Sun fight back from 30-point deficit before losing to Mystics 95-91
Mohegan — The Connecticut Sun don’t quit.
Connecticut rallied from a 30-point deficit on Wednesday night and took the lead multiple times in the fourth quarter before losing 95-91 to the Washington Mystics at Mohegan Sun Arena.
That resolve the young Sun showed? Chiney Ogwumike attributed some of that to former head coach Anne Donovan, who died earlier Wednesday.
“I think we didn’t appreciate her as much as we should,” Ogwumike said. “We were struggling as a team at that point in which she was the coach (2013-2015), and she gave us that fierce mentality that we should be proud to be the Connecticut Sun basketball team.
“She made us fighters.”
The Sun (7-2) were awful in the first half. They trailed 61-31 with one minute, 43 seconds left in the second quarter and 65-37 at the break. That was the most points the Sun have allowed during a half in team history.
Courtney Williams (career-high 34 points) helped drag the Sun back into the game. Her jumper gave Connecticut a 77-76 lead with 6:58 remaining. The teams traded the lead three times after that.
The Sun’s rally tied a WNBA record they set against the Minnesota Lynx in a 111-103 loss on Aug. 3, 2010. Williams, meanwhile, set franchise records for most field goals in a game (15) and points (34) in regulation.
“(Teammate) Alyssa Thomas and I were rookies (in 2014) and she was our first coach,” Ogwumike said of Donovan. “She empowered us. That Alyssa Thomas you see that’s tough on the glass and pushes. She gave Alyssa confidence. She gave me confidence.”
Elena Delle Donne was sensational for Washington (6-4) as she scored a game-high 36 with six rebounds. Kristi Toliver shot 6-of-12 from the 3-point line, including a huge one late, and had 25 points and four assists.
The game nearly turned into another Mohegan Sun Arena gut-buster for the Mystics. They led Connecticut by 22 points with 4:41 left in the third quarter of a July 8 game last season. The Sun rallied to win, 96-92.
Instead, Toliver hit a 3-pointer late in the shot clock over the 6-foot-3 Ogwumike to give Washington an 89-87 lead with 58.5 seconds left in Wednesday’s game.
Ogwumike made two free throws to tie it with 42.5 remaining.
Monique Currie was fouled on the other end and made two free throws to give the Mystics the lead for good with 30.8 left.
The win hardly registered for Washington head coach Mike Thibault, who was one of Donovan’s assistants for the 2008 gold medal winning USA women’s basketball team.
“It’s just a shock,” Thibault said, who found out about Donovan’s death after the game. “It’s hard to even celebrate a win when you have a close friend have something like that happen (to them).”
Ogwumike scored 15 of her 19 points in the second half and had 13 rebounds for the Sun. Ogwumike and Williams (five rebounds) helped bring the team back to life in the third quarter.
Williams scored 16 and Ogwumike added seven points and six rebounds in the third.
Williams and Morgan Tuck ended the third with back-to-back 3-pointers to cap off a 30-8 period for Connecticut.
Connecticut also managed to rally despite Alyssa Thomas getting hurt with under two minutes left in the third quarter when Delle Donne landed on her falling backwards. Thomas had ice on her right shoulder after the game and didn’t know the extent of the injury. She’s had trouble with both shoulders during her pro career.
Jasmine Thomas had 13 points and five assists for the Sun.
“Anytime a team scores 65 points in a half, you’re not focused defensively,” Jasmine Thomas said. “Credit to them. They have great offensive players for sure with Toliver and Delle Donne, but we could’ve been better in that first half defensively, and that’s exactly what we talked about to start the (second) half. Right away, we were just disruptive.”
“The fact that we didn’t give up, that our team had the grit and guttiness about us to stay together and fight through that and put is in position to win a game when we had been down 30 is amazing. We had to be proud of that, but we also have to realize the fact that we shouldn’t have ever been in that situation to begin with.”
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Connecticut Sun guards Natisha Hiedeman and Briann January both texted positive for the COVID-19 virus and did not travel with the team to training camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., the team announced Sunday.