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    Friday, July 19, 2024

    Opening night at Mohegan Sun is a sellout for Sun-Fever, featuring Caitlin Clark

    Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas. left, goes to the basket as New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart defends during the WNBA semifinals last season at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun open the season at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against the Indiana Fever and recent Iowa All-American Caitlin Clark at a sold-out Mohegan Sun. (Jessica Hill/AP Photo)
    Caitlin Clark of the Indiana Fever dribbles during the second half of a WNBA preseason game against the Atlanta Dream on May 9 in Indianapolis. (Darron Cummings/AP Photo)
    Connecticut Sun forward DeWanna Bonner, right, celebrates with guard Ty Harris after Harris made a 3-point field goal against the New York Liberty last season in the WNBA semifinals. Bonner begins her 15th season Tuesday as the Sun take on the Indiana Fever. (Abbie Parr/AP Photo)
    Aliyah Boston of the Indiana Fever, right, is defended by Olivia Nelson-Ododa of the Connecticut Sun during a game on Aug. 4, 2023, in Indianapolis. (Darron Cummings/AP Photo)
    Connecticut Sun guard Ty Harris, left, listens to coach Stephanie White during the second half of Game 2 of the team's WNBA playoff series against the New York Liberty on Sept. 26, 2023, in New York. (Mary Altaffer/AP Photo)

    Mohegan — There is something mystical about the arena the night before The Big Game. Everything still shiny and in its place. And yet with almost eerie expectancy, the realization that somewhere in the next 24 hours or so, the world will be watching all of it.

    This was Monday at Mohegan Sun Arena, where the final polish was applied to a house that will house a home opener like no other in the Connecticut Sun lore and legend. Not even with this franchise’s venerable history — twice a gnat’s eyelash away from a championship — has there been global anticipation of a game.

    Of course, the Sun probably have less to do with that than their opponent, the Indiana Fever, whose recent first-round draft choice has become a pop culture icon.

    It is the good fortune of the Sun franchise and now sellout crowd that Mohegan Sun Arena is the venue for Caitlin Clark’s first WNBA game. Indiana/Connecticut begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2.

    “It’s exciting because of the movement that we're in and where the game is going,” Sun coach Stephanie White said. “The eyeballs that are on the game for those of us who have been around since almost the beginning — to see this this kind of excitement is awesome.”

    Indeed, tickets on the secondary market were selling for around $100 apiece in the upper reaches of the arena to as much as $900 for courtside. White and her players acknowledge that the circus is in town, but that tomorrow has this habit of showing up, too.

    “We’ve also got to keep it in perspective,” White said. “Like this is one game in a long season. And our goal is to win a championship. This is the first step for us in our goal. Yes, it's going to be awesome to play before a sold-out crowd. Many of our veterans have been in exciting atmospheres. But we’ve got to keep the main thing the main thing. This is the first game and the first step toward our ultimate goal of winning a championship.”

    The Sun have seven players (of 11) with at least six seasons of WNBA experience. There’s nothing most of them haven’t seen, felt or experienced, increasing the likelihood that Tuesday night’s hype will be a dull ache — if that — for the Connecticut players. Perennial all-stars Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner lead a team with, as White said, championship aspirations.

    “Another game for us,” Thomas said. “It's another season. First game. We're excited in that aspect, but at the same time, we get a playoff atmosphere and that’s something we love to play in. We approach everything the same.”

    Still, the significance of the women’s basketball revolution isn’t lost on White, who knows that while all the eyeballs may begin on Clark, there’s plenty of room to watch all the others, too.

    “I've been going to every Final Four since I was 8 years old,” White said. “Being in this game for so long and understanding and knowing the greatness … I was watching back when the Dawn Staleys and Lisa Leslies and Tina Thompsons were playing. … I think back to some of the players I played with as a rookie — our players don't even know who they were. But those players sacrificed playing years and years and years overseas so that the WNBA could exist.”

    And its grandest stage yet hits this corner of the world Tuesday night.

    m.dimauro@theday.com

    2024 Connecticut Sun schedule

    DateOpponentTVTime

    MAY

    Tue. 14INDIANAESPN27:30 p.m.

    Fri. 17WASHINGTONION7:30 p.m.

    Mon. 20at IndianaESPN7 p.m.

    Thu. 23MINNESOTA NBCSB7 p.m.

    Sat. 25at ChicagoNBCSB8 p.m.

    Tue. 28PHOENIXNBCSB7 p.m.

    Fri. 31DALLASION7:30 p.m.

    JUNE

    Sun. 2at AtlantaNBCSB3 p.m.

    Tue. 4WASHINGTONNBCSB7 p.m.

    Sat. 8NEW YORKABC1 p.m.

    Mon. 10INDIANANBCSB7 p.m.

    Wed. 12at ChicagoNBCSB8 p.m.

    Sat. 15at DallasCBS1 p.m.

    Tue. 18LOS ANGELESNBCSB7 p.m.

    Fri. 21at Las VegasION10 p.m.

    Sun. 23at SeattleNBCSB3 p.m.

    Thu. 27at WashingtonNBCSB7 p.m.

    Fri. 28ATLANTAION7:30 p.m.

    JULY

    Mon. 1at PhoenixNBCSB10 p.m.

    Thu. 4at MinnesotaNBCSB8 p.m.

    Sun. 7ATLANTANBCSB1 p.m.

    Wed. 10NEW YORKNBCSB11 a.m.

    Sun. 14PHOENIXABC1 p.m.

    Tues. 16at New YorkNBCSB7 p.m.

    AUGUST

    Fri. 16at DallasION9:30 p.m.

    Sun. 18at AtlantaNBCSB3 p.m.

    *Tue. 20LOS ANGELESNBCSB7 p.m.

    Fri. 23CHICAGOION7:30 p.m.

    Sat. 24at New YorkNBCSB7 p.m.

    Wed. 28at Indiana NBCSB7 p.m.

    Sat. 31at WashingtonNBCSB3 p.m.

    SEPTEMBER

    Sun. 1SEATTLENBCSB1 p.m.

    Tue. 3SEATTLENBCSB7 p.m.

    Fri. 6LAS VEGASION7:30 p.m.

    Sun. 8at Los AngelesNBCSB9 p.m.

    Tue. 10at Los AngelesNBCSB10 p.m.

    Fri. 13at PhoenixION10 p.m.

    Sun. 15at Las VegasNBCSB6 p.m.

    Tue. 17 MINNESOTANBCSB7 p.m.

    Thu. 19CHICAGONBCSB7 p.m.

    Home games in CAPS

    * at TD Garden, Boston

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