Struggling Sun still trying to find their way

Mohegan — The Connecticut Sun's season has had the oddest of trajectories, like a roller coaster with just one big peak.

Connecticut was last in the Eastern Conference at the end of May. It had a six-game winning streak in June, ending the month in second place.

The Sun have been in a free fall during July. They've lost nine of their last 11 and are back in the basement.

"I think we're all frustrated by it; a little bit confused by it," Connecticut head coach Anne Donovan said.

It doesn't get any easier for the Sun, who play host to the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx today (3 p.m., MyTV9) at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Just four teams have had win streaks of six-or-more games this season — Atlanta, Phoenix, Minnesota and Connecticut.

Atlanta (15-8) leads the East. Phoenix (20-3) has the league's best record. Minnesota has the second-best record (19-6).

The Sun are 10-15.

"We've beaten Atlanta, we beat Phoenix, and we almost beat Minnesota on its home court," Connecticut's Kelsey Griffin said. "The potential for what we were, and what we can be, is really bright. But I think it's figuring out to do the right things, to do the hard things, consistently for 40 minutes."

A few things have played a part in the Sun's woes, starting with youth. Katie Douglas and the newly-acquired Ebony Hoffman are the only two players over 27. The current starting lineup consists of two players in their second season (guard Alex Bentley and Kelsey Bone), two rookies (Chiney Ogwumike and Alyssa Thomas), and Douglas. None were with the Sun last year.

"I'm not one to make excuses," Donovan said, "but I have to attribute a lot of what we're going through to our youth. Not knowing how, with seven minutes left in the game at Washington, that's when you really tighten the ship up.

"Youth has to mature. Unfortunately, we're in the growing pains."

The Sun don't have enough perimeter shooters and are next-to-last in the WNBA in field goal percentage.

"I think what we've done is let our offense dictate our defense," Griffin said. "When our shots aren't dropping, we aren't going down the other end and saying, 'we are going to get a stop.' We're saying, 'oh, we missed a shot.'"

Connecticut has given up 30-or-more points in one quarter during three of its last four games.

"It's confidence," Donovan said. "If your shot is not going, you start to lose your focus and start to think more about that than at the other end."

Injuries haven't helped, either. Starter Allison Hightower has missed 11 games and needed surgery on her knee. Griffin has missed the last two games to a sprained ankle. She's just been able to walk on it.

"Two of our veterans on a very young team," Donovan said. "Two of our highest energy players. ... It's depleted what we're able to do off the bench.

"We played well without Ali in that six-game win streak, but it takes a toll after a while when you can't rotate people the way you want to."

Connecticut has nine games to right itself. That includes August games at the fourth-place New York Liberty, and two at home against the second-place Washington Mystics, the latter which is 3-0 against the Sun.

"It's going to be interesting," Donovan said. "We've really gotten into a terrible situation right now where we are going to have to show strength and fortitude and determination that we're going to get to the postseason.

"Is it still possible for us? Absolutely. So were going to have to show those things we're talking about and learn from the mistakes that we've made getting us to this situation. I believe in this group. I really do."

n.griffen@theday.com

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