Sun storm back to beat Sparks 102-94
Mohegan — The Connecticut Sun have reached a point where its no longer stunning when they come back to win.
Connecticut’s rally Thursday night was still pretty crazy, though.
The Sun trailed the Los Angeles Sparks by nine points to start the fourth quarter. They responded with the highest scoring quarter in franchise history and won, 102-94, before 5,571 at Mohegan Sun Arena and a nationally televised audience on ESPN2.
“We’ve always been these players that always believe we can win,” Connecticut's Chiney Ogwumike said. “It’s just now, we sort of have the tools. Now we have the chemistry.”
The Sun trailed 74-65 after three quarters.
Connecticut closed with a 20-8 run.
“(I’m) proud of our team tonight,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “Gutty fourth quarter. Certainly, I felt we could’ve gone away down nine. (We were) a little stagnant at the end of the third quarter. A team we haven’t beaten in a few years. (You) easily could’ve seen a team pack it in and say it wasn’t our night, but our defensive intensity picked up.”
Connecticut shot a ludicrous 72.2 percent (13 of 18) in the fourth quarter to outscore the Sparks 37-20. It tied a franchise record for the most points in a quarter. It scored that many against the Atlanta Dream last season on June 10.
More offensive lunacy: Connecticut (2-0) became the first team in WNBA history to score 100-or-more points in their first two games. It beat the Las Vegas Aces in Sunday’s season-opener 101-65.
The Sun had six players — six — score in double figures and shot 62.5-percent (40 of 64).
Granted, Los Angeles (2-1) was without three players in two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker (minor back injury, day-to-day), sixth-woman Jantel Lavender (overseas), and first-round draft pick Maria Vadeeva (visa issue).
It didn’t prevent the Sparks from winning against the world champion Minnesota Lynx on Sunday, however, 77-76.
The Sun lost all six games to Los Angeles over the past two seasons. They last beat LA on June 26, 2015.
“You saw a team (the Sparks) playing their third game in five days, and what this compacted schedule can do to people,” Miller said. “(They’re) shorthanded … and we looked like the fresher team in the fourth quarter and put up 37 points.
“Really a gutty, gutty win. I’m proud of our players.”
Alyssa Thomas had 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks for Connecticut and Jonquel Jones had 17 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
Also scoring in double figures for the Sun were Ogwumike (18 points, five rebounds, two steals), Courtney Williams (14 points, five assists and four rebounds), Jasmine Thomas (13 points, eight assists), and Shekinna Stricklen (11 points, four rebounds).
Los Angeles’ Chelsea Gray was nigh unstoppable for most of the game as she scored 19 of her game-high 21 in the first three quarters with five assists and four rebounds.
Odyssey Sims added 20 points and seven assists for the Sparks and Nneka Ogwumike had 19 points, four rebounds and four assists.
“We just didn’t defend down the stretch,” Los Angeles coach Brian Agler said. “We were a step slow in everything we were doing. Our defense was as active as it was earlier in the game and they hit some timely shots.”
The Sun managed to cut into the deficit to start the fourth quarter and trailed 86-82 with 4 minutes, 35 seconds left when they made their last run. Alex Bentley made a 3-pointer. Jonquel Jones followed with a driving layup to give Connecticut the lead for good.
Jones, all 6 feet, 6 inches of her, followed with a 3-pointer to extend Connecticut’s lead to 90-86 with 3:31 remaining. She scored 10 in the fourth quarter.
“Any win you can get against a team like that is huge and super-important for us,” Alyssa Thomas said. “We just went out there and played hard and finally got a win against them.”
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