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Sun need more urgency for home opener

Mohegan — Reigning WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun had an open look for a go-ahead 3-pointer in front of the New York Liberty bench during last Saturday's season-opening loss.

Jones missed.

Teammate DiJonai Carrington grabbed the offensive rebound, setting up an 11-foot jumper for Brionna Jones, last season's WNBA Most Improved Player.

Jones missed. New York's Jocelyn Willoughby grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made two free throws to put her team ahead by four.

It's moments like that where the Sun must execute better when they host the Los Angeles Sparks in Saturday's home opener at Mohegan Sun Arena (7 p.m., NESN Plus).

"We played hard," Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said. "I didn't think we effort lacked. I thought there was an urgency that we needed. We needed a little bit more urgency to complete that game.

"We had a couple of two (and) three point leads with under five minutes to go in the game and, as a coach, you feel like you're one-or-two consecutive stops, or one-or-two great offensive possessions in a row, (to) steal a road game without (two players). I just felt like our urgency to finish that game off could've been at a higher clip."

Connecticut almost always found a way to win the close games last season. It had a franchise-record .813 winning percentage and tied the franchise record for most wins in a season, finishing 26-6.

The Sun did some things better than New York that could have resulted in a win. They were better at rebounding (34-27), points in the paint (44-18) and second-chance points (14-11).

But Connecticut shot a woeful 21.7 percent (5 of 23) away from the paint. That included making just 4 of 17 threes. It had one less turnover than the Liberty (17-16) but gave up more points off of them (31-18).

The Sun had the lowest defensive field goal percentage last season (40.9). They couldn't stop New York's Sabrina Ionescu from scoring eight straight points in 1 minute, 20 seconds to put her team ahead for good late in the game.

It certainly didn't help that Connecticut was without two of last season's top 15 WNBA scorers in wing DeWanna Bonner (15.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Courtney Williams (16.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg). Bonner was playing for CBK Mersin in Turkey's Women's Basketball Super League semifinals (she has since finished her overseas commitments). Williams is suspended for the first two games of this season after being involved in May 2020 fight outside of an Atlanta-area club.

Connecticut isn't the only team missing players, though. New York played without All-Star guard Betnijah Laney (knee). The Sparks are 2-1 despite Kristi Toliver's absence.

"I'm proud of a lot of things we did in that game, but it didn't equate to a win," Miller said. "There are certain areas that we can look at ourselves and know we need to be better if you're going to pull off a road win."

Los Angeles has already benefited from the additions of 6-foot-9 center Liz Cambage and guard Jordin Canada. They're both averaging a team-high 16.7 points with Canada adding 5.7 assists. Forward Nneka Ogwumike, the 2016 WNBA MVP, continues to be one of the league's most relentless players (16.7 ppg, 10 rpg).

• Connecticut will honor former Sun great Asjha Jones in a postgame ceremony. She played nine seasons for Connecticut, played the second-most games in franchise history (271) and helped it reach the 2004 and 2005 WNBA Finals. UConn head coach Geno Auriemma, current Sun general manager and former UConn standout Jennifer Rizzotti and current Wisconsin head coach and former UConn assistant Marisa Mosley are among those scheduled to speak.

n.griffen@theday.com

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