Sun find their shooting touch, beat Mystics 83-75
Mohegan — The Connecticut Sun didn’t practice the day before Tuesday’s game against the Washington Mystics. And for good reason.
The Sun arrived home from Sunday’s game at the Atlanta Dream at 2 a.m. Monday. Tuesday was their fifth game in 11 days, three which were on the road.
“By noon (Monday), a lot of our players were in the gym shooting, and it was optional,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said. “They didn’t need to be there.”
Connecticut looked much more like itself Tuesday night. Jonquel Jones had 24 points and seven rebounds as the Sun regained their shooting touch and rallied in the second half to beat Washington 83-75 before 5,224 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
“I give our kids a lot of credit,” Miller said about those who practiced Monday. “They recognized (our shooting woes). They’re being professionals.”
Connecticut (6-1) was shooting 37.9 percent prior to Tuesday, second-worst in the WNBA. It’s been odd given that it had the second-best percentage last season with almost the same team.
The Sun shot a sad 28.4 percent at the Atlanta Dream on Sunday, but won 65-59.
"We're too talented of a group to shoot that way all year,” Miller said.
Connecticut shot 47 percent (31-of-66) against the Mystics.
“Law of averages,” Sun reserve Layshia Clarendon quipped.
“(I’m) proud of those guys in the locker room tonight,” Miller said. “That’s a 50-point second half. ...coming off the heels of a 21-point second half against Atlanta.”
Courtney Williams had 23 points and seven rebounds for the Sun and Shekinna Stricklen made 4-of-8 3-pointers for 12 points. Alyssa Thomas added 12 points and was assigned to guard Elena Delle Donne, the 2015 MVP, the majority of the game.
Clarendon also gave Connecticut a spark in the second half as she scored all nine of her points after halftime.
Ariel Atkins led Washington (4-2) with 18 points and five steals while Delle Donne scored 13 with six rebounds and four assists. Delle Donne missed a season-opening 84-69 loss at Connecticut due to injury.
“Our defense was good all night,” Miller said. “That’s a team that has shot-makers all around the floor, and we held them to less than 41 percent (40.8) from the field.”
The Mystics were shooting a league-high 46.7 percent prior to Tuesday.
Washington was without starting post Emma Meesseman, its third-leading scorer. The Belgian is with her national team preparing for the EuroBasket Championships.
The Mystics opened up a 43-33 lead less than two minutes into the second half. Jones and reserves Rachel Banham and Clarendon helped get the Sun both get back into the game and take the lead.
Jones scored six straight points, starting with a 3-pointer, to give Connecticut a 48-47 lead with 5:05 left in the third.
LaToya Sanders and Kristi Toliver scored on successive layups after back-to-back turnovers to put Washington back ahead, 53-51, with 3:32 remaining in the quarter.
Banham tied the game at 55 with a technical free throw after the Mystics were called for defensive three seconds with 1:17 left in the quarter.
Clarendon followed with a 3-pointer to give the Sun the lead.
It’s rare for Clarendon to take that shot as she’s not known for her outside shooting. She’s a career 27.4 percent 3-point shooter. She’s 2-for-2 this year.
“I’ve been working on it a lot,” Clarendon said. “As a point guard, I’m facilitating so much. I think I’m a capable scorer in some ways. … The three is not my typical go-to.
“Those are the plays where someone is going to help off of you and you’re a liability because you can’t know that shot down. I was happy to let it fly.”
Banham grabbed a defensive rebound moments later and threw it ahead to Clarendon for a layup as Connecticut led 60-55 after three quarters and never trailed again.
“(Our) bench had one of their best games of the year,” Miller said. “Layshia gave us really good minutes. Bria (Holmes) was good in a short stint that I played her (in the first half).”