Sun cool off Mercury
Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller had a talk about their slow start in Wednesday's home win over the Indiana Fever.
The Sun sure got the point.
Natisha Hiedeman knocked down a three 27 seconds into Friday's game as unbeaten Connecticut scored the first 11 points and led the Phoenix Mercury the rest of the way for an 84-67 win before 4,101 at Phoenix Suns Arena.
"Physicality, effort (and) energy from the get-go," Miller said. "The start set the tone for us. What an incredible start out of the locker room. Disappointed the other night with our start against Indiana (which took an early 9-2 lead). There was an intentional conversation about our start, our focus. That really set the tone."
It was the second time this week that the Sun (4-0) beat the Phoenix. They won at home Sunday, 86-78.
"Phoenix, they're a great team," Connecticut's DeWanna Bonner said. "Yeah, we won the game by double digits, but that is a really great team. They have really great players. They have All-Americans. They have (United States) national team players (Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi). They've got champions on that team.
"This was their home opener, so we had to match that energy a little bit and I think we responded well."
All nine Sun players scored, led by Jonquel Jones who had 16 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
Bonner had 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists in her first game at Phoenix since the Sun acquired her from the latter in a 2020 offseason trade.
Jasmine Thomas had 15 points and four rebounds, Hiedeman had 12 points and four rebounds and Brionna Jones added eight points and seven rebounds.
Skylar Diggins-Smith had 20 points and four rebounds for Phoenix (2-2) and Diana Taurasi added 13 points and four assists.
Griner made just 3 of 11 field goals and scored six for the Mercury, who were held to 38.2-percent shooting.
"We didn't bring the appropriate focus," Taurasi said. "We didn't get things done that we need to get done to win games; to compete. We didn't check off enough of those boxes from the beginning of the game."
Connecticut doubled up the Mercury on the boards, 48-24, including 17 offensive rebounds. That's even more impressive given the presence of Phoenix posts Brianna Turner (6-foot-3) and Griner (6-9). The two combined for 24 rebounds in Tuesday's 91-70 win at the Washington Mystics.
"(They had) offensive rebounds that led to kick-out threes," Miller said about Phoenix's game against the Mystics. "They had 17 offensive rebounds. … and they're a great shooting team, so it led to a lot of open threes. We had to contain the boards.
"We have one of the dominant defensive rebounders in the game in JJ. DeWanna Bonner is one of the best rebounding forwards of all-time. … Just a big-time effort on the defensive glass, and then we got on the offensive glass. It gave us extra possessions when our efficiency started to slip a little bit."
Hiedeman, Jonquel Jones and Bonner each made a three during Connecticut's opening 11-0 run.
Thomas' 3-pointer pushed the Sun's lead to 21-7 with 4:22 left in the quarter. It was the team's fifth three.
Taurasi's driving hook bank shot cut Connecticut's advantage to 31-25 with 6:54 remaining in the first half. The Sun responded with a 17-1 run started by their bench. Kaila Charles hit a three, Beatrice Mompremier made a reverse layup, and rookie DiJonai Carrington stole a Griner pass that led to a transition layup by Charles that put the Sun back ahead by double digits again, 38-25, with 5:49 left in the second quarter.
Bonner's 21-foot jumper and Jones' putback increased Connecticut's lead to 42-25 with 4:40 remaining.
Bonner continued the run with two free throws, Hiedeman pulled up for an open 11-foot jumper in the paint and then stole a Kia Nurse pass and was fouled going to the basket on the other end.
Hiedeman made both free throws to give the Sun their largest lead to that point, 48-26, with 1:13 left in the half.
The Mercury managed to dig themselves out of that hole to start the second half. Taurasi's three and layup got Phoenix to within 50-40 of the Sun just 2:51 into the third quarter.
Connecticut responded with an 8-0 run. Jones made a fadeaway jumper over Griner and Hiedeman and Jones made back-to-back threes push Connecticut's lead to 58-42 with 5:30 left in the quarter.
"We spread out our shot selection and Jasmine Thomas just looks tremendous coming back from (playing overseas in) Turkey," Miller said. "That was a big win."
The Sun were without starting guard Briann January, who sprained her left ankle during Wednesday's win. They signed guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough to a replacement contract on Friday to give them 10 healthy players. Walker-Kimbrough played for the Washington Mystics from 2017-19 and with Phoenix last season. She's started in 20 of the 101 regular season games she played in and averaged 5.6 points.
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