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    Monday, July 22, 2024

    Defense delivers again as Sun top Sparks, 79-70

    In this Sept. 24, 2020, file photo, Connecticut Sun guard Briann January argues with an official after she was called for a foul during the first half of Game 3 of a WNBA semifinal round playoff series against the Las Vegas Aces in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

    Mohegan – For coach Stephanie White, the Connecticut Sun’s early season success is easy to explain.

    Sure, the Sun are blessed with a talented and experienced roster.

    But the driving force behind Connecticut’s sizzling start is a stingy defense.

    “First and foremost, our defense,” White said. “Our defense, no matter what, always gives us an opportunity to be in position to win.”

    Connecticut’s reliable defense helped the team survive some messy play in a 79-70 victory over Los Angeles Tuesday at Mohegan Sun Arena.

    The Sun are off to a franchise best and WNBA leading 13-1 start. They limited the Sparks (4-11) to well under their 77.6 points per game scoring average. They forced 24 turnovers, leading to 30 points.

    White credits assistant coach Briann January for the team’s defensive prowess.

    January is basically the Sun’s defensive coordinator. She’s responsible for putting the game plan together.

    During her professional playing career, January was a five-time WNBA All-Defensive first team selection.

    “She was an outstanding defensive player in her time as a player,” White said. “And our players are very defensive minded and defensive oriented and take a lot of pride in it. So our defense always gives us a chance as our offense is still a work in progress.”

    That work in progress offense was on display on Tuesday.

    Connecticut struggled to string productive offensive stretches together at times. The Sun never trailed thanks in part to their defense.

    After holding a single digit lead for most of the first two quarters, the Sun rode a 6-0 spurt to their biggest lead thus far at 39-26.

    DeWanna Bonner’s two free throws started the mini-spurt. Then the Sun’s trapping defense forced consecutive turnovers, the second of which led to Bonner’s fast-break layup. Rachel Banham’s step-back jumper pushed the lead to 13.

    Late in the third quarter, the Sun extended their lead to 15 (63-48) with a 10-0 run and closed out their fourth straight win from there. All five starters scored in double figures, with Bonner leading the way with 16 points, followed by Tyasha Harris (14), Brionna Jones (13) and DiJonai Carrington (12) and Alyssa Thomas (11). Thomas also had seven assists and seven rebounds.

    With former Sun coach Curt Miller in charge, Los Angeles continues to struggle, dropping its fourth straight.

    The Sparks lost Cameron Brink, the No. 2 overall pick in April’s WNBA Draft, with a lower body injury after colliding with Thomas at the 6:23 mark of the first quarter. Brink, who’s averaging 8.1 points, needed to be helped to the locker room.

    The Sun shut down leading scorer Dearica Hamby, who finished with eight points. Hamby came in averaging 19 points.

    Now they’ll embark on a difficult three-game road trip that starts at Las Vegas Friday and stops in Seattle Sunday and Washington on June 27.

    The Sun can’t afford a let up.

    Entering Tuesday’s action, the New York Liberty (12-2) resided just a half game behind first-place Connecticut in the Eastern Conference standings. The Liberty handed the Sun their only loss, 82-75, on June 8.

    Connecticut is undefeated on the road at 5-0.

    The Sun plan to pack their defense and veteran business-like approach for their trip.

    “We’ve had success on the road,” White said. “We’re about to play some really, really tough teams on the road. So we just need to be able to continue to stack days, build consistency in our daily habits and our execution and continue to build confidence and pace in our offense.”

    “And our defense travels. And that’s one of those things that we’ll always rely on.”


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