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Sun rout Wings for season's first win

Connecticut Sun guard Natisha Hiedeman drove the lane for a layup 46 seconds into Thursday night's game against the Dallas Wings.

Connecticut kept attacking the paint and rarely let up.

The Sun scored the game's first 13 points and went on to rout Dallas, 91-68, for their first win of the WNBA season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

"We needed this one bad," Hiedeman said.

Brionna Jones (17 points, six rebounds) led four players in double figures for Connecticut, which started the season with a franchise-worst five straight losses.

"(We had) balance tonight," Sun head coach Curt Miller said. "You're never happy as a coach. I don't think I called a great game for DeWanna (Bonner), but we shared the ball. Thirty-six field goals, even for some of our best teams in recent years, that is a large field goal-made night."

Four players scored during Connecticut's opening 13-point run. Alyssa Thomas' finger roll finished the run with 5 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Dallas (2-4) didn't score until there was 5:09 left in the quarter.

"Our percentage (scoring) in the paint was outstanding tonight (a 52-32 point edge)," Miller said. "We finished through people. We finished tough shots. We just had a really good night, and everyone contributed. And everyone feels it when you do that. Everybody feels great."

Connecticut shot a season-high 54.5 percent. It shot 38.9 percent through five games, better than only the winless New York Liberty (35.9).

"There's always an emphasis of trying to stay aggressive," Miller said, "and we believe if we're aggressive, our 3-point shots will be coming, so we have to play that way. We've been struggling from the arc. Everybody knows that who picks up a stat sheet, so we have to have a concerted effort to try get into the paint in different ways."

The Sun also turned Dallas' 18 turnovers into 25 points.

Alyssa Thomas had 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for Connecticut and Jasmine Thomas added 14 points and nine assists. Natisha Hiedeman also scored a career-high 14 with four assists.

"We were pretty intentional about what we were trying to do on offense," Jasmine Thomas said, "whether we're playing through (center) Bri (Jones) or playing in the pockets on the little ball screens. Just everybody (was) being confident and playing loose."

Oddly enough, Bonner was the only Sun starter who didn't score in double figures (3-for-6 shooting, 8 points) as she averaged a league-leading 23 points prior to Thursday's games. She contributed elsewhere with seven rebounds and three steals.

Arike Ogunbowale had 17 points, four rebounds and three steals for Dallas (2-4) and Isabelle Harrison had 12 points and nine rebounds.

Connecticut, last season's WNBA Finals runner-up, is the only team in the league to win 20-or-more games the previous three seasons. A big part of that success was its balanced attack. The Sun had four players average double figures in scoring in two of those years, and five players in 2018.

They struggled to get consistent group scoring through five games. Half of their 12 players are new this season, including three starters. They've already had four players miss games to either injuries (reserves Jacki Gemelos and Theresa Plaisance) or COVID-19 (Briann January and Hiedeman).

All 10 who played for Connecticut against the Wings scored.

"We're a different team," Jasmine Thomas said. "Trusting each other and trying to build that (on-court) chemistry, we feel it coming along. We're sharing the ball more. We're more comfortable with where people want the ball and knowing where they're going to be when sets break down early on. That's what you saw (through five games), people being uncomfortable and unsure of our teammates, and we're working through it."

Dallas got as close as eight points twice in the second quarter.

Rookie Kalia Charles made her first career 3-pointer to give Connecticut a 37-26 lead with 4:07 remaining in the first half, and it led by double figures for the rest of the game.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis' floating jumper gave Connecticut its largest lead, 73-48, with 9:19 remaining in the game.

"When you start 0-5, having balance, having the thought that everyone is contributing to this (success), is important in building this team together," Miller said.

n.griffen@theday.com

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