Sun look for win No. 2 vs. Sky
Natisha Hiedeman was all smiles after the Connecticut Sun earned their first win of the season Thursday night, a 91-68 mashing of the Dallas Wings, when she was asked if the team had any postgame celebrations planned.
It would be a bit difficult for the Sun to party given they're in the WNBA's bubble with 11 other teams at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. That and Connecticut doesn't have the time.
"We've got Chicago (on Saturday)," Hiedeman said. "That's another tough game, so we're just going to rest and get ready for that."
The Sun play Chicago at 5 p.m. on NESN Plus.
Hiedeman scored a career-high 14 points against Dallas, including the game’s first basket that started a 13-0 Connecticut run. She also had four assists.
It was Hiedeman’s second start off her career as she played alongside longtime starting point guard Jasmine Thomas.
“Natisha is a really talented guard,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said. “We have such confidence in individual defending by Jasmine Thomas that we wanted her to guard (Seattle Storm off-guard Jewel Loyd on Tuesday and Dallas’ Arike Ogunbowale), and we needed someone to run around with these quick little point guards. It was an easy decision in these two games, and Jas did a great job.
“If Jas gets tired and expends all that energy chasing around those great players, we can put Natisha at the point and run the offense. … Now (Thomas) was a having a great night (Thursday), so she didn’t come off the ball as much, but again, Natisha gives you that versatility.”
Connecticut also received another solid performance from fourth-year center Brionna Jones, who led the team in scoring for the second straight game (17 points with six rebounds). She’s been starting this season because Jonquel Jones decided to sit out the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jones earned All-WNBA second team honors in two of the previous three years, so Brionna Jones’ averaged eight minutes over that time.
“Bri Jones gets to play though a few more mistakes this year,” Miller said. “She gets to play consecutive minutes and find a rhythm, and players find her. It’s the luxury of being a starter, compared to a backup (when) sometimes your rope is not long as long, (and) you go back with one of the best in the world (Jonquel Jones). Right now, she’s being able to settle in. (The team) has always had confidence in her.”
Connecticut led the Wings from the moment it scored its first points. It shot a season-high 54.5 percent after shooting 38.9 percent through five games, second-worst in the league.
The Sun, last season's WNBA Finals runner-up, are the only team to win 20-or-more games the previous three seasons. A big part of their success was a balanced attack. They had four players average double figures in scoring in two of those years, and five players in 2018.
Connecticut didn’t have that kind of balance through five games. It did against the Wings as four players scored in double figures. Alyssa Thomas had 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and Jasmine Thomas added 14 points and nine assists, in addition to Hiedeman and Jones.
All 10 who played for the Sun scored.
"(We had) balance," Miller said. "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."
Some of Connecticut’s early inconsistency was because half of its 12 players are new this year, including three starters. It’s also already had four players miss games to either injuries (reserves Jacki Gemelos and Theresa Plaisance) or COVID-19 (Briann January and Hiedeman).
"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 the Sun their largest lead, 73-48, with 9:19 remaining in the game.
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