Liberty snuff out the Sun, end six-game winning streak

Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun shoots in front of Tina Charles of the New York Liberty during Friday's WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Liberty won 82-70. (John Shishmanian/The Norwich Bulletin via AP)
Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun shoots in front of Tina Charles of the New York Liberty during Friday's WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Liberty won 82-70. (John Shishmanian/The Norwich Bulletin via AP)

Mohegan — Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller dubbed Friday night’s game against the New York Liberty as a “TNT” game, an acronym for toughness and tempo.

Well, the Sun fizzled out.

Connecticut shot a season-worst 34.3 percent and were bullied inside during an 82-70 loss before 7,016 at Mohegan Sun Arena, snapping its six-game winning streak

“They were tougher and played with better tempo,” Miller said. “While we held them to 40-percent shooting, (it) just felt like we were scrambling the whole game.

“(New York’s) toughness in the first half to pound the ball (inside) to Tina (Charles), I loved New York’s toughness and tempo compared to us.”

The Sun started well as they led 22-17 after the first quarter.

The Liberty (16-12) took the game — and Connecticut — by the throat in the second quarter. They opened with a 25-7 run with Charles’ point-blank hook shot giving her team a 42-29 lead with 2 minutes, 33 seconds left in the first half.

The Sun shot 45.5 percent in the first quarter.

Connecticut made just 14 of 48 shots the rest of the game (29.2 percent).

“Maybe we could’ve been a little more aggressive (driving the lane),” Sun guard Courtney Williams (nine points) said. “But then again, maybe we could’ve hit (outside) shots as well. It felt like it was just one of those nights for some of us, myself included. One of those nights.”

Jasmine Thomas had 15 points for Connecticut and Shekinna Stricklen had 12 points and five rebounds.

Starters Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas both struggled with foul trouble. Jones had three in the first half and picked up her fourth 52 seconds into the second half.

Jones, the Sun's leading scorer and league-leading rebounder, played just 24 minutes and had 11 points and nine rebounds.

Thomas picked up her fourth foul with 3:15 left in the third quarter. She had 10 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.

“Whenever we had some momentum, we couldn’t get over the hump,” Jasmine Thomas said.

New York of late has been the New York that everyone in the WNBA has been worried would eventually emerge: lots of talent mixed with a combination of size and speed few teams can match.

It was the fourth straight win for the Liberty (16-12). That includes last Sunday’s 83-69 win over the Los Angeles Sparks, the largest loss of the season for the defending WNBA champions.

“I would say we’re trying to find our way,” New York coach Bill Laimbeer said. “A lot of our players came back late (from overseas commitments) to training camp, which hurt. … We lost (starter) Brittany Boyd (to a torn Achilles on May 18). We lost Kia Vaughn and Epiphanny Prince to the (FIBA EuroBasket Women's tournament) for a month.

“I’ve said from the very start, we won’t know who we are until August. ... And now we’re starting to know who we are and we’re playing good basketball.”

The game looked a lot like the grinding Connecticut-Detroit Shock scrums of yore, no surprise given that Laimbeer led the latter to three world championships.

Instead of Cheryl Ford, it was Charles who the Sun couldn’t stop inside on Friday (24 points, seven rebounds). Instead of Katie Smith raining hell from behind the 3-point line, it was Sugar Rodgers (13 points, five rebounds).

“We didn’t shoot well from the foul line (18 of 23) so we lost some momentum,” Miller said. “We missed some shots we were capable of making early and I thought we lost some confidence. But we kept talking about not to settle (for jumpers).

“There’s a reason (New York) is number one in the league in field goal percentage defense. This is not an anomaly. The make people make tough plays. … They’re just relentless offensively trying to get paint touches.”

• The Sun's Alex Bentley will throw out the first pitch at Saturday’s Hartford Yard Goats doubleheader against the Reading Fightin Phils. The first game, a resumption of Friday’s game, starts at 3:30 p.m.

n.griffen@theday.com

Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller, left, directs his team against the New York Liberty during Friday's game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (John Shishmanian/The Norwich Bulletin via AP)
Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller, left, directs his team against the New York Liberty during Friday's game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (John Shishmanian/The Norwich Bulletin via AP)

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