WNBA: Connecticut Sun, showing ‘urgency,’ win three-straight games

During NESN’s broadcast of the Connecticut Sun’s 77-60 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, May 13, team president Jen Rizzotti spoke of the importance of “urgency.”

The Sun are a great team. They know they are great. A league-best 26-6 regular-season record in 2021 confirms their status. Yet, in 2022, the Sun must be great. Hence, the need for “urgency” throughout the 36-game regular season.

After a disappointing season debut, Connecticut has begun to channel the urgency needed to approach their championship ambitions. Following their victory over the Sparks, the Sun rattled off two more wins, avenging their loss to the New York Liberty before dispatching the Indiana Fever, giving them a three-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s rematch with the Fever.

Here are the top takeaways from Connecticut’s three-straight dubs, as well as quick look at the upcoming schedule.

The Sun’s first half against the Sparks epitomized urgency. Connecticut won each of the first two quarters by 12 points, resulting in a 24-point half time lead that, despite an uneven third quarter, allowed the Sun to cruise to victory.

Along with Alyssa Thomas, who had 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a steal in the first half, Jonquel Jones drove the Sun’s scintillating start, resembling the reigning MVP she is as she had a near double-double. In the first half, she scored all of her 16 points while also grabbing nine boards. Thomas continued her ferocious pace in the second half, finishing the contest with 25 points and 11 boards, in addition to five assists and a steal.

Despite the Sparks’ size, Thomas and J. Jones, as well as Brionna Jones, found much of their success inside, as Connecticut scored almost 52 percent of their points in the paint. Nineteen total offensive rebounds also contributed to 17 second-chance points.

On a positive note, Yvonne Anderson, a former Texas product who is a member of the Serbian national team, made her WNBA debut for the Sun at age 32. In 13 minutes, Anderson looked like she belonged, scoring her first bucket in the W.

After dropping their opening game to the Liberty, it is unsurprising that the Sun approached the second contest between the two teams with the requisite urgency. It was a relentless, overwhelming urgency.

Approximately halfway through the first quarter, Connecticut began to overwhelm New York. From there, it was all Sun, as they smoked the Liberty on one end and smothered them on the other. Over the final three quarters, Connecticut outpaced New York 64-32, scoring 33 points in the second quarter before holding NY to 13 points in the third.

DeWanna Bonner, taking the court for the first time this season, sparked the Sun’s high-scoring second, registering 12 of her 16 total points in the period. She also used her length to snag four steals over the course of the game, with Alyssa Thomas matching that number. These eight swipes were part of the Sun’s 16 total steals, which contributed to a franchise-record 32 turnovers forced and helped lead to 44 points off turnovers.

Courtney Williams, also making her season debut, did not ignite, scoring only four points on four shots, but the returns of Bonner and Williams gave Connecticut their optimal starting five and, possibly just as importantly, a more potent bench powered by Brionna Jones, who had 12 points in almost 23 minutes, and Natisha Hiedeman, who contributed 10 points and three steals in less than 15 minutes of action.

The fast-paced and feisty Fever refused to allow the Sun to coast to a breezy Friday night victory, instead requiring Connecticut to engage in a four-quarter fight before escaping with a third-straight victory.

Heading into the game, Indiana stood as the league’s second-poorest shooting team, but on Friday night the Fever found their stroke, shooting 54 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3. Allowing Indy to enjoy an efficient offensive night does not exactly suggest that Connecticut brought the necessary defensive urgency.

Fortunately, the Sun turned in an urgent, efficient offensive performance, likewise highlighted by some outlier shooting. Before Friday, the Sun had attempted 17.3 threes per game, making a league-worst 30.8 percent of them (5.3 per game). Then, on Friday night, the Sun shot 57.9 percent from deep, swishing a season-high 11 treys, including four game-sealing treys the fourth quarter.

Bonner drained two of these late triples, representing half of her 4-of-4 performance from behind the arc. For the game, Bonner had 18 points and four assists. The Sun’s other two anchors — J. Jones and A. Thomas — also had strong performances. J. Jones scored 19 points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds. A. Thomas totaled 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Encouragingly, Connecticut’s bench further proved that it might be the league’s best. B. Jones, DiJonai Carrington and Hiedeman all scored in double figures, with 11 apiece for Jones and Carrington and 10 for Hiedeman. Hiedeman also had four assists and four steals. For the season, the Sun’s bench has a net rating of 10.3, the top mark in the WNBA.

What’s coming up for the Sun

The second game of the home-and-home set between the Sun and Fever is Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET (ESPN3) in Indiana. That game kicks off a four-game week for Connecticut. The other three contests, all at Mohegan Sun Arena, are:

  • vs. Dallas on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET (NESN+, League Pass)
  • vs. Dallas on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET (NESN+, League Pass)
  • vs. Washington on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET (NESN+, Facebook)

If the Sun continue to play with urgency, all four games certainly are winnable. However, the rigors of this schedule, even without travel, could catch up with Connecticut and cause a slip up or two.

Be on the look out for another update about the Sun later next week!