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Sun lose more than opener as Ogwumike is officially out for season

Mohegan — Stating the obvious — the Connecticut Sun still need time to rebuild.

Sure, one could see Connecticut's promise during Friday's season-opening 73-68 loss to the Washington Mystics before 5,846 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Third-year guard Alex Bentley (17 points) can heat up like a microwave with her shooting. She scored 15 of her team-high 17 in the first half.

Third-year center Kelsey Bone, a mere 23 years old, has the build and skills for the position that make coaches drool with delight. She had 14 points and six rebounds.

Second-year forward Alyssa Thomas can be a handful inside despite being generously listed at 6-foot-2. She had 13 points and seven rebounds.

Rookie point Chelsea Gray showed flashes in limited minutes, including a "wow" reverse layup late in the third quarter.

All that young talent is great, but the Sun still need time. Patience is required, something that's always in short supply. And no one wants the future to arrive now more than Connecticut after back-to-back last-place finishes in the Eastern Conference.

"I love the chess match of building a team," Connecticut head coach Anne Donovan said. "I look at the trades we've made and the acquisitions and the parts we have right now, it's a great group

"This group is a winning group, and (will be) for a long time. We've changed some people out and we've got a young team in that locker room that's going to be good. That's how I deal with (the waiting)."

It takes longer to get there, too, given that over half of the team is new. The Sun lost four players since March to season (and career) ending injuries before training camp even ended.

And now make that five players. Donovan announced after the game that Chiney Ogwumike won't be back this year after undergoing microfracture surgery on her right knee in January. The team hoped she could return this year, but opted to exercise caution and think long-term.

Ogwumike, a power forward, was the 2014 WNBA Rookie of the Year and Connecticut's best player last season.

Connecticut had 40 points at halftime. They shot just 25 percent (8-of-32) and scored 28 points in the second half.

"Our execution down the stretch wasn't good," new Sun forward Camille Little said. "It disappointing. Home opener in front of a great crowd, and I think we fought hard to get back in it. And we gave it away.

"Not to take anything away from Washington, but we didn't even run the offense correctly to get a good shot off and we can do that."

Former UConn star Stefanie Dolson had a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds for Washington while Ivory Latta had 15 points, five assists and four rebounds. Kara Lawson, who played four seasons with the Sun, scored 10.

Connecticut trailed the majority of the second half. They fell behind by as much as 52-40 to begin that half.

Bentley made two free throws to put the Sun ahead, 66-65, with 2 minutes, 38 seconds left in the game.

Connecticut missed four of its last five shots and turned it over once.

"We are a work in progress," Donovan said. "I believe in this team. I believe in the leadership of this team and I believe that when Bone plays like that and she's a dominant low-post player, we're doing the right things and were going to get there."

n.griffen@theday.com

Twitter: @MetalNED

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