Sun ground Wings, qualify for WNBA playoffs
Arlington, Texas — The Connecticut Sun have endured a lot this season. Injuries. Inconsistency. Personal issues. Two losses at the buzzer on long, improbable 3-pointers.
The Sun perservered and got through all their troubles — and back into the WNBA playoffs.
Alyssa Thomas (22 points) was one of five Connecticut players to score in double figures as it beat the Wings, 101-92, before 3,483 at the College Park Center and qualified for the playoffs for the second straight season.
The Sun (17-12) have won five straight and set a franchise record with their fifth straight 90-point game.
Connecticut endured a five-plus week stretch from June into July in which they lost Thomas to a shoulder injury for 10 games and lost eight without her. Chiney Ogwumike (knee) also missed a game over that time, and Courtney Williams missed four games due to a personal issue.
The Sun lost twice in six days on long 3-pointers. They fell to 12-12 after a July 20 home loss to the Seattle Storm (78-65).
Connecticut has won its last five games by an average of 17.6 points.
“It’s a credit to our team,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said. “We had a lot of adversity in the middle of the season with injuries. Some things happened within our team. They just stuck together.”
Sun Jasmine Thomas said, “I feel like we are (peaking), but there’s still so much we can do better. So, it’s good to get these wins and to feel like the chemistry and the rhythm is there, but still know that we can be even better.”
Connecticut joins the Seattle Storm, Atlanta Dream, Washington Mystics and Los Angeles Sparks as playoff qualifiers. The top eight teams qualify and seeding is a huge factor. The bottom four teams play a single-elimination game in the first round. The winners play the third and fourth seeds in another one-and-done game.
The top two seeds get a double-bye to the best-of-five semifinals.
Courtney Williams had 10 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals, Jonquel Jones had 17 points and four blocks, and Jasmine Thomas had 17 points, nine assists and two steals for Connecticut.
Chiney Ogwumike added 13 points and five rebounds for the Sun and Alyssa Thomas had five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“It’s hard to defend their inside out game, especially when they are shooting the three (the Sun shot 6-of-12),” Wings head coach Fred Williams said. “You talk about that in scouting reports and you show it on film. It’s just a matter of getting on the court and making it happen.”
Elizabeth Cambage scored 15 of her 29 points in the third quarter for Dallas (14-15) before leaving the game in the fourth with an apparent head injury. Skylar Diggins-Smith scored 18 points and Azura Stevens added 15 points and nine rebounds
The Wings have lost six straight, but still hold a two-game lead over the Las Vegas Aces (12-17) for the final playoff spot.
Connecticut took advantage of 13 Wings’ turnovers and scored 18. It also had a 22-5 edge in fast break points, too.
Connecticut shot 60 percent from the field in the first half for a 48-32 lead and finished 40 of 71.
“(We) disrupted them in the first half,” Miller said. “The second quarter was key for us, holding them to only 10 (points) and keeping a very foul-line dominant team off the foul line was huge.”
Connecticut built on that lead in the third quarter. Alyssa Thomas made a driving layup, and Shekinna Stricklen had a steal and made a 3-pointer to give the Sun a 71-49 lead with four minutes, 6 seconds left in the quarter.
Stricklen scored nine with three steals.
Connecticut led by 20 points entering the fourth quarter but Theresa Plaisance hit a 3-pointer to pull the Wings to 96-90 with 42 seconds left. It was the closest Dallas had been since the 5:19 mark of the second quarter.
Layshia Clarendon answered with two free throws and Alyssa Thomas went 1 for 2 from the line on Connecticut's next trip to seal it.
“We built a good cushion in the first half,” Alyssa Thomas said, “but we’ve got to do better on the boards and not give up 60 (second-half) points. We do see them again (Aug. 14 at Mohegan Sun Arena).
Sun hold blood drive Thursday
• Connecticut will host a blood drive to benefit the American Red Cross at Mohegan Sun Arena from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on Thursday.
Free parking is available, and anyone who donates will receive a free ticket to the Sun's game on Aug. 14 as well as a tour of Mohegan Sun Arena. The Red Cross is facing a crucial blood shortage and is issuing an emergency call for eligible blood and platelet donors to give now and help save lives. Each donation can save up to three lives. In addition to a free ticket and arena tour, anyone who donates will receive a $5 Amazon.com gift card via email. To donate blood through the American Red Cross, individuals must be at least 17 years of age, weigh 110 pounds and be in general good health.