Sun rip turnover-prone Liberty 92-65
Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller thought his defensive game plan was too conservative during a season-opening loss at the New York Liberty.
The Sun were anything but conservative the second time around.
Connecticut set franchise records for most turnovers in a half and an entire game by an opponent as it ripped the Liberty on Tuesday night, 92-65, before 3,054 at Barclays Center.
The Sun (2-1) scored 44 points off 32 total turnovers by New York. That included 20 first-half turnovers for 32 points.
The WNBA record for most turnovers in a game is 33. The Utah Starzz did that twice in 1997 and the Washington Mystics had that many the following year.
The Liberty beat Connecticut, 81-79 on May 7 in the season-opener for both teams.
"That was on me," Miller said. "We were going to be aggressive (tonight). At times, they were going to make some easy baskets because of our aggression but it worked.
"The points off of turnovers were obviously the biggest story of the game, especially when we still had moments tonight where our offense struggled."
The Sun missed their first seven shots and fell behind, 10-2, causing Miller to call a timeout and bring DiJonai Carrington, Brionna Jones and Natisha Hiedeman off the bench.
Connecticut went on a 27-5 run. That included 18 straight points that gave it a 29-15 lead with 7 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first quarter.
All 11 Sun players scored for the Sun. Alyssa Thomas had 12 points, six rebounds and Jonquel Jones had 13 points and six rebounds.
Hiedeman (15 points, 3 steals) and Brionna Jones (14 points, 4 rebounds) both provided the Sun a jolt off the bench.
It was the first game of the season for DeWanna Bonner and Courtney Williams, who both started against the Liberty. The WNBA suspended Williams for the first two games for her involvement in a May 2021 fight outside an Atlanta-area nightclub.
Bonner missed the first two games because she was playing with CBK Mersin in Turkey's Women's Basketball Super League — many WNBA players go overseas during the offseason to supplement their income which is nowhere close to other North American pro sports.
Bonner played 38 minutes for Mersin on May 12 in Istanbul. She flew over 5,000 the next day and arrived in Connecticut. She practiced Monday morning with the Sun, the first time the team had all 11 players together and scored a team-high 16 with four steals against New York.
"I've been up since around 5 o'clock this morning," Bonner said. "It's been tough getting some sleep and things like that but once it's gametime and those lights go on, I don't care. ... I'm going to step out and play."
Stefanie Dolson had 13 points and seven rebounds for New York (1-4) and Betnijah Laney scored 16.
Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu made 1 of 4 field goals for 2 points in 25 minutes. She made 10 of 18 shots for 25 points in New York's May 7th win.
"This is a group that prides itself on the defensive end," Miller said. "I didn't know we could disrupt as talented a backcourt as Sabrina, Sammy (Whitcomb) and Betnijah are. That's an elite backcourt. ... I'm really, really happy with that. At the same (time), we can't have the first five minute start night-in and night-out."
Michaela Onyenwere's 3-pointer gave New York a 15-11 lead with 2:48 left in the first quarter.
Brionna Jones started the Sun's run with a putback. Bonner's steal led to a Hiedeman 3 to give Connecticut its first lead, 16-15, with 1:26 remaining in the quarter. Hiedeman followed with a steal — New York's 11th turnover — and a layup.
Hiedeman scored eight in the first quarter.
Bonner and Jasmine Thomas opened the second quarter with back-to-back steals that they converted into jumpers.
Bonner added two free throws, Jonquel Jones made a 3 and had a steal moments later (the Liberty's 17th turnover) and fed Alyssa Thomas for a layup to extend the Sun's lead to 29-15.
Brionna Jones ended the half with a short hook shot to put Connecticut ahead, 51-32.
Jonquel Jones layup gave the Sun their largest lead, 89-55, with 3:08 remaining in the game.
"We're still a work in progress but tonight was a very good road win for us," Miller said.
Bonner said, "We didn't need to have anybody score 20 points and we won. That's the type of team we need to be. … We have a lot to prove. We felt like we underachieved last year (not winning a WNBA title)."