for the Liberty.
Charles, who played her first four seasons with the Sun, told the team over the winter that she wanted to be traded home to her native New York.
Connecticut traded Charles on draft night for second-year center Kelsey Bone, forward Alyssa Thomas (the fourth overall pick in the draft), and New York's No. 1 pick in 2015.
"It's kind of eerie (being back)," Charles said. "You're used to being in the home locker (room). I'm not used to being in the (Mohegan Sun) hotel. Little things like that. It's something to get used to."
A segment of Sun fans booed Charles when she was introduced during the pregame.
"They have a right to how they feel," she said. "I'm just going to go out there and play my hardest."
Cappie Pondexter scored a game-high 17 for New York.
Rookie Anna Cruz, a rookie from Spain, added 11 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
Alex Montgomery made two free throws with seven minutes, 50 seconds left in the first half to give New York a 22-21 lead. It never trailed again and led 37-31 at halftime.
Pondexter made a 3-pointer to start the second half.
Connecticut, on the other hand, had Ogwumike get called for her second and third fouls in eight seconds during the first two minutes of the second half and the Liberty began pulling away.
The Sun strung together a few baskets to close the deficit to 61-49 with six minutes remaining, but New York hit the Sun with a 10-0 run. Kara Braxton made back-to-back baskets to give the Liberty a 71-49 lead with 2:13 left.
Chucky Jeffrey's layup with over a minute left gave New York its largest lead, 75-51.
"I'm still very excited about this group," Griffin said. "I'm still very exited about our potential."
Griffin then paused, laughed and added, "but it could be painful during parts of the season."
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