Sun steal a game from Sky, 77-74
The Connecticut Sun were being outshot again on Friday night and clinging to a one-point lead against the Chicago Sky with seconds left.
Once again, the Sun's grit pulled them through. And they closed it out with a most unexpected play.
DeWanna Bonner stole the ball from Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago's sure-handed point guard, and was fouled with 6.6 seconds remaining.
Bonner made two free throws to ice the game for Connecticut, 77-74, their third straight win and the best one of the season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Connecticut is 4-6 after starting the season 0-5. It lost to Chicago last Saturday, 100-93.
The Sun led by as much as 54-38 with 2:29 left in the third quarter when the Sky stormed back.
"Something DB (Bonner) said at the end of the game was that a week ago, we wouldn't have won this game," Sun Jasmine Thomas said. "We're learning how to close out games."
Alyssa Thomas came close to a triple-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as well as a game-high four steals for the Sun. Bonner had 19 points, nine rebounds and three steals.
Brionna Jones added 15 points and nine rebounds for Connecticut and Jasmine Thomas had 15 points and four assists.
Connecticut won for the second straight game despite shooting under 40-percent (38.2-percent).
The Sun also missed 10 of 24 free throws (58.2-percent), including making just 10 of 20 in the second half.
"We're proving that there's different ways to win down here," Sun head coach Curt Miller said. "We did not shoot the ball well from the field. Obviously, we had a real tough night at the foul line. We made it a lot more difficult than it needed to be.
"We left some points out there, but our defense was big. And then against arguably the best, or one of the best, offensive teams in the league, to get some necessary stops right there at the end is big for us and again shows that this team has a chance to be really good defensively, and that you can win ugly and you can win when you don't have the great offensive night."
Cheyenne Parker had 17 points and six rebounds for the Sky (6-4) and Vandersloot had 14 points and seven assists.
Chicago's Kahleah Copper scored nine of her 12 points in the fourth quarter and finished with six assists and Allie Quigley added 16 points.
The Sky are just one of two teams to beat the second-place Las Vegas Aces, 88-86, on July 26.
Connecticut led by as much as 54-38 with 2:29 left in the third quarter.
Chicago stormed back in the fourth quarter and cut the Sun's lead to 75-74 with seconds remaining.
The Sky had the ball when Bonner and Jones trapped Vandersloot near the basket.
Bonner poked the ball loose for the steal, was fouled and made her two free throws.
Vandersloot has been one of the greatest point guards in league history. She became the first person to reach 300 assists last season and set a single-season record for assists per game (9.1). It earned her All-WNBA First Team honors after being second team twice.
Vandersloot leads the league this season with 8.3 assists to just 2.4 turnovers a game. To put that in perspective, Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury is second in assists per game with 5.9
"We don't have as much rim protection (this season)," Miller said, referring to starting center Jonquel Jones opting out this year due to concerns about the pandemic. "But Bri Jones is a good defender. We've added two veterans (in trades) in Bri January and DeWanna Bonner. They play hard defensively. We got contributions from (rookie) Kaila Charles, who is going to be a really good defender. (Rookie) Beatrice (Mompremier) got her hands, (during) in her minutes, on a lot of balls tonight."
Bonner's steal was the second the Sun had against Vandersloot in the final 49 seconds.
Connecticut led 73-72 when Alyssa Thomas missed a layup and fell to the floor.
Vandersloot was bringing the ball up the floor when Thomas got up, raced up behind her and poked the ball away for a steal.
The Sun turned it into points as Thomas somehow passed the ball inside past Chicago defenders to Jones for a layup and a 75-72 lead with 29 seconds left.
Copper turned it over with 0.7 seconds left.
"This team has a chance to keep growing and being pretty good defensively," Miller said.
All of our stories about the coronavirus are being provided free of charge as a service to the public. You can find all of our stories here.
You can support local journalism by subscribing to The Day.