Sun steal one from Stars

Connecticut forward Alyssa Thomas, front, and guard Courtney Williams, back, battle San Antonio's Dearica Hamby for a loose ball during the second half of the Sun's 89-75 victory over the Stars in a WNBA game on Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Connecticut forward Alyssa Thomas, front, and guard Courtney Williams, back, battle San Antonio's Dearica Hamby for a loose ball during the second half of the Sun's 89-75 victory over the Stars in a WNBA game on Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Mohegan — The doomsday scenario Sun head coach Curt Miller feared had come to pass in the first half against the San Antonio Stars on Sunday afternoon.

Connecticut was dog tired after playing back-to-back west coast games Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a 12-hour trip home Friday. And San Antonio was screaming for vengeance, smarting from a 33-point home rout by the Sun earlier in the month.

And so Connecticut looked gassed in the first half Sunday. The Stars smelled blood and were up by five at halftime.

But the Sun have shown a newfound resiliency this season. Sunday, they proved their tough enough to fight through when they’re not at their best.

Connecticut used a franchise-record eight steals to score 33 third-quarter points and run away with an 89-75 win before 6,355 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

“Teams want to go into the break with wins,” Connecticut’s Jasmine Thomas said, referencing this Saturday’s All-Star break. “But you’re also fighting fatigue, and it’s not just us. So we can’t feel bad for ourselves because we had a back-to-back and we had a long travel day.”

The Sun trailed 40-35 at halftime. They led 68-50 after three quarters.

“At the end of the day, you’re just trying to win games, whatever that takes," Thomas said. "And the one thing that we never have to tell ourselves is to play harder and stay together. Those are the things that we always do. That’s our bread-and-butter. That’s how we put ourselves in this position that we’re in in the league. That we play hard, we’re relentless, and we hate to lose.

“We didn’t look like that in the first half of this game. And that’s what we changed going into the second half.”

It was the 11th win in 14 games for the Sun (12-8). Their win, combined with a loss by the Phoenix Mercury, moved them into third place in the overall WNBA standings (the top eight teams qualify for the playoffs, regardless of conference).

Courtney Williams scored 10 of her 15 points in the third quarter with six rebounds and two steals for Connecticut while Alyssa Thomas had 13 points, nine rebounds and two steals. Jasmine Thomas had 13 points, four assists and two steals, and Jonquel Jones added 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

Isabelle Harrison had 17 points and six rebounds for the Stars (2-17). Kayla McBride had 14 points and three steals, but was injured with five minutes, 27 seconds left in the game and was on crutches afterwards.

“We are going to take her to the hospital and get her some x-rays,” San Antonio head coach Vickie Johnson said. “The doctor is very positive because she is able to put weight on it.”

Connecticut missed nine of 10 3-pointers in the first half, made just 6 of 11 free throws, and were careless with the ball (seven turnovers). McBride’s steal and layup pushed San Antonio’s lead to 42-35 to start the third quarter.

It woke Connecticut up.

“(The locker room was) not happy,” Jones said about halftime. “Lynetta (Kizer) challenged us, Alyssa, Jas, everybody saying that they just looked too comfortable out there. That as a team, we weren’t really doing our job to get them out of their flow. We wanted to stop them and just run on them in the third.”

Morgan Tuck’s layup pushed the Sun ahead, 79-56, with 5:30 remaining.

“I wasn’t always positive toward my coaching staff through some of those struggles in the first half because what we thought could potentially hurt us was hurting us,” Miller said. “There’s certainly a level of growth and maturity and leadership from this group; that they believe (in themselves).

“They knew they didn’t play the way they were capable of playing, so it’s fun to watch players take ownership. It’s fun to watch players coach themselves. And you don’t always have to make adjustments as a coaching staff when you have a team that accepts accountability.”

n.griffen@theday.com

Jasmine Thomas (5) celebrates a 3-pointer by Sun teammate Rachel Banham, not pictured, against San Antonio in the second half of Connecticut's 89-75 win over the Stars in a WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Jasmine Thomas (5) celebrates a 3-pointer by Sun teammate Rachel Banham, not pictured, against San Antonio in the second half of Connecticut's 89-75 win over the Stars in a WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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