Sun welcome Mercury, but not without Tuck, who suffers season-ending knee injury

Connecticut's Morgan Tuck, a rookie from UConn, will miss the rest of the season after suffering cartilage tear during Sunday's loss to the Atlanta Dream. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Connecticut's Morgan Tuck, a rookie from UConn, will miss the rest of the season after suffering cartilage tear during Sunday's loss to the Atlanta Dream. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Mohegan — It’s late in the WNBA regular season, the Connecticut Sun are fighting for their playoff lives, and they’ve lost another player to a season-ending injury.

Same as it ever was.

Connecticut welcomes the resurgent Phoenix Mercury to Mohegan Sun Arena at 7 p.m. Friday with both teams in contention for the five remaining playoff spots. The Mercury, who were favored to win the WNBA championship in the preseason general manager’s survey, have won six of their last seven.

“They look every bit a contender for the championship as we all probably expected at the beginning of the year,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said. “Lucky us.”

Lucky is something Connecticut hasn't been for the past three-plus seasons, its latest bad fortune being that rookie forward Morgan Tuck will have season-ending surgery to repair a cartilage tear in her left knee. She injured the knee during Sunday’s loss at the Atlanta Dream.

“Obviously I am really disappointed,” Tuck said, “but I plan to work extremely hard, and I expect to be back and ready to contribute next year.”

The Sun drafted the ex-UConn All-American third overall at April’s draft. She made three starts and averaged seven points in 26 games with 74 rebounds and 29 assists. She scored in double figures six times.

“I feel terrible for Morgan that she will not be able to complete her first WNBA season on the court,” Miller said. “She has a tremendous future with the Sun, and I am confident she will approach the rehabilitation process like the champion she is. I can’t wait to have her back with us next year.”

Connecticut had already lost rookie guard Rachel Banham, the fourth overall pick in the draft, in early July when she needed micro-fracture surgery on her right knee. It was overrun by injuries in both 2013 and 2015 and has a morbid history of players suffering debilitating injuries during the playoffs.

Tuck's injury resulted in the Sun signing forward Asia Taylor on Thursday. She was drafted by the Minnesota Lynx in the third round of the 2014 WNBA Draft.

Connecticut (10-17) is two games behind the eighth-place Seattle Storm with the top eight teams qualifying for the playoffs. It has missed the playoffs a franchise-worst three straight season.

Phoenix (13-14) is in sixth place and one of the worst matchups for the Sun given Tuck’s injury. Six-foot-8 Mercury center Brittney Griner is the reigning two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and is averaging 13.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks this season.

Starters DeWanna Bonner (6-4) and Candice Dupree (6-2) are never fun to play against, either. Phoenix also has Mistie Bass (6-3) and Kelsey Bone (6-4) coming off the bench, the latter who Connecticut traded to the Mercury in late June.

“It’s a difficult matchup, and especially with our post depth right now,” Miller said. “The scary part is foul trouble. We’re without Morgan. (Reserve center) Aneika (Henry-Morello) is not 100 percent healthy, so you go into a game against a team with great size with three post players.

“We’re obviously going to get Bone’s best effort, and that doesn’t even start to talk about any matchup against Diana Taurasi (18.9 ppg, league-leading 78 3-pointers)."

• The Sun will hold a press conference prior to Friday's game to make "a major announcement."

n.griffen@theday.com

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