Sun can’t get past Sky again
Mohegan — DeWanna Bonner stomped her feet with a look on her face that ranged between anger and disappointment after being forced to put up a three at the buzzer for the Connecticut Sun that bounced off the front rim.
Connecticut lost to Chicago Sky on Sunday afternoon. Again, this time in overtime, 95-92, before 6,254 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The defending WNBA champion Sky are 3-0 against Connecticut this year and clinched the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Chicago has beaten the Sun in eight of their last 10 games since last season, including last year’s semifinal series that it won in four games.
“It’s amazing analytically when you look at Chicago and the number of close games they’ve won this year and their confidence in those moments,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said. “We talked about it, that we’ve lost three or four games now in two years against Chicago when it comes down to the final possession.”
The Sun rallied back from a 17-point deficit in the first half, had the ball last to end regulation and led 92-86 with 1 minute, 51 seconds left in overtime.
Chicago was also without two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker, one of its catalysts, due to a non-COVID illness.
The Sky didn’t need her. Kahleah Copper (27 points, five assists) and the rest of her teammates drove to the basket for layups almost at will and shot 55.2%.
“They have elite penetrators,” Miller said. “There’s a reason the two of us are number one and number two in points in the paint, 62 for them (today) and 56 for us. … We just had trouble keeping Copper off the baseline and through small gaps.
“We’re disappointed in that locker room. Their fight put them in position to pull out that win. We had opportunities and we came up short again.”
Courtney Vandersloot had 16 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds for for the Sky (23-7) and Azura Stevens added 12 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
Emma Meesseman scored 10, including a runner with 47.3 seconds remaining in overtime that put Chicago ahead for good, 93-92.
Alyssa Thomas was the workhouse again for the Sun (20-10) as she played 40 minutes and had 22 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals.
Thomas scored eight during a 17-0 run that gave Connecticut a 42-41 lead with 43.2 seconds left in the first half.
“She’s our engine,” Miller said. “I felt like she was competing out of the gate, and I didn’t see it (from) the rest of us.”
Bonner had 23 points, nine rebounds and two steals for the Sun and Courtney Williams had 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Brionna Jones added 13 points and nine rebounds.
Connecticut had a sluggish start Sunday as it fell behind 27-17 after one quarter. Chicago shot 66.7% in that period (12 of 18).
Allie Quigley’s three with 6:05 left in the first half gave the Sky their largest lead, 38-21.
“I don’t know if we matched their intensity from the jump,” Brionna Jones said, “but we picked it up in the second quarter.”
Bonner poked the ball away from Copper and into the hands of the Sun’s Natisha Hiedeman with 3.7 seconds left.
Connecticut called timeout and Williams missed a 16-foot pullup with 1.5 seconds remaining.
The Sun went ahead 92-86 with 2:02 left in overtime after a Williams’ three and Jonquel Jones made the first of two free throws.
Quigley came off a screen and dropped a three seconds later. Vandersloot made two free throws with 1:30 remaining.
Connecticut committed a shot clock violation and missed four shots on its final five possessions. It called timeout with 8.1 seconds left in overtime to set up a play, but it wasted too much time to run it with Bonner having to put up a shot at the buzzer.
“That was totally on me,” Miller said. “I (screwed) up.”