Play of Thomas tempers a misstep by the Sun

Mohegan - If there is such a thing as being a winner on the court and a loser off it, the Connecticut Sun succeeded on both counts Wednesday night.

On the court: Tireless Alyssa Thomas and her 23 points and 11 rebounds personified the effort that produced a 79-69 win over absurdly talented Chicago, the Sun's sixth straight victory.

Off the court: During a public service announcement on "Go Green Night," nearly 6,000 fans were told one of the ways to help the environment was to "cancel your newspaper subscription."

OK. I'll make this part brief. About five newspapers in the country care about the WNBA. And four are in Connecticut. Hence, this particular suggestion seems, um, shortsighted, in the "bite the hand that feeds you" sort of way. And you could probably be environmentally responsible by recycling the newspaper if you're not going to wrap fish in it, right?

I'm not sure what would possess such an announcement to be made and why the Sun employs such Mensa members in game operations. Perhaps they could discuss that today while they line birdcages with this column.

On to the game. It was terrific. The Sun's effort - 20 offensive rebounds - screams possibilities. (And who knew that sentence would be written a few weeks ago?) Because who's to say how far this team can go, six in a row now, simply by playing harder than everybody else?

Exhibit A: Thomas, the rookie from Maryland. She's a lot like Kelsey Griffin. A little of this and some of that. She rebounds, gets to the basket, to the free throw line. Defends. Always around the ball. Makes winning plays, not necessarily evident on the stat sheet. And would be the last to tell you about it.

"Her persona off the court gets people shocked because of what she is on the floor," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said about Thomas during a recent phone conversation. "She prefers the background. But on the court, it's totally different."

And yet there were questions about her entering the draft. About things she doesn't do. It works this way a lot now. Draftniks, coaches and other blatherers fear being wrong about Player A, so the conversation begins and ends with shortcomings. Instead of what Player A does well. (Baseball scouts are really good at this, too).

"She's a tough match. A.T. is so physical," Sun coach Anne Donovan said. "She doesn't have the quickest feet, greatest handle or prettiest jump shot, but she has one of the best motors in the women's game. Very few players have that kind of energy. It's going to make her a great player."

Teammate Alex Bentley: "A freak of nature. So athletic. Down low in the post nobody can guard her. Those guards can't guard her down there. She's incredible. She gets out and runs. She rebounds. She does it all."

Thomas is one of the rare specimens who might actually find the pros easier than college. Her responsibilities at Maryland included only everything. Bring it up, shoot it, rebound it, defend, block shots. Rinse. Repeat.

"It's a relief not to have everyone focusing on you," Thomas said after Wednesday's game.

That was clearly the case after practice Tuesday. Several Sun players were involved in "Chillin-4-Charity," a fundraiser to benefit the Kay Yow Fund, during which they got buckets of ice water dumped over their heads. Sun center Kelsey Bone was among the participants. Bone got doused and thought it was over. Except that Thomas, lurking, found an extra bucket and gave Bone the Bill Parcells treatment.

"She'll probably get me back for that," Thomas said, "but the opportunity presented itself and I just couldn't pass it up."

Bone: "Oh, there will be a time. I can't get her now because she's waiting for it."

Bone in a more serious moment on Thomas' game: "I remember watching her in college. We played against her and she killed us. She can do a little bit of everything. We asked her tonight to defend (Chicago guard) Epiphanny Prince. At shootaround, she was little worried about doing that. She did great."

Prince shot 4-for-11 from the field.

Some interesting games upcoming for the Sun. At Washington, at New York and then home against San Antonio and Tulsa. The San Antonio game brings Kayla McBride, taken one spot ahead of Thomas in the draft, to Mohegan Sun Arena. The best of the draft class that night: Chiney Ogwumike, Thomas, McBride. And two belong to Connecticut, all because Tina Charles wanted to go home.

A pretty good idea as to why the Sun have won six straight.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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