Published June 25. 2014 4:00AM
“There are times last year when I was here covering Connecticut, and it was the first time in a really long time that I thought this team is not very much fun to watch. And I’m not sure really why that was. I will be stunned when I cover them this year if I feel the same way. It’s realistic for the Sun fans to think that they’re going to get their money’s worth every night by coming out and watching a young team play.”
—Rebecca Lobo, ESPN analyst and former Connecticut Sun, discussing the team after April’s WNBA Draft
Chalk (another) one up for Lobo.
Connecticut is enjoying a break after winning five straight for the first time since July 2012. The last four of those wins came during a five-day sprint. It also won three of those games without All-Star guard Allison Hightower (sprained knee).
Seems like months ago that the Sun were 1-5 to end May, no? And it’s no coincidence that things began improving once the outside shooting did.
Second-year guard Alex Bentley went into scorched earth mode for a three-game stretch as she showed why Connecticut targeted her this offseason when they traded Kara Lawson to Washington.
Katie Douglas has also found her groove after shooting a woeful 30 percent nine games into the season.
The Sun aren’t blessed with perimeter shooters, so they need production from those two and Renee Montgomery.
Keep remembering that El Sol remains a very raw product. The players are gradually figuring out how to play with one another. They’ll overcommit when double-teaming and get burned by the open man. They’re still so young. And, as mentioned before, this is not a gifted perimeter team. Kelsey Bone, Kelsey Griffin, Chiney Ogwumike, and Alyssa Thomas sometimes literally force shots as they’re banging around inside to get their points at either the rim or the free throw line.
Life is about to get more challenging for El Sol, too, given the injuries to reserves Kelly Faris and Danielle McCray in addition to Hightower. They also have 11 games over the next 23 days, including seven on the road. They’ll finish July with two more road games, and start August with two more.
What’s encouraging is that the Sun have shown some toughness during this streak. They held on to beat supremely more gifted Phoenix (96-95, June 12). They held fast when a 22-point lead at New York was cut to a point and won, 83-75 (June 12). They beat New York again two days later without Hightower and Ogwumike (graduation), 76-72.
“I feel like something turned after the Washington game (a 74-66 home loss on June 5),” Douglas said. “We definitely didn’t come out with our best effort. Things that we can control are our effort and our energy and our attitude. I feel like going forwards after that game that we really tried to lock in no matter how many people we’re short.
“It’s about preparing one another each and every day at practice. There has to be that kind of toughness that we talked about, and I feel like we’re finally kind of wrapping our minds around it when people are down, or feel tired, that you’ve got to have that mental edge, that mental toughness, and I feel like we’re definitely developing that right now.”
This season wasn’t about wins and losses for Connecticut. It was about rebuilding itself from the ground up after losing key players to trades and free agency. It was also about working towards a better future with some gifted young talent.
So far, so pretty good.
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There have been a lot of folks getting doused with ice water lately after Arizona women’s basketball coach Niya Butts started the Cold Water Challenge (#Chillin4Charity) to raise money for the Kay Yow Foundation.
CLICK HERE to see Butts throw down the gauntlet to her fellow Pac-12 coaches.
El Sol and the Indiana Fever both took part on Tuesday, too.
HATS OFF to Indiana head coach Lin Dunn for her gear.
CLICK HERE for the official release via Arizona.
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Thanks for reading. More sometime.
Vaya con dios.