After a long road trip west, Sun come home with a victory
Mohegan - Tan White is one of the nicest people you'll meet. Friendly. Upbeat. Speaks with a soft-spoken Southern drawl.
Ordinarily, White plays with a blank expression for the Connecticut Sun. The veteran guard never gets too high or low.
Connecticut was struggling to hold off the Chicago Sky during Tuesday's 69-58, grind-it-out win when White's stoic look was replaced with one of determined anger.
Sky rookie Courtney Vandersloot was defending White a little too physically for her liking, and White responded with a bit of a snarl and a drive to the basket.
White was fouled and made two free throws to give the Sun a 64-54 lead with 1 minute, 31 seconds left in the game.
Both free throws were important shots as the Sky had scored four straight at the free throw line to inch closer to Connecticut.
"It kind of gets a bit frustrating when somebody is all over you," White said, "but you have to kind of play through it. Then you're kind of waiting (for the referee's whistle). 'When are they going to call it?! When are they going to call it?!'
"I knew it had to be strong with the ball. That's just all it was."
Connecticut (14-7) has won eight of its last 10 games. It also won the season series from the Sky, three games to two, which could be important should playoff tiebreakers be needed.
Tuesday was not the most offensively rousing game for the 6,049 at Mohegan Sun Arena to watch. Sun head coach Mike Thibault was concerned because the first home game after a road trip can be a trap.
Connecticut also spent nine hours Monday on a red-eye flight home from Phoenix.
The Sun shot 36.2 percent in Tuesday's win.
"We had dead legs in our shooting," Thibault said. "Everything was kind of flat, short. I said if we can get a couple of good defensive possessions where we strip the ball, force some turnovers, we can get ourselves going a little bit."
Enter White. Chicago had cut an 11-point deficit in the third quarter to 46-40 with over two minutes left.
White had back-to-back steals. She turned the first into a layup, and Kelsey Griffin scored a transition layup on the other.
"Those were huge (steals)," Thibault said. "We were just kind of running in mud a little bit."
Said White, "I just wanted to bring some energy, and I think those steals kind of us going. Kind of got us fired up. That was a burst right there."
White closed the quarter with another steal and passed it ahead in transition to Kara Lawson (14 points, six rebounds, four assists).
Lawson made a 3-pointer as Connecticut took a 53-41 lead.
White finished with nine points, five steals, four assists and four rebounds. Tina Charles had 16 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks and Asjha Jones added 12 points and four rebounds.
Sylvia Fowles led the Sky (10-13) with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
It hasn't been the easiest season for White as she's struggled offensively. She's shot 31.8 percent and averaged 5.5 points prior to Tuesday.
White hasn't let it affect her, though, as she's one of Connecticut's best defenders.
"Regardless if I'm scoring, I know that defensively I have to have that effort," White said, "and that's the energy that my team needs from me."
Said Thibault, "She doesn't have an ego that says, 'I've got to be this or that. Since she's been here, she has done whatever it takes for us to win that night.
"She knows we appreciate it. ... She has grasped the idea that there are a lot of ways to help a team. She just buys in. She's a great pro."