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New York - The losses piled up quickly at the start of the season, but Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan continued to insist that she was seeing progress from her youthful team.
It's not easy for fans or the media to appreciate improvements in a results-oriented business such as basketball. Fair or not, everything is measured in wins and losses.
It's easy for everyone to see Connecticut's progress now that it's won three straight. It will try to add to its good vibes today against the New York Liberty at Mohegan Sun Arena (1 p.m.).
The Sun lost their first three games and five of their first six.
They improved to 5-6 after Friday's 83-75 win against the Liberty in New York.
"It was sort of disheartening in the beginning of the season," rookie Chiney Ogwumike said. "'Dang it, man, we know we're better than this.' But everyone said, 'don't worry, it's a long season,' and now I'm starting to understand that.
"Good things will come if you keep working hard."
Yes, a losing record isn't cause for hosannas, but the most important thing for Connecticut this season was to move forward. Move forward from last year's franchise-worst 10-24 finish. Move forward after both Tina Charles and Kara Lawson were traded at their request. Move forward with several new players, most of who are 24-and-under.
The fairest expectations this season was to get better and be better than last year. They're doing that, and all those positive affirmations from Donovan earlier in the season are starting to be seen on the court.
One of the biggest reasons for the winning streak is simple - Connecticut is finally making shots.
Guard Alex Bentley has made 27 of 38 shots over the last three games.
Katie Douglas, who was signed this offseason for her shooting, had a 30 percent field goal percentage prior to Thursday. She's made 8 of 14 3-pointers the last two games.
"KT is feeling really confident right now," Donovan said. "She was taking threes tonight and making some, not making all, but taking them with complete confidence. That just helps everybody's swag."
Rookie Alyssa Thomas has contributed in the previous two games, too. Her weakness coming into the league was not having a consistent shot, and it's something she'll have to continue to work on.
Thomas' value has been both her defense and rebounding.
She had to play more minutes on Thursday after starter Allison Hightower sprained her knee, and she started Friday night.
Thomas had six rebounds in both games, and she made one of the biggest plays in Friday's game. New York had closed to within two points when Bentley went to the foul line. She made the first and missed the second. Thomas grabbed the rebound before it went out-of-bounds, which led to Douglas' 3-pointer that pushed Connecticut's advantage to 74-68 with over four minutes left.
"With Allison out tonight, let's add to that reasons that this was a good win," Donovan said. "Alyssa did some really good things. She wasn't really connecting offensively on points, but we really challenged her to help us rebounding, and that last one she got was huge. … All that experience for her is really going to pay off."