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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    It’s now back to business as usual for Connecticut Sun, Alyssa Thomas

    Alyssa Thomas of the Connecticut Sun pretends to fly as she celebrates a basket during Tuesday’s opening night WNBA matchup against the Indiana Fever at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Mohegan — The audience, the opponent, none of that mattered to Alyssa Thomas on opening night at Mohegan Sun Arena.

    The Connecticut Sun’s Thomas was runner-up as the WNBA’s MVP last season and she started the new season Tuesday with 13 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in a 92-71 victory over the Indiana Fever in front of a sold-out crowd of 8,910 and a national TV audience, a large part of which tuned in to see the debut of Indiana rookie phenom Caitlin Clark.

    The crowd got to see Thomas record her unprecedented 12th career triple-double.

    “Nothing changes for me,” Thomas said in the postgame. “I approach the game either way, whether there’s no one watching or everybody in the gym watching. I think that’s what I want to set the standard as for my game. This is who I am.”

    After the hype for Game 1, the Sun now proceed with business as usual for Game 2 beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday night against the Washington Mystics and recent UConn graduate Aaliyah Edwards (ION).

    The Sun got a superlative defensive effort Tuesday from DiJonai Carrington, who had the task of guarding Indiana’s Clark, the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer who played in two Final Fours for Iowa. They got 20 points from veteran DeWanna Bonner, who moved into fifth place all-time in scoring in the WNBA at 6,901.

    And they saw Thomas picking up where she left off.

    “We had a practice without her the other day and it probably was one of the worst practices we had,” Bonner said, underscoring the impact Thomas has on the success of the Sun.

    “We know how much she means to this team. To come back and pick up where she left off ... I think a lot of people thought last season was a fluke and it wasn’t going to happen again this season. So for her to set the tone, that’s just huge of her.”

    Sun head coach Stephanie White calls Thomas one of the most elite competitors she’s ever been around.

    “The only other competitor I can compare her to is Tamika Catchings (of the University of Tennessee and Indiana Fever fame),” White said. “Just that level of competitive spirit every day. Doesn’t take a play off. Will run through a wall. Will do whatever it is that’s needed.

    “That doesn’t change, no matter the opponent. It doesn’t change whether it’s back-to-back. It’s not a surprise to any of us that she keeps putting up these numbers. She’s one of the best players in this league. She’s one of the best players in the world.”

    Both point guard Moriah Jefferson (right ankle) and post player Olivia Nelson-Ododa (illness) are listed as questionable for the game against Washington.

    The Mystics, meanwhile, opened the season with an 85-80 loss to the New York Liberty on Tuesday. Ariel Atkins finished with 20 points for the Mystics and Edwards, picked sixth by Washington in this year’s WNBA Draft, had six points and two rebounds in 14 minutes. Edwards was an All-American this season for a UConn team which reached the Final Four in Cleveland.

    East Lyme High School graduate Eric Thibault is in his second season as head coach of the Mystics.

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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