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    Friday, September 29, 2023

    Sun have received a shot of energy off the bench from Carrington and Allen

    Connecticut’s DiJonai Carrington (21) drives to the basket against New York’s Morgan Green (17) during a May 10 preseason game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Sun guard Rebecca Allen (9) drives to the basketball during a WNBA preseason game against the New York Liberty on May 10 at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    DiJonai Carrington owes her Connecticut Sun teammate, DeWanna Bonner, dinner.

    “Actually DB told me, I owe her dinner now because she told me, ‘Nai, please stick with it. Keep your head.’ All of these things. ‘It gets better and when it does you owe me dinner.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, whatever.’ I guess I owe her dinner.”

    Carrington, in her third season with the Sun, and Bec Allen, in her first season with the team after being traded from the New York Liberty, both started the year coming off injuries.

    Over the first four games of the season, Carrington, a 6-foot guard/forward from Baylor, played just four minutes, appearing in two of the games, and didn’t score. Carrington averaged more than 16 minutes per game last year in helping Connecticut reach the WNBA Finals.

    Allen, the 6-foot-2 guard from Australia who started 19 games last year for the Liberty, meanwhile went the first seven games without reaching double figures.

    Heading into the Sun’s game Sunday at Atlanta (4 p.m., NBC Sports Boston), however, Carrington and Allen have both hit their stride, playing their best games of the season this week against the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

    That provided validation for the two, as well as a lift for the Sun bench.

    Connecticut, which defeated previously unbeaten Las Vegas 94-77 Thursday in the second of back-to-back games, is 7-2. The Dream are 2-4.

    “I think that I’m proud of myself for being ready when my number has been called,” Carrington said before Thursday’s game. “Obviously, everybody saw the first few games. I wasn’t getting much (time) and I’m not going to lie and say that it didn’t affect me mentally. Just from the standpoint of being impactful, I’m proud of myself for that.”

    “I think for a player it’s tough to be able to see in the long term,” Sun coach Stephanie White said of the slow start for Carrington and Allen. “Both of those guys were coming off of injuries in the offseason. There’s really no way to get back into game flow other than playing and so, for them, it’s being patient, giving themselves a little bit of grace and understanding that it’s a process.”

    In Tuesday’s 90-84 loss to Las Vegas, the Aces led by as many as 19 points and were still up a comfortable 70-53 after three quarters.

    Suddenly, with the Sun down 76-61, they took off on a 12-0 run to pull within 76-73, with Allen striking for two of her six second-half 3-point field goals and the energetic Carrington providing two free throws and a layup.

    Allen had 22 points, five rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in 20 minutes, shooting 8-for-11. Carrington played a season-high 19 minutes and had 11 points, three rebounds, an assist and a valuable presence on defense.

    “It felt good,” said Allen, whose sixth 3-pointer sent the rest of the team, after a timeout was called, bounding onto the floor, towels waving. “It just feels good to see the ball go through the net. I think I’ve needed something like this sort of game for a while and I think that sort of gives me some confidence, too.”

    Allen missed several games in concussion protocol during the 2022 season while with the Liberty, then suffered two broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung while playing for Australia during the World Cup last fall.

    Carrington said she and Allen have spoken about their struggles.

    “It’s kind of been up and down for both of us,” Carrington said. “To see yourself perform so well and remind yourself. ‘I’m supposed to be here; I can do this,’ I think it was super encouraging.

    “... (Allen’s) dad came from Australia and had just gotten in that morning so it was really cool to see her put that performance together and I know that she’s capable of that throughout the rest of the season, too.”

    Earlier last week, the Sun’s Bonner, in her 14th professional season, was asked if she heard Carrington’s cheers after a particular play. She said she always hears Carrington, calling her “the loudest person in the world.”

    For Thursday’s pregame session with the media, Carrington appeared with a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts Energy Cold Brew, containing a shot of espresso, with almond milk, french vanilla and caramel.

    “I’m not short on energy ever, just know that,” Carrington said with a laugh.

    “I think a lot of our starters have logged a lot of minutes. We have a long stretch of every other day for the beginning of the season,” she said. “I think we played one of the most games if not the most out of everybody in the league so I think it was an opportunity for people who had more fresh legs to step up and do what we can do.”

    The Sun are led by Bonner with an average of 17.6 points and 4.2 rebounds, Brionna Jones with 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds and Alyssa Thomas with 13.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 7.2 assists.

    The Dream are led by guards Allisha Gray and Rhyne Howard, each with 16.8 points per game.


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