League-leading Sun host Seattle on Sunday
Minneapolis — The Connecticut Sun have plenty of room for improvement, just like every other WNBA team this early in the season.
Connecticut has started hotter than anyone, though, and are closing in on a franchise-record.
The Sun are a league-leading 7-1, and they can match their best start in franchise history with a win at home Sunday against the defending champion Seattle Storm at Mohegan Sun Arena (3:30 p.m., Ch. 8).
Connecticut started 8-1 in 2005 and 2008. The Sun edged the Minnesota Lynx 85-81 on Friday night before 8,803 at the Target Center. Jonquel Jones had her fifth double-double in the win (16 points, 12 rebounds).
"Big road win for us," Sun head coach Curt Miller said. "Anytime you can beat Minnesota here, it's a huge win.
"(We) struggled a little bit down the stretch. We accomplished a lot of things defensively that we set out to do. Stuck to it, even with big games from Odyssey (Sims) and Sylvia (Fowles) ... you know (those are) common. That's a big road win. To win five in a row against Minnesota (over two seasons) is a big statement for this young team."
Connecticut shot a season-best 50 percent (33 of 66). Shekinna Stricklen made 4 of 5 3-pointers and scored a season-high 16 points.
Alyssa Thomas scored 16 for the Sun while reserve (and Minnesota native) Rachel Banham scored 10.
Sims scored a season-high 25 points with six rebounds for the Lynx (4-4) and Fowles had 17 points and nine rebounds.
Rookie Napheesa Collier of UConn, the sixth overall pick in April's draft, had 10 points and six rebounds for Minnesota.
Connecticut's Jasmine Thomas made a layup late in the third quarter to give the Sun a 64-63 lead — the 15th and final lead change.
Banham made 1 of 2 free throws to spark a 12-3 run that gave Sun some cushion. Her 3-pointer made it 79-70 with 5 minutes. 48 seconds left to cap the spurt.
Jones and Alyssa Thomas made back-to-back layups to give Connecticut a 10-point lead (85-75) with 3:03 remaining. It was the largest lead by either team.
Seattle (5-3), meanwhile, has persevered after its title defense — and season — seemed in jeopardy before the Storm even played a regular season game.
Breanna Stewart ruptured her right Achilles tendon on April 17 while playing in the EuroLeague Women championship game and is out for the season. The former UConn star was the Storm’s catalyst last year, winning WNBA MVP and Finals MVP honors.
Two days later, Seattle announced that head coach Dan Hughes had been diagnosed with cancer. The 64-year-old has been away from the team with assistant Gary Kloppenburg taking over as the interim head coach.
The bad fortune kept piling up — the Storm announced four days before its May 25 season-opener that point guard Sue Bird needed undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body in her left knee and would be out indefinitely. Arielle Chambers of High Post Hoops later reported that Bird would miss 8-to-10 weeks or possibly the entire season.
Second-year guard Jordin Canada, who has started during Bird’s absence, landed badly after driving to the rim during the first half of Friday night’s game at the Washington Mystics and had to be helped off the court. Kellen Becoats of SI.com reported that Canada was diagnosed with a left knee injury.
Canada’s injury and a 13-point, fourth-quarter deficit still didn’t stop the Storm from beating Washington, 74-71. Jewell Loyd hit a go-ahead jumper with 8.6 seconds left.
Seattle's Natasha Howard has played like an MVP candidate so far. The rugged post has averaged 19.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.5 blocks. Loyd has been the only other player scoring in double figures (16 ppg).
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Downtime is precious for most WNBA players because they play overseas. The Connecticut Sun have benefitted from a lighter schedule in July and host the New York Liberty on Wednesday in their final game before the All-Star break.
Connecticut Sun rises to top of the standings behind solid play from Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas ahead of All-Star break