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McCoughtry, Aces down Sun to force Game 5

Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller said during Sunday’s pregame interview that they’d get a heavy dose of Angel McCoughtry of the Las Vegas Aces in Game 4 of their WNBA semifinal series.

Unfortunately for Connecticut, Miller was right.

McCoughtry, the greatest tormentor in Sun history, got them again. She scored 16 of her game-high 29 points in a decisive third quarter to propel top-seeded Las Vegas to an 84-75 win and tie the best-of-five series at two games apiece at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Game 5 is Tuesday night.

“We’ve just got to take care of business,” Sun Alyssa Thomas said. “Tonight, I don’t think we came out with the energy and effort we needed to close out the series.

McCoughtry has scored 30-or-more against the Sun more than any other player in history (eight).

McCoughtry scored 14 of her the Aces’ first 18 points to start Sunday’s third quarter and put her team ahead to stay.

“(A) disappointing start for us in the third quarter,” Miller said. “It really kind of set the tone for the rest of the game, trying to claw back.

“(Angel) single-handedly took over. I think she had 12 points pretty quickly out of halftime and assisted in another basket. She was involved in every play. … She bullied her way to the rim.”

McCoughtry made all seven of her field goals in the third. She finished with six assists, five rebounds and three steals, too. She scored 16 of her points inside and seven off turnovers.

“Angel wasn’t ready to go home,” Aces head coach Bill Laimbeer chuckled. “That was fun to watch.

“Yeah, that was a spectacular performance to give us the lead.”

A’ja Wilson had 18 points, 13 rebounds and four assists for Las Vegas (20-6).

Point guard Danielle Robinson added 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals for the Aces. The veteran point guard was moved into the starting lineup in Game 2 and has helped Las Vegas play at the fast pace it prefers.

Jasmine Thomas made a career-best six 3-pointers with 25 points, six assists and two steals for the seventh-seeded Sun (14-14). DeWanna Bonner had 10 points, 15 rebounds and four assists and Alyssa Thomas added 15 points and eight rebounds.

Once again, the team that controlled the paint won the game. The Aces dominated the Sun inside, 46-20.

Connecticut had a 52-26 edge in Thursday’s 77-68 win.

“They did a really good job congesting (the paint),” Miller said. “That allowed us to have open threes. Jasmine had a good night at the arc. Bri (January) didn’t, unfortunately (1 of 8).”

Alyssa Thomas said, “We just kind of fell in love with the jump shot tonight. They were sending doubles (double teams) to me and (center) Bri Jones. We just weren’t hitting from the outside.”

McCoughtry averaged 20 minutes during the regular season. She tore the ACL in her left knee on Aug. 7, 2018 and missed the rest of that season and all of 2019.

McCoughtry played 33:25 on Sunday as Las Vegas went to a short bench as the team announced before the game that post Dearica Hamby had torn a ligament in her right knee during Game 3 last Thursday and wasn’t expected to play the rest of the season.

Hamby won her second-straight Sixth Woman of the Year award last Sunday.

Connecticut led 38-37 at halftime. McCoughtry erased that quickly. She made a three and back-to-back steals to give Las Vegas a 55-46 lead with 4:47 left in the third.

“She was aggressive tonight,” Jasmine Thomas said. “She got downhill on us, put pressure on our defense and got in the paint against us.

“Once she got in a rhythm, it was hard for us to really slow her down and her teammates fed off of that. You could see the energy and the momentum kind of shift.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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