Sun lose at the buzzer again
Mohegan — The final seconds are what folks will remember most about Connecticut's headache-inducing loss, Tiffany Hayes’ steal and nothing-but-net shot from behind the halfcourt stripe that gave the Atlanta Dream an 86-83 win before a stunned crowd of 5,555 at Mohegan Sun Arena on Tuesday night.
It was the second time in three home games that the Sun lost on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Shavonte Zellous’ 29-foot contested shot with 0.3 seconds left gave the New York Liberty a 79-76 win at the Arena on July 11.
The Sun shouldn’t have put themselves in position to lose on Tuesday, though.
Connecticut (12-11) couldn’t hold a 79-72 lead with three minutes, 14 seconds left.
The Sun gave up 22 points on 12 turnovers. The worst, of course, was when Jasmine Thomas threw an errant pass that Hayes picked off with less than 3 seconds left to set up her dagger.
“(Atlanta’s Jessica Breland) tipped (the ball) from behind,” Thomas said, “so I tried to pass it.
“Those (game-winning) shots happen. It’s the things that led up to it that put us in that situation. I gave up an offensive rebound (late), also. (I) can’t turn it over. It’s better to just hold on to (the ball) and let time expire.”
Connecticut couldn’t keep Atlanta from getting to the free throw line for the third straight time. The Dream made 21 of 25 free throws.
The Sun shot 8 of 11 at the line.
“I thought the game was called different at either end,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said. “We tried to go hard (to the rim on offense) to get their shot blockers a lot of freedom to swing (and foul). They called a lot of blocking fouls on our guards.”
Atlanta (13-9) swept the three-game series in a year in which the difference between making the playoffs and being shutout is waifish-thin.
“It’s tough (to lose that way), but we can’t let it get down to that point,” Connecticut’s Rachel Banham said. “We had a chance to really put them away.”
It was perhaps fitting that UConn’s Hayes made the game-winner after being snubbed by voters to play in the WNBA All-Star Game, the results which were released before the game. She had 18 points and eight rebounds, the last which was a killer.
Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry missed a 3-pointer with over a minute left and the game tied.
Hayes got away from Jasmine Thomas, charged the lane, and grabbed the offensive rebound with Sun posts Jonquel Jones and Chiney Ogwumike standing by.
Hayes’ rebound let to an Elizabeth Williams’ layup that gave the Dream an 83-81 lead with 57.9 seconds remaining.
McCoughtry had 24 points, six rebounds and four assists for Atlanta. Brittney Sykes scored all 11 of her points in the fourth quarter and Williams had 16 points and five rebounds.
Connecticut also wasted good efforts from the likes of Alyssa Thomas, Banham and Jones.
Thomas was fouled driving the lane and went down hard. Thomas, who missed 10 games this year to a shoulder injury, was shaken up but made both her free throws to tie the game at 83 with 31.9 left.
Thomas had 12 points and 10 rebounds. She said after the game that she wasn’t injured on that fall.
Jones, a second-team All-WNBA pick last season, has struggled in her third year and has been moved to the bench. She scored 19 points.
Banham made three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that should’ve provided the Sun the cushion to win. She scored 15 off the bench.
Chiney Ogwumike had 12 points and 10 rebounds Connecticut. She was chosen to play in the All-Star Game at Minneapolis next Saturday (July 28).
“It’s hard (to lose this way),” Banham said. “You have to let it go and move on to the next one. But it’s tough. It’s definitely tough.”