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    CT Sun
    Thursday, February 02, 2023

    Sun rout Liberty for franchise-record 13th straight win

    Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones (42) drives to the basket as New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu defends during Wednesday night's WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Mohegan — Oh, did the Connecticut Sun have an eventful Wednesday.

    Connecticut used a huge third quarter run to win its franchise-record 13th straight game, 98-69, over the New York Liberty before 4,012 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

    Sun forward Alyssa Thomas played her first game of the season after missing the first 30 games due to a torn Achilles tendon on Jan. 20.

    Last, but certainly not least, Connecticut guards Natisha Hiedeman and Jasmine Thomas started the team’s happy day by announcing their engagement well ahead Pride Night.

    The Sun (25-6) have already clinched the WNBA's best record. Their 13-game winning streak bests the mark set by the 2006 Eastern Conference championship team. Its 98 points were also a season high.

    “(I) had a little champagne just now,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller grinned. “That helps the start of the celebration tonight and truly, it is a celebration of humans because Jasmine and Natisha are two of the greatest people that I know. We celebrated their engagement.

    “It was a fun locker room right now. It has very little to with the win (but) that helps.”

    Eleven of the Sun's 12 players scored with six in double figures, led by MVP candidate Jonquel Jones (18 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two blocks).

    DeWanna Bonner had 18 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals, Brionna Jones had 13 points and seven rebounds and rookie reserve DiJonai Carrington scored a career-high 14 with five rebounds and three steals for Connecticut.

    Hiedeman had 11 points, five assists and two steals and Jasmine Thomas added 10 points and three steals.

    Connecticut has one game left in the regular season. It has already clinched the top seed in the WNBA playoffs and a double-bye to the best-of-five semifinals against the lowest remaining seed. Game 1 is on Thursday, Sept. 28.

    The Sun end the regular season Sunday at home against the Atlanta Dream at 1 p.m. The Sun would tie the franchise record for most regular-season wins held by their 2005 and 2006 teams, which both finished 26-8.

    Connecticut also assured itself of finishing with the fewest regular-season losses in franchise history.

    Natasha Howard had 25 points and eight rebounds for New York (11-20).

    Connecticut had one of its worst quarters of the season in the first and fell behind by as much as 16-5 with 2 minutes, 45 seconds remaining. The Sun turned it over eight times, too.

    Connecticut took the game by the throat in the third quarter by closing it with a 25-6 run. It outscored the Liberty in the second half, 54-22.

    New York shot 20-percent (5-of-20) in the second half and finished with 28 turnovers for 23 Sun points.

    Alyssa Thomas tore her Achilles tendon on Jan. 12 while practicing with ZVVZ USK Praha of the Czech Republic in January. It is one of the most devastating injuries that an athlete can suffer.

    The Seattle Storm's Breanna Stewart, for instance, missed the entire 2019 season after tearing her Achilles playing in Russia in April of that year.

    "I'm in a relationship with (Thomas)," Bonner said. "I didn't even think about basketball at first. I was just thinking about her mentally and how to help her. It was such a long road when it happened in January that I wasn't even thinking about Connecticut or when she'll come back.

    "I think I told this story — (we were) on vacation (during the Olympic Break) in the Dominican (Republic). ... She was literally on the beach working out running and lifting and doing everything she could to get back. At that moment, that's when I was like, 'okay, she'll be back.' And she told me that we weren't going to win a championship without her.

    "She's just a machine."

    Thomas received an ovation when she came off the bench with 6 minutes, 42 seconds left in the first quarter. She scored her first points on a driving layup with 1:58 left in the quarter and finished with six points and three rebounds in 16 minutes, 27 seconds.

    Miller said they decided to have Thomas ease her way back with two games left in the regular season rather than waiting until Connecticut's first playoff game.

    "There's still some rust," Miller said. "The explosiveness is there. We see it on a daily basis. It's amazing but at times, you're a great player, your mind thinks you can do things that you're still getting used to doing. (New York) came with some congestion and gave her some trouble, and you could see she lost her balance a few times, but she's such a smart player (and) great passer.

    "She can help so much that way."

    Hiedeman and Jasmin Thomas announced their engagement after the team's shootaround earlier Wednesday.

    "They're relationship is definitely something special and something that we embrace on our team," Jonquel Jones said. "To see them doing that we just want to celebrate them fully and wish them a very happy and long marriage, and so we're happy for them."

    The Sun flipped the game with 6:42 left in the third quarter with that crucial run.

    January started it with a go-ahead three. Jonquel Jones scored eight during that run, including a putback that pushed Connecticut’s lead to 76-58 with 10.3 seconds remaining in the third.

    "Cherry on top that we finished (Wednesday) off (with a win)," Bonner said.

    n.griffen@theday.com

    Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas, who missed the first 30 games with an Achilles injury, scores her first basket during the first half of Wednesday night's WNBA game against the New York Liberty Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones (35) battles New York Liberty defenders Betnijah Laney, left, Sami Whitcomb (32) and Natasha Howard during the first half of Wednesday's WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Sun Liberty photo gallery

    For more photos from the Sun Liberty game click here.

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