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Sun riding high after road trip

The nature of head coaching lends itself to obsessing over every little flaw, which Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault has been known to do.

Connecticut plays host to the Chicago Sky tonight (7:30, Mohegan Sun Arena) having just won back-to-back road games.

The Sun rallied from a 16-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday. They blew a 21-point lead before defeating the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday.

Such wild extremes would give even the most serene coach agita.

"I feel great," Thibault said Monday night. "We got two road wins. They weren't pretty at times. Sometimes we played really great; sometimes we didn't. But winning on the road is hard, and we figured out a way to win at the end. We'll take it."

The Sun (8-3) had lost all three of their previous road games, one without Asjha Jones and two without Sandrine Gruda.

"There are things I'm going to fret over on a daily basis," Thibault said. "That's my job, but I'm happy with the progress. This road trip showed progress."

Rookie center Tina Charles and Gruda, a center/forward, both had strong showings. Charles averaged 25 points and 15.5 rebounds in the two games, including a franchise-record 19 rebounds in a 78-75 win over Los Angeles.

She was honored as the WNBA's Eastern Conference Player Of the Week on Monday.

Gruda scored 10 of her 12 points during a 31-10 run Friday. On Sunday, Gruda shot 9 of 14 for 21 points in a 96-94 victory over the defending world champion Phoenix Mercury.

Charles and Gruda have played only five games together, but they're gradually building a rapport on and off the court.

"They pass to each other and talk on the defensive end," Thibault said. "You can tell there's already a decent chemistry there in just how they kid each other off the court. We already have Tina doing Sandrine impressions."

Gruda made her first start of the season Sunday when Thibault used a big lineup of Asjha Jones (6-foot-3), Charles (6-4) and Gruda (6-4).

"I think it's going to depend a little on opponents," Thibault said of his starting lineup. "We have not discussed who is going to start (today). I'll kind of sleep on that, but it's irrelevant in some ways as nine players have played the most minutes and that will continue."

Guard Renee Montgomery, for instance, started the first 10 games. Sunday, she came off the bench and played nearly as many minutes (19:50) as starter Kara Lawson (20:10).

Being on the floor at the end of a close game is more important than starting, too, and Montgomery finished the game. She made 5 of 7 3-pointers for 19 points and added four assists.

"If she was unhappy (she didn't start), she didn't act like it, and she came ready to play," Thibault said. "She was great and she was on the floor at the end of the game."

Chicago (4-8) has been led by 6-6 center Sylvia Fowles (19.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.8 blocks) and guard Jia Perkins (10.2 points).

Sky forward Shameka Christon is listed as "day-to-day" after being leveled by an inadvertant elbow to the eye on June 8. She suffered a concussion and scratched cornea and has missed the last two games.


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