Beaten up Sun beaten up by Mercury 89-72

Phoenix — It was early last week when the Connecticut Sun had the best record in the WNBA and received glowing headlines and features from national media outlets.

How quickly it’s all come undone.

Connecticut is beaten up and worn down. It lost its third straight game in four days Saturday night as the Phoenix Mercury rolled to an 89-72 win before 12,497 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

The Sun (7-4) were without injured starters Chiney Ogwumike (knee) and Alyssa Thomas (shoulder).

“I’m proud of our players,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said. “Third game in four days. Three different cities. Tough back-to-back. Two of our superstars out tonight. We just couldn’t make shots in the first half, credit to them. It got away from us in the first half.”

The Sun shot 36.7 percent and made just 5 of 23 3-pointers.

“I think we got a lot of good looks,” Connecticut’s Morgan Tuck said. “We just weren’t making them. It was just one of those nights.”

Diana Taurasi had 19 points, four rebounds and four assists for the Mercury (9-3), who have won seventh straight. They also moved into first place in the overall standings.

DeWanna Bonner (15 points, nine rebounds), Sancho Lyttle (14 points, nine rebounds) and Brittney Griner (12 points, seven rebounds, three blocks) were among the five Phoenix players to score in double figures.

Tuck, starting in place of Ogwumike, had 20 points and five rebounds for the Sun and second-year reserve Brionna Jones scored a career-high 17 with four rebounds.

“She was tremendous and scored around the rim,” Miller said about Jones. “She gave us a big presence inside. I’m really proud of Brionna. With Chiney out, JJ (Jonquel Jones) is more of a finesse post player that goes in and out. Bri really gives us a space eater around the rim and had a really nice night for us.”

Jasmine Thomas added 10 points, five rebounds and two steals for Connecticut.

Ogwumike is the latest Sun starter to suffer an injury, one night after she scored a career-high 30 points in a 103-92 loss at the Seattle Storm. She missed all of last season (Achilles tendon surgery) and 2015 (micro-fracture surgery on her right knee) to injuries.

Alyssa Thomas missed her second straight game after banging up her right shoulder during Wednesday’s 95-91 home loss to the Washington Mystics. Thomas has injured both shoulders during her pro career.

Ogwumike (15.3 ppg) and Alyssa Thomas (12 ppg) are Connecticut’s second and fourth-leading scorers, respectively. Thomas is also third in the league in rebounding (9.9 rpg) and Ogwumike fifth (7.8).

Phoenix never trailed and led 43-21 at halftime.

The Sun missed 31 of 41 shots in the first half (23.8 percent), including 13 of 14 3-pointers. They were outscored 17-6 in the second quarter.

It didn’t get any better in the second half, Bonner’s layup giving the Mercury a 60-34 lead with 3:19 left in the third.

The Sun’s reserves made a run at Phoenix’s reserves in the fourth quarter, cutting a 26-point deficit in half with over nine minutes remaining.

Jones made a hook shot and, seconds later, converted the second of two free throws. Betnijah Laney added a putback and Jones followed with back-to-back layups.

Tuck banked in a 3-pointer to cut Connecticut’s deficit to 71-58 with 5:17 remaining.

Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello called timeout and put starters Briann January, Bonner, Griner and Taurasi back into the game.

Taurasi was fouled moments later on 3-point attempt. She made all three free throws.

The Sun are in the most punishing portion of their schedule. They've played six of their last eight on the road, and seven of their next eight are on the road, too.

No team in the WNBA will play fewer times at home through their first 19 games than the  Connecticut(six).

“We finally get two days off, so we’re going to take a couple days off and then get back on the road,” Miller said. “If we can survive until mid-July and keep our head above water, then we are going to be rewarded with a lot of home games coming down the stretch.”

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