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Struggling Sun play at ascending Wings

Mohegan — A lot went right for the Connecticut Sun last season.

They overcame losing starter Chiney Ogwumike the entire year due to Achilles surgery. They won close games. They even won one game after trailing by 22 points.

This season, Connecticut lost eight of 10 games when starter Alyssa Thomas was out with a shoulder injury, has struggled to maintain leads, and lost twice in seven days on long and improbable 3-pointers at the buzzer.

Perhaps, then, this year is simply regression to the mean.

Real mean.

The Sun have 10 games left in the regular season and no margin for error in order to make the playoffs. They play at the Dallas Wings on Sunday (College Park Center, 4 p.m., WCCT-20).

Connecticut started the season 7-1. It’s now 12-12 and one game ahead of the Las Vegas Aces (11-13) for the eighth and final playoff spot.

“The thing that is so frustrating is you take away two buzzer-beater losses, maybe a bad close (to one game), and we’re maybe third or second,” Ogwumike said. “But the ball didn’t bounce our way. Sometimes, the ball bounces your way, and early in the season it was.

“Now, we have to figure out how to force the issue and control our own destiny.”

This has been arguably the most unpredictable season in WNBA history. Just four games separate second-place Phoenix (15-9) from ninth-place Las Vegas.

Connecticut has been as volatile as anyone. The theory was it would right itself once it finally played at home again (13 of its first 19 were on the road), and got both Thomas and fellow starter Courtney Williams back, the latter who missed four games due to a personal matter.

Instead, the Sun have lost three of their last five, including three of four at home.

Most of Connecticut’s starting lineup is struggling offensively at the moment. Jasmine Thomas, coming off a career year, has shot 36.5 percent this season, second-worst on the team.

Williams has shot 39.3 percent the last three games and averaged 7.3 points.

Alyssa Thomas has shot 33.3 percent in her five games back.

Dallas is tied for fourth with the Los Angeles Sparks and Washington Mystics (all are 14-10). The Wings are one of the league’s hottest teams having won eight of its last 11.

They averaged a league-high 88.5 points and 26.4 free throw attempts prior to Saturday’s games. The latter stat should worry the Sun because they’ve averaged the second-most fouls (21.4).

Dallas center Liz Cambage (6-foot-8, 215 pounds) has been unstoppable for much of the season. She’s second in scoring (22) and rebounding (9.3). She scored a WNBA-record 53 points in a 104-87 rout of the New York Liberty on July 17.

Wings point guard Skyler Diggins-Smith is ninth in scoring (18.5), third in assists (6.5) and third in steals (1.6).

Connecticut’s playoff push is going to be exceedingly difficult because of its remaining schedule. It has two more games against Dallas (once on the road) and will also play Washington, the Minnesota Lynx (13-10 prior to Saturday's late game at Phoenix), Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

“A lot of us have experience in all these different scenarios, whether it’s being on the top, being on the bottom, out of the playoffs, or in the playoff race,” Jasmine Thomas said. “I feel like we have enough experience and maturity on this team that we’re able to deal with what’s going on right now.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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