Sun have been going big

Connecticut forward Alyssa Thomas continues to average a double-double for the league-leading Sun, who have gone to a bigger lineup of late and have continued to thrive. The Sun host the Washington Mystics on Wednesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Connecticut forward Alyssa Thomas continues to average a double-double for the league-leading Sun, who have gone to a bigger lineup of late and have continued to thrive. The Sun host the Washington Mystics on Wednesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Mohegan — Chiney Ogwumike is not a 3-point shooter. The Connecticut Sun post does her work around the rim and is like a goat, gobbling up the garbage.

It was perhaps fitting, then, that Ogwumike attempted her first trey after long-ball specialist Shekinna Stricklen was moved out of the starting lineup last Thursday against the New York Liberty.

Ogwumike hesitated before launching her first career 3-pointer in the first quarter. She nailed it, too.

“Ye-aaaah,” Ogwumike said, arms extended in the air. “And I didn’t know I was going to shoot it. I was like, 'alright (I'll take it)'. Bam-bam.”

Connecticut hosts the Washington Mystics Wednesday at Mohegan Sun Arena (7 p.m., ESPN2), and the Sun will see a different Mystics team. Washington (5-4) was without 2015 WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne due to illness on June 3, and the Sun took full advantage for an 88-64 road win. Delle Donne is back.

Washington will also see a different Sun team, too. A bigger Sun. Coach Curt Miller has gone with a bigger starting lineup the past two games and moved Stricklen to the bench.

It was a curious move because Miller loves the long ball. It’s a key component to his offense that stretches the floor. His life’s mantra is “offense is spacing and spacing is offense.”

Stricklen’s ability to hit 3-pointers earned her a starting role last season because she both helped open up the floor, and allowed Connecticut to go wide open throttle.

Jonquel Jones moved back into the starting lineup against New York. The 6-foot-6 post started every game last season en route to earning All-WNBA second team honors in just her second season. She had been coming off the bench to start this season because she arrived three days before the start of the regular season due to family and visa issues and needed time to get her legs back and get reacclimated with her teammates.

Alyssa Thomas, a 6-2 forward, joins Jones and Ogwumike (6-3) up front.

“There’s definitely pros and cons to the versatile lineups we can put on the floor,” Miller said. “I think our big lineup is obviously the best rim protection team we can put on the floor, the best defensive rebounding (team). Against physical teams, (it’s) allows our big lineup to play.”

Miller made the move after the league-leading Sun (7-1) lost at the Atlanta Dream on June 5, 82-77. He figured it was a good time to change with games against posts such as Tina Charles (New York) and Sylvia Fowles and Rebekkah Brunson (Minnesota Lynx).

“Offensively, we lose some spacing,” Miller said. “And we still play outside-in more than I’d like to play inside-out. We’ve got to get points in the paint. We’ve got to get paint touches off of penetration, off of catches, off of offensive rebounds."

The tradeoff is that the Sun are hoarding rebounds. So while they were leading the WNBA prior to Tuesday’s games in points (92.6) and 3-point percentage (35.3), they’re also tops in rebounds (39.9).

Connecticut has the league’s best record despite not having a scorer in the top 20 (it has six players averaging in double figures).

The Sun are, however, the only team with four players among the league’s top 20 rebounders. Thomas is second (10.8) in the league. Ogwumike averages 7.6 rebounds. Jones, who had a WNBA single-season record 403 rebounds last season, has averaged 6.4.

Courtney Williams also averages 6.4 rebounds. And she’s a 5-8, 136-pound shooting guard.

Jones is also a troublesome match-up because she can leak out and make 3-pointers.

“(We’re) deceiving,” Ogwumike said. “Our 6-6 (player, Jones) is more of a guard. Our 6-1 (player, Thomas) is more the post. And our 6-3 (player, Ogwumike) is more the slasher.”

n.griffen@theday.com

Connecticut's Shekinna Stricklen (40) goes up for a jump shot during Saturday's 89-75 win over the reigning WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Connecticut's Shekinna Stricklen (40) goes up for a jump shot during Saturday's 89-75 win over the reigning WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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