Thomas has another triple-double as Sun rout Mercury
Mohegan — The Connecticut Sun have called Alyssa Thomas their “engine” for many years. She’s the one who gives max effort every time and has continued to play with two bad shoulders that will require surgery someday.
It’s long past time to start referring to Thomas as Connecticut’s “unicorn” after she had her second triple-double in 11 days on Tuesday night during her team’s 87-63 win over the undermanned Phoenix Mercury before 6,130 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Thomas had 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the Sun (21-10) several hours after being named the WNBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Month for July.
Thomas had her first triple-double, and the first in franchise history, during a 94-84 win at the Minnesota Lynx on July 22. She was just the 11th player to record that feat in the league’s 26-year history.
“That’s crazy,” Connecticut’s Natisha Hiedeman said about Thomas latest accomplishment. “I feel like she honestly is capable of getting a lot more triple-doubles as long as we are hitting our shots and being able to get her those assists.
“It’s just her energy. Everybody feeds off of her energy and I think that when she’s playing like this, it makes it easier for us.”
The Sun couldn’t have asked for a more balanced offensive night as seven of their 10 players scored in double figures. Hiedeman had 16 points and 4 assists, Jonquel Jones had 10 points and 10 rebounds and DeWanna Bonner had 12 points and five rebounds.
Courtney Williams and DiJonai Carrington each added 12 points and four rebounds for Connecticut and Brionna Jones scored 11.
Skylar Diggins-Smith had 15 points and four assists for Phoenix (13-18) and Sophie Cunningham scored 15.
Diana Taurasi only played 12 minutes for the Mercury and spent the second half on the bench. She didn’t score.
Thomas has long been one of the most unique players in WNBA history because she is terrific at every skill except one — outside shooting. Other than that, the 6-foot-2 forward is as adept at facilitating for her teammates as she is as banging around the paint for a rebound. She’s also been an exception defender.
Thomas has had to run the point a little more than usual this season for unfortunate reasons. Jasmine Thomas, who had been the starting point guard the previous seven years, suffered a season-ending knee injury five games into this season.
The Sun thought they had caught a break when they were able to sign UConn favorite Bria Hartley on July 18 to backup Hiedeman after her contract had been bought out earlier that month by the Indiana Fever.
Hartley didn’t even get to play more than seven days for Connecticut because she suffered a season-ending knee injury during a July 24 game at Minnesota.
Hartley’s injury has left the Sun with 10 healthy players, two under the 12-player maximum, and forced everyone to do more.
Doing more has never been an issue for Thomas.
“(She) continues to lead by example with her energy,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said. “I mean, that’s an energy triple-double (tonight). She just plays so dang hard and she’s willing people to come with her. And at times I want more people to get on her level of desire and competitiveness.”
The game had a rough start because both teams combined to miss an absurd number of shots. Phoenix shot 25% (5 of 20) in the first quarter. Connecticut was even worse (22.7%, 5 of 22). The teams were tied at 13 to start the second quarter.
The Sun took the lead in the second quarter and never let go of it. Phoenix was able to keep the score respectable for three quarters but Connecticut put the game out of reach in the fourth.
Carrington’s 12-foot running pullup shot gave the Sun their largest lead, 85-57, with 1 minute, 21 seconds left in the game.