Professional Basketball

Sun hand Lynx season’s first defeat

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ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Connecticut Sun handed the Minnesota Lynx their first loss of the season during a tightly contested match up in front of a crowd of 10,121 at the Xcel Energy Center Saturday night.

Led by 20 points each from forward Alyssa Thomas and guard Jasmine Thomas, the Sun pulled away from the Lynx late in the fourth quarter to notch a 98-93 victory in front of the Lynx home crowd. All ten starters in the game scored in double digits.

Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles battles Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones for a loose ball during Saturday’s game at the Xcel Energy Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine.

“A great game against a really talented team. We competed all the way to the end and answered their tough shots,” said Connecticut head coach Curt Miller. “We lost three close games this year by two points but this young team is coming together and learning how to win games close and staying in attack mode.”

Alyssa Thomas’s 20 points put her over the 1,000-point mark in her career.

“It feels good, especially on a night with a win against the Lynx. I focused on just playing hard and I wanted to beat the Lynx, I think we all did,” said Thomas.

The game was so close that both teams were evenly matched in most statistical categories. Connecticut edged the Lynx 55.4-51.4 percent in field goal percentage, 45.5-43.8 percent in three point field goal percentage and fast break points 19-15. They were tied in points-in-the-paint with 40 each, second chance points with 9 a piece, largest lead of 8 points each.

The biggest differences in the game were rebounding and turnovers. Connecticut outrebounded Minnesota by a margin of 46-30. Though the Lynx turned the ball over fewer times, recording 13 turnovers to 19 by the Sun, Connecticut was able to capitalize with 26 points off turnovers compared to the Lynx 16.

Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas scores on a fastbreak layup during Saturday’s game at the Xcel Energy Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine.

“The turnovers were probably the most disturbing and getting out re-bounded is not common for us, but it happened today,” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. “It doesn’t happen often to us but it happened tonight. They had more turnovers than we did but they’re a team that cashes in. They run downhill and they did a great job tonight.”

This was the third time that the two teams have matched up against each other this season, with Minnesota winning the previous two contests.

“Our delivery before this game had been on time and on target but this was not that game for us. Sylvia was in some situations where she had to make something great happen. They responded after we beat them twice and they’re playing well,” said Reeve.

Connecticut was assisted by Rachel Banham, who scored 11 points off the bench in 13:39 minutes of play. The former University of Minnesota standout was playing in front of her

hometown crowd for extended minutes, something that the second year guard had not been to do much of previously due to injury. She also pitched in with three assists.

“I just feel like I was feeding off of my teammates,” said Banham. “It was exciting. I’m glad my coaches gave me a chance to get out there, get comfortable and get in a rhythm. I’m just happy that I was able to do that in front of my hometown crowd.”

Instead of keeping their undefeated streak alive, the Lynx know they missed that opportunity.

“We didn’t play defense. If you play a team that’s not playing any D, you’re going to get whatever you want,” said forward Rebekkah Brunson. “They’re a good team. We know that they’re playing really wel

Minnesota Lynx bench players Natasha Howard (left), Plenette Pierson (center) and Renee Montgomery regroup during Saturday’s game at the Xcel Energy Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine.

l. We had some schemes that we didn’t adhere to and they got whatever they wanted. We just didn’t do anything to give them any type of pressure or force them to do anything different. They basically did what they wanted to all night.”

Brunson, who scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds in the effort, went 2-for-2 from beyond the arc, which has been a new role for her this season.

“I’m just taking what the defense gives me,” she said about her newly found perimeter offense. “My teammates are finding me in good position and finding me open, so we’ll shoot them and play off of what happens after that.”

Following the game, WNBA President Lisa Borders congratulated the Connecticut Sun on the victory.

“This just proves all the talent you have on your team, right? We’re proud of you. You guys are amazing. Congratulations,” Borders said.

When it comes to the team suffering the first loss of the season, Brunson said, “It happens. We haven’t been undefeated yet. We’ll look at the video, see what we can do a little bit differently and keep getting better.”

The Minnesota Lynx (9-1) host the Washington Mystics (7-3) at 7 p.m. CT on Friday night at the Xcel Energy Center, while the Connecticut Sun (5-5) travel to the New York Liberty (7-4) for an 8:30 p.m. CT matchup also on Friday.

 

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