Sun's woes continue at home in loss to Liberty
Mohegan — Surely things would start getting better for the Connecticut Sun once starters Alyssa Thomas and Courtney Williams returned from injury and absence, respectively.
Surely the Sun would beat their summer doldrums once they returned to Mohegan Sun Arena on Wednesday, having finally finished road trip after road trip after road trip.
Nope. It’s not going to be that easy for Connecticut.
Shavonte Zellous dropped a game-winning 29-foot, pull-up bank shot on the Sun with 0.3 seconds left in regulation as the New York Liberty handed them another "oh-come-on" loss, 79-76, before 7,413.
Connecticut is 10-10. It’s lost nine of its last 12.
Just what is it going to take for this team to end its spiral?
“We just have to grind it out,” Sun Jasmine Thomas said. “You wish there could be more excuses, but there aren’t.
“We just have to buckle down as a team. Fight. Really just fight. I can’t think of a better way to say it.”
Time is running out on the Sun. They have 14 games left to earn one of eight playoff berths.
Connecticut had played 13 of its last 16 on the road since June 1.
Alyssa Thomas missed the last 10 games due to a shoulder injury. She hurt it during a 95-91 loss to the Washington Mystics on June 13. That was the game that began the Sun’s freefall as they began that day 7-1 and first in the overall standings.
Williams missed all of last week’s four-game, seven-day road trip due to personal reasons. Connecticut went 1-3.
“What people fail to realize is we’re excited that they're back, but, at the same time, there’s still an adjustment,” said Sun Chiney Ogwumike, who also missed a game earlier this season due to her knee.
“This has been the year of adjustments. We started the year strong and then we lose AT and then we lose Courtney for a stretch. People have been dinged up here and there. So we’re constantly making adjustments.”
Alyssa Thomas, who had been the team’s best player, had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four assists for the Sun. Williams scored 16 with five assists.
Ogwumike had 17 points and eight rebounds and Jasmine Thomas scored 12.
The game’s finish was karmic payback, if one believes in such a thing. Shekinna Stricklen’s four-point play at the buzzer gave Connecticut an 88-86 win at New York on June 7.
Zellous (14 points), one of the league’s most unheralded money players of the last several years, evened it up for New York (6-14).
“It’s the universe,” Williams said. “We won with a buzzer-beater, and they got us back at home.
“It’s not like we got blown out or played bad basketball.”
Connecticut didn’t necessarily play good basketball for stretches, either, in particular the closing stretch.
The Sun led 74-69 with 2:34 left in regulation. They missed three of their final four shots.
Zellous’ layup cut the Liberty’s deficit to 74-71.
Tina Charles followed by putting back a Zellous miss. Charles played 38 minutes and had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Jasmine Thomas’ layup pushed Connecticut’s lead back to three. It got the ball back with 40.9 remaining after New York missed two shots.
Alyssa Thomas was called for a charge seconds later.
Epiphanny Prince tied the game at 76 with a 3-pointer with 24.3 left. She scored 15.
Jasmine Thomas missed a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds remaining. New York’s Brittany Boyd got the rebound and her team called timeout with 1.8 left.
It was enough time for Zellous.
“I hate to say it, but it’s somewhat expected,” Liberty coach Katie Smith said. “When she doesn’t do it, that’s when we’re like, ‘Come on Z.’”
Sun coach Curt Miller said: “Obviously a tough (loss). The basketball gods have a funny way of evening things up. Not sure we deserved to pull out that crazy win in Westchester against New York and probably deserved this win in some aspects down the stretch. But that’s basketball.”
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DeWanna Bonner had her first practice of the season with the Connecticut Sun on Monday morning. She may be available to play Tuesday night at the New York Liberty.