Tuck shaking off rust with the Sun

Mohegan — Morgan Tuck was known as a calming, reliable leader at UConn.

Huskies' head coach Geno Auriemma, who is never shy to voice his opinion when his players are performing poorly, once said of Tuck that, "I have a hard time yelling at her. She's always in the right place."

Tuck has a pretty good handle on perspective, too, after she missed 12 straight games to a right knee contusion this season with the Connecticut Sun.

"I didn't want to sit out," Tuck said, "(but) I knew I wasn't going to be out for months and months because I didn't have to have surgery or anything.

"You always want to play, but I'll take this over the other stuff that I've had."

Tuck is slowly getting back into the groove for the Sun, who play host to the Dallas Stars on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena (7).

Connecticut (16-9) is in first place in the Eastern Conference and third place in the overall WNBA standings with the top eight overall teams qualifying. The Sun would clinch a playoff berth with a win over Dallas and an Atlanta Dream loss at the San Antonio Stars later Saturday night.

Tuck has played the last eight games off the bench after beginning the season as the starting power forward.

"It feels good," Tuck said of her knee. "It's just an adjustment when coming back from an injury. I didn't miss two or three games. I missed a good chunk of the season."

Tuck is all too used to knee injuries. She played just eight games during her sophomore year at UConn and needed surgery on her right knee. She sat out nearly two weeks during her final season at Storrs.

Tuck missed the final eight games of her rookie season last year when she needed surgery to repair a cartilage tear in her left knee.

"It just takes time at first to get back in the flow with your team and just get back to playing," Tuck said. "When you sit out for about a month-and-a-half after you've just sat out eight months (from surgery), you get a little rusty. So it just takes time."

Tuck averaged 28 minutes, 11.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in Connecticut's first five games this season. She's averaged 12.8 minutes in her first eight games back.

"Just being comfortable, I think that's the biggest thing," Tuck said. "Going out there and making sure you're not overthinking and just going off instinct and playing off your teammates."

The unintended consequence of Tuck's injury was that Connecticut suddenly took off as it was forced to adapt. Head coach Curt Miller moved Alyssa Thomas from small forward to power forward and added reserve Shekinna Stricklen to the starting lineup in Thomas' place. Courtney Williams later took over at off-guard when Alex Bentley missed three games to play with Belarus at the FIBA EuroBasket Women's Tournament.

Connecticut has won 14 of 18 with its new starting lineup.

"We're committed to playing (Tuck) more at the four (power forward)," Miller said. "When AT (Alyssa Thomas) and (Tuck) are in, their versatility is great. So we're going to try to keep people off-balance and play them at different positions on the floor offensively and mix up our defensive assignments when they're in there together.

"When we first brought her back, we were playing her exclusively at both ends of the floor at the three (small forward). And I think we're doing a better job now of mixing it up."

All-Star point guard Jasmine Thomas is "doubtful" for Saturday's game, Miller said. She missed Tuesday's game against the Phoenix Mercury to an ankle injury.

"She's steadily getting better," Miller said. "We won't rush her back."

There are no pushovers in the WNBA this season, however Dallas (13-15) is among the least favorable opponents for the Sun. It's one of few teams that likes to run as much as the Sun and leads the league in PACE, the average number of possessions per 40 minutes for a team.

The Wings are also the only team to beat the world champion Los Angeles Sparks twice.

"They're the most athletic team in the league," Miller said about Dallas. "What's hard, in my opinion … is when they break their (play) and just play basketball (and improvise). They're relentless off the offensive glass. (It) poses a lot of problems for us across the board."

• The Sun are hosting a "Back To School Bash" as part of Saturday's game in which they've partnered with MARC Community Resources for a school supplies drive. One may donate school supplies by bringing them to the game and dropping them in a designated bin on the concourse. The team will also honor Lauren Danner from North Branford, the 2017 Connecticut Teacher of the Year.



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