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Fowles, Lynx beat winless Sun again, 78-69

So much has changed for the Connecticut Sun since last season's run to the WNBA Finals. They have three new starters. Six of 12 players are new.

Something else that has changed for Connecticut — its inability to maintain a halftime lead.

The Sun were unable to hold a halftime lead for the third time in four games on Saturday afternoon and lost to the Minnesota Lynx for the second time in a week, 78-69, in a WNBA game at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Connecticut was 16-0 last year when led at halftime.

The Sun (0-4) led Minnesota 42-35 at the break on Saturday.

Connecticut led by as much as 41-31 with less than a minute remaining in that half, too.

The Sun, however, cooled off. They shot 17.6 percent (3 of 17) in the fourth quarter and were outscored 17-9.

"They hurt us in the paint," Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said. "We played hard again. We're tired. We're defeated a little bit mentally. We had the lead three times out of four at halftime. We know we're close. We've just got to string together two halves."

Sylvia Fowles, the Lynx's three-time Olympic center, had 21 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, six of which were offensive.

Forward Napheesa Collier, a former UConn standout and the 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year, added 17 points, nine rebounds (five offensive), four assists and four blocks.

Minnesota (3-1) had a 40-27 edge in rebounding.

The Lynx also had a 21-12 edge in second-chance points.

"They hurt us inside," Miller said. "They got on the offensive glass, which led to a points-in-the-paint problem. Those are just defeating when you play such good defense and get first shot misses, and you can't clean up the defensive rebounds. It's defeating and its deflating when they (rebounds and) kick it out and score later, and you find yourself on defense for 30, even maybe 35 seconds at some times."

Minnesota rookie Crystal Dangerfield from UConn was forced to start in place of the injured Lexie Brown (concussion) and scored 11 of her 17 points in the third quarter and added three steals.

DeWanna Bonner once again carried the offensive load for the Sun as she had 28 points with four rebounds.

Bonner, in her first season with Connecticut, has a resounding lead in scoring (27.5 ppg). Las Vegas Aces post A'ja Wilson was the league's second-leading scorer prior to Saturday night's games (20 ppg).

"Oh, man, I just want to win," Bonner said. "We're right there. We're right there. I actually feel like I didn't play great to be honest."

Alyssa Thomas had been the Sun's only other offensive threat. She missed all five of her shots but contributed seven rebounds and a game-high five steals.

Center Brionna Jones had her best game of the young season for Connecticut as she scored 15 with seven rebounds. No other Sun player scored more than nine.

"(Jones) had good moments tonight," Miller said. "We need a consistent offensive performance for her to augment DB and AT. It was obviously hard to get AT going tonight, but, again, she impacts the game so much. … We had (starting post) Damaris (Dantas) 1 for her first 10 shots, and that's a huge credit to AT."

Connecticut was shooting a league-worst 38.5 percent prior to Saturday. That number will drop as it shot 34.9 percent.

Take away Bonner and Jones and the rest of the Sun shot a combined 9 of 38 (23.7 percent).

Dangerfield, the 16th overall pick (second round) in April's draft, gave Minnesota a huge boost. She closed the first half with a floating runner and two free throws to cut the Sun's lead from 10 points down to 42-35. She missed 5 of 6 shots that half and scored four.

Dangerfield got hot in the third quarter and made all three of her 3-pointers in that period. She hit her last one with seconds left in the quarter to give the Lynx a 61-60 lead.

Asked if she's been surprised by Dangerfield's play, Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said, "No. Not this rookie. ... The way Geno (Auriemma) coaches (his players) and prepares them, this is when it shows. And Geno also recruits a certain kind of player, Napheesa Collier or Crystal Dangerfield, in our case. Their toughness and their relentlessness and not quitting, and they're coachable. They listen. So I think those things help her. She's learning on the fly. There's so many things that she just doesn't know."

Collier made a short jumper with 6:03 left in the game to put Minnesota ahead for good, 67-65.

n.griffen@theday.com

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