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    Tuesday, November 29, 2022

    Sun stay alive by cruising past Aces in Game 3 of WNBA Finals

    Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) shoots over Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson (22) during Game 3 of the WNBA Finals on Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. Thomas had the first triple-double in WNBA Finals history (16 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists) as the Sun remained alive with an easy 105-76 win. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Connecticut Sun center Brionna Jones, right, ties up Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum during Game 3 of the WNBA Finals on Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun stayed alive with a 105-76 win. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Former Las Vegas Aces head coach Bill Laimbeer, second from right, acknowledges the crowd while sitting next to former Detroit Pistons teammate Isaiah Thomas during Game 3 of the WNBA Finals betwen the Aces and Connecticut Sun on Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun, facing elimination, stayed alive with a 105-76 win. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones (35) scores against the defense of the Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson (22) and guard Kelsey Plum (10) during Game 3 of the WNBA Finals on Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun kept their title hopes alive with a convincing 105-76 win. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) celebrates after being fouled on a basket on a fast break against the Las Vegas Aces in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals on Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena. Thomas recorded the first triple-double in WNBA Finals as the Sun cut the series deficit to 2-1 with a 105-76 win. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington (21) steals the ball from Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young (0) during Game 3 of the WNBA Finals on Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun rolled to a 105-76 victory. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Mohegan — The Connecticut Sun weren’t about to be swept in the WNBA Finals.

    Not before a nationally-televised audience.

    Not on a night when Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas were named to the All-WNBA second team.

    Not in their house.

    The Sun went ahead by as many as 22 points just 13 minutes into Game 3 to drop the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces into a hole.

    Third-seeded Connecticut withstood multiple rallies by the Aces and went on to win, 105-76, before 8,745 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

    Game 4 of the best-of-five series will also be played at the Sun on Sunday (4 p.m., ESPN).

    One game at a time.

    “It’s just the M.O. of our team,” Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones said. “When our backs are against the wall, we play really good basketball. Sometimes you wish that you didn’t put yourself in those positions. … I’m proud of our team and I’m proud of what we were able to do tonight.”

    Aces head coach Becky Hammon said, “This game was about physicality and mental toughness and (the Sun) smoked us.”

    Alyssa Thomas had the first triple-double in Finals history (16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists) as Connecticut had six players score in double figures.

    “She’s a beast,” Hammon said about Thomas. “I went to a UFC fight (Saturday) night,” before laughing and adding, “I would not want to get in the cage with her. She is just tough. Tough, tough, tough. Tough and then a playmaker.”

    DeWanna Bonner had 18 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, Jonquel Jones had 20 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists and Natisha Hiedeman had 14 points and 9 assists.

    DiJonai Carrington scored 12 for Connecticut and Courtney Williams added 11.

    “Connecticut came in with a better mental approach than we did,” Hammon said. “I don’t know if we thought we were just going to show up and they were going to lay down and hand us the trophy but we should know better by now — that’s a team that is very resilient.

    “If you could encapsulate Connecticut, it’s physical and very resilient. And they have kind of a battle-type mentality and we didn’t match that tonight. In any category.”

    Jackie Young scored a game-high 22 points for the Aces and WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson scored 19.

    Las Vegas point guard Chelsea Gray, who has been on a white-hot offensive postseason run, was limited to 4 of 7 shooting for 11 points. She was hounded by Bonner, a 6-foot-4 wing, for much of the night.

    The Aces opened with a 12-4 run just 2 minutes, 51 seconds into the game.

    Connecticut responded with a flurry of haymakers.

    Hiedeman made a 3 to start up a 37-7 Sun run that stretched into the second quarter.

    Brionna Jones’ layup at the buzzer put Connecticut ahead 34-19 after one quarter in which her team shot an absurd 82.4% (14 of 17).

    Thomas finished the run with a 14-foot jumper to extend the Sun’s lead to 41-19 with 7 minutes left in the half.

    “She’s probably the toughest player I’ve ever coached,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said, who wore a hat that read “Belief” to his postgame press conference.

    “She’s (also) the most consistent player in terms of effort that I’ve ever been around.”

    Jones’ driving hook shot extended Connecticut’s lead to 48-25 with 3:12 remaining in the half.

    The Aces fought back to cut the halftime deficit to 53-42. Gray made three straight 3s in the final three minutes and Kelsey Plum knocked down a 41-foot shot at the buzzer.

    “I thought our group was poised,” Miller said. “We threw a couple of knockouts in that first half and all the sudden it was an 11-point game. So there was poise coming out of halftime.”

    Las Vegas closed within six, 75-69, with under a minute left in the third quarter.

    But Jones made a layup with 1.2 seconds remaining in the third, Thomas and Bonner opened the fourth with back-to-back baskets after consecutive turnovers, and Bonner followed with two offensive rebounds, the second that she put back, to extend the Sun’s lead to 83-69 with 8:35 left in the game.

    “That’s a gritty team,” Miller said about his players, “and when you tell them they can’t do something, it’s going to make them try even harder and complete like crazy.

    “There’s just so much pride in that locker room. That’s who we are. They thrive when their backs are against the wall.”

    n.griffen@theday.com

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