Sun (3-0) will continue their focus on defense vs. Liberty
The Connecticut Sun had one of the top defenses in the league before the arrival of first-year head coach Stephanie White, second in the WNBA a year ago in allowing just 77.8 points per game.
And it’s certainly not something White is about to change.
“That’s the identity of this team. You don’t win in this league unless you’re a great defensive team,” White said. “There are going to be days when shots aren’t falling and you’ve got to be able to get stops and we’re carrying that over.
“The identity of Alyssa Thomas and our leader on the floor is defense and is toughness and is versatility and I think that carries over to everyone because she sets the example every single day.”
The Sun, off to a 3-0 start thanks, in part, to its iron will defensively, will put its defense to the test Saturday against the WNBA’s leading scorer in Breanna Stewart, who is in her first season with the New York Liberty.
The Sun meet the Liberty (1-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a matchup which will be televised on CBS.
Stewart, averaging 28.5 points per game, scored a franchise record 45 in New York’s previous game, a 90-73 victory over the Indiana Fever. Stewart, the UConn grad who is a four-time WNBA all-star and former league MVP with the Seattle Storm, was traded to the Liberty in the offseason.
Also of note, the Liberty’s roster includes another MVP in Jonquel Jones, formerly of the Sun, as well as former overall No. 1 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu and four-time all-star Courtney Vandersloot. The Liberty have been anointed as one of the WBA’s so-called “super teams.”
“It’s tough. You know, it’s tough,” White said in a video conference Friday of her approach to beating New York, once against referring back to the Sun’s defense. “We have to have a high attention to detail. We have to have a high understanding of personnel and when you’re playing a team like this you have to pick your poison.
“You have to play percentages and you’ve gotta make their lives as difficult as possible. Make everything difficult. Make sure you’re contesting shots.”
The Sun are second in the league once again in defense, giving up 72.0 points per game. They’ve beaten the Fever, followed by a pair of wins against the Washington Mystics earlier this week, Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena and Tuesday in Washington.
DeWanna Bonner leads the Sun with 18.3 points per game and Thomas is averaging 18.0 points, 12.3 points (second in the league), 5.7 assists and 2.7 steals. Brionna Jones, the third member of an experienced starting frontcourt along with Bonner and Thomas, is at 13.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
White calls this Sun team “a gritty, tough group.”
“Whenever we have mistakes or missed rotations or missed execution, we find a way to make it up and problem solve in the live action,” White said.
“It’s only been three games,” Thomas said. “So it’s kind of hard to reach any team goals or expectations. We’re still learning each other. So far, a good start to the season. There’s still a lot to reach. Still taking it one game at a time.”
In a preseason matchup, the Sun defeated the Liberty 63-57 at Mohegan Sun, getting 10 points from Brionna Jones. Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Vandersloot did not play in that game for New York, while Bonner did not play for Connecticut.