Sun has a chance to gain momentum before road trip

Alex Bentley and the Connecticut Sun meet Tulsa tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Alex Bentley and the Connecticut Sun meet Tulsa tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena. Jessica Hill/AP Photo

Mohegan — The Connecticut Sun are halfway through their 2014 season, yet center Kelsey Bone has already made a pronouncement about the season.

"(Tonight) is very, very, very important," Bone said. "It might be the most important game of our season to date because we have to get some kind of momentum before we're gone for the next 10 days."

Connecticut plays host to Tulsa tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena (7 p.m.) What follows is an asinine schedule that has it playing nine of its next 11 games on the road.

The road hasn't been kind to the Sun (8-9); they've won just once in six games.

"(We've) got one last chance at home," Bone said. "I think if we can't get this momentum started at home that it's going to be tough, tough, tough because everything is against you on the road."

The new and young Sun have gone up and down like an EKG reading this year. They lost their first three games. They won six in a row. They've lost their last three. They're the only WNBA team to beat conference leaders Atlanta and Phoenix. They missed 11 first-half layups in Tuesday's loss to the San Antonio Stars.

"These last three games, we've lost sight of ourselves a little bit," Bone said. "Things that we were doing when we were winning six games in a row, we've kind of gotten away from it. Coach (Anne Donovan) came in (the locker room) and made a statement that, 'you guys look like a team that thinks that they've arrived.' That's not what got us to the point where we were feeling good about ourselves. We've got to get back to what we were doing."

Poor shooting has been Connecticut's biggest problem this season. It has the league's second-worst field goal percentage (.412).

The Sun have perhaps more good (and green) interior players who can score near the basket than they've had in recent seasons. They've been unable to accumulate a deep group of shooters, however. Douglas has been a consistent outside threat for most of her career, but started slow through the first nine games, perhaps due to having offseason back surgery after missing all but four games last year.

Second-year guard Alex Bentley has made 39 percent of her shots 16-to-25 feet from the basket, according to statistics compiled by Paul Swanson of the Minnesota Lynx.

Reserve Renee Montgomery is shooting 39 percent from the field.

Donovan and the team have also been critical of their effort of late. Connecticut wasn't aggressive enough going to the basket against the Stars as Douglas was its only player who shot free throws (4 of 7).

"I think we weren't being aggressive and taking the ball to the basket as much and I think we try to read how the game is being played and sometimes it goes our way and other times it doesn't," rookie Chiney Ogwumike said. "I think we should have made a more concerted effort to be aggressive and take it to the rim."

San Antonio also scored 28 third-quarter points against Connecticut.

"I don't see the team that scrapped and clawed and hustled (during the six-game winning streak)," Donovan said. "Every 50-50 ball was ours during that winning streak. I haven't seen that in the last three games."

Ogwumike said: "We haven't been playing with the same focus we usually have. … I think we need to play with that focus but also play without fear. I think we're putting too much pressure on winning the game with one shot or one more or one more so I think that mentality is hurting us."

The question, then, is why the Sun lost their edge

"When you're 2-6. … You're fighting for respect," Bone said. "You're fighting not to be embarrassed."

n.griffen@theday.com

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