Sun victory ties Lynx for best record in leagueJuly 12, 2012
UNCASVILLE, Ct. – Asjha Jones was in her Olympic mode Wednesday – even though it’s two weeks until the London games.
The Sun’s 6-3 veteran forward had a season-high 22 points and nine rebounds in the home team’s 85-73 win against the hapless Washington Mystics (4-13) who they had beaten the night before 77-70 in Washington.
But it was the Olympic sendoff that the Sun gave Jones and fellow Olympian Tina Charles Wednesday that will echo in her mind longer than the score.
While team members waved small American flags, a chocolate cake was wheeled onto the court with pictures of Jones and Charles in their Sun uniforms decorating it. The two players talked about what it meant to be on the USA women’s basketball team for the games, which start with group play July 27 and last through Aug. 12, while the 7,804 fans stood on their feet cheering them the entire time.
“This is my one and only opportunity to go to the Olympics so I’m definitely honored,” Jones told the cheering crowd.
Both promised to bring back the Gold Medal (it would be the U.S’s fifth straight) and thanked Connecticut fans for their support.
The victory Wednesday boosts the Sun’s record to 14-4. Going into Friday’s final game at Chicago before the 34-day Olympic break, the Sun are tied with the Minnesota Lynx for the best record in the league. Except for a loss at Indiana, the Sun’s three defeats were at the hands of stronger Western Conference teams.
The Sun used a 10-0 run in the first quarter to gain a double digit advantage and although the Mystic cut the lead to three and four points at various points in the game, were unable to hang on to get any closer.
“That was a hard game,” said Sun head coach Mike Thibault, “but I thought we kept our composure.” The Mystics are a tough, physical team but Jones, Charles (17 points) and Kara Lawson (19 points) made big shots and role players chipped in taking charges and going for loose balls to spell the difference, he said.
The Sun also had 16 second chance points from 12 offensive boards which helped them maintain a double digit lead 90 percent of the game. They scored 40 points in the paint, only two fewer than those scored against Atlanta last month.
“We’re getting a pretty good performance from our front line,” Thibault said. The Mystics like to score off of second shots but the Sun took that away from them, he said. The Mystics outrebounded the Sun 38-23 in the game in Washington but Wednesday the Sun had a two-board edge (31-29).
Jones said since she didn’t play that well in the game Tuesday (9 points, 4 rebounds), she wanted to be more aggressive especially in the first half and get her work in while she still had energy.
She said although the Sun has another game before the U.S. women’s team plays two exhibitions in Washington, D.C. this weekend before leaving for London, she has started to think more about the Olympics.
“I started to pack last night,” she said and although she tried to limit the number of jeans and pants, “I ended up with all the pants in my closet.”
She plans to take in the whole experience, take in the sights of London and for the first time in her travels, will bring a camera.
Charles said she also plans to take in the whole experience. “I’m definitely blessed,” she said of being one of 12 members chosen for the team. “You don’t know what can happen in three years.”
Thibault said being chosen was particularly special for Jones who was often overlooked at UConn because of the more high profile players (Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Diana Taurasi – all on the Olympic team) that she played with.
“She might have been forgotten (at UConn) but the people in this league know what she has achieved,” he said. “Making the Olympic team meant a lot to her. She wants to be part of something special and I wanted her to get recognized. She’s a pretty special player ... a true pro,” he said.
Lawson, who was one of the U.S.’s leading scorers in the 2008 Beijing Olympics but is not on the 2012 squad, said the basketball competition is grueling. “It’s not ‘throw my javelin and I’m done,’ she said. “That’s not how it works. You play a game, get a day off and then there’s another one.”
Jones and Charles will have an edge (as will Bird, Taurasi, Cash and Maya Moore) because they will be coached by Geno Auriemma, who they played under at UConn.