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    Friday, May 24, 2024

    Carrington conquers Clark; Sun throttle Fever

    Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever is guarded by the Connecticut Sun defense, including DiJonai Carrington, right, as she approaches the basket during a WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena on Tuesday. The Sun beat the Fever 92-71 to spoil Clark’s debut. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    DiJonai Carrington of the Connecticut Sun attempts to score against the Indiana Fever during a WNBA game Tuesday at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Connecticut Sun guard Moriah Jefferson defends against the Indiana Fever’s Kelsey Mitchell during Tuesday’s WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Connecticut Sun players Tiffany Mitchell, left, and Ty Harris, right, react to a foul called during Tuesday’s WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark leaves the court after a loss to the Connecticut Sun in a WNBA game at Mohegan Sun Arena on Tuesday. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Mohegan — A day earlier, another question from the media was posed to the Perturbed Professional about the Fledgling Phenom. The Perturbed Professional, remaining professional, answered the questions professionally, save perhaps the facial features suggesting that DiJonai Carrington had heard enough about Caitlin Clark.

    It was as if Carrington was trying to convey, loosely translated, that the folks may come to Mohegan Sun Arena to watch Clark, but they’re going to leave talking about ME.

    And they did.

    Carrington chased Clark everywhere but to the restroom Tuesday night, allowing Clark but two baskets while guarding her. It was among the Connecticut Sun’s many highlights during a 92-71 win over Indiana before a rollicking opening night sellout crowd of 8,910.

    Clark’s first WNBA game produced 20 points on 5-for-15 shooting, a Fever franchise record 10 turnovers and a minus-13, a statistic indicating the Sun scored 13 more points than Indiana did while Clark was on the floor. Carrington finished plus-15. And to think some UConn women’s fans fretted over the Sun’s choice to bypass Nika Mühl in the draft, fearing the Sun would have nobody to guard Clark.

    Fear not.

    “You always come in excited,” Carrington said, after also contributing 16 points and five rebounds. “But this team put a lot of trust in me. That faith in me gave me confidence. They were in my ear all week.”

    Clark, who took nearly an hour and a half after the game to meet the media, said, “it was physical. Obviously not a great start in the first half by myself getting in foul trouble. Too many turnovers. A lot of things to learn from.”

    Nowhere was there a better illustration to the game story than late in the first half when Carrington picked Clark’s pocket and breezed in for a layup, giving the Sun a 46-31 lead.

    “Connecticut punched us in the mouth,” Indiana coach Christie Sides said. “That’s who they are. So many weapons.”

    DeWanna Bonner led the Sun with 20 points and en route became the WNBA’s fifth-leading career scorer. Alyssa Thomas did her usual — 13 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds — and Ty Harris made three early 3s and finished with 16.

    Sun coach Stephanie White had no doubt which of her players would get the Clark assignment.

    “An automatic for Nai (Carrington),” White said. “She’s an elite defender. The challenge for her is to do it for large periods of time.”

    Clark’s early foul trouble landed her on the bench following a start where she missed her first two shots. Sides decided to reinsert Clark into the game with 4 seconds left in the first quarter, prompting White to send Carrington back into the game as well.

    “We know what (Carrington) is capable of,” Thomas said. “We expect it. But to take on that job, we’re proud of her.”

    m.dimauro@theday.com

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