Professional Basketball

Aces Outlast Sun in Finals Rematch


Las Vegas Aces guard Chelsea Gray shoots over the outstretched arms of Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas during Tuesday’s game in Uncasville, Conn. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

The Las Vegas Aces took advantage of a 19 point first half lead to withstand a fourth quarter charge by the Connecticut Sun and hold onto a 90-84 victory on the road Tuesday night in Uncasville in front of an announced crowd of 4,368. This was the first meeting between the two teams since the 2022 WNBA Finals.

Aces guard Chelsea Gray and forward Jackie Young each picked off two steals in the first quarter as Connecticut turned the ball over six times in that frame for five Las Vegas points. Vegas took an early 11-4 lead, which they pushed to 25-14 at the end of the quarter. The Aces had ten assists on all ten baskets in the quarter.

The second quarter was similar to the first as the Aces forced six more turnovers in the quarter which led to eight points. Three of the turnovers were steals.

With 1:18 remaining in the half, Candace Parker stole a pass from Connecticut forward Alyssa Thomas and scored on a cutting layup five seconds later to give the Aces a 46-27 lead. The Aces took a 46-31 into the halftime break.

The Sun opened the third quarter on an 8-2 run on baskets from guard Natisha Hiedeman, forward Brionna Jones and guard Tiffany Hayes. However, after a 20 second time out by the Aces, the Sun shooting went cold.

The teams traded baskets until the official’s time out with 4:44 remaining in the quarter. Like the previous timeout, Connecticut offense went cold out of the break. Two free throws from Kelsey Plum and a pull up jumper from Chelsea Gray put the Aces back up by 19.

However, if there is ever a time for a single player to get hot and will their team back into it, it came at the official’s time out. Connecticut guard Rebecca Allen came back into the game. In the first half, she played 5:58 and shot 1-2 for two points with her only miss being a three-point attempt.

Connecticut Sun guard Rebecca Allen scored 22 points from the bench to lead the Sun comeback Tuesday night in Uncasville. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Allen missed on an 18-foot pullup jumper, but then connected on a three-pointer and followed up with a steal on a Jackie Young pass, which led to Connecticut forward DeWanna Bonner hitting on a three pointer. With the score 61-48 with 2:29 left in the quarter, Aces head coach Becky Hammon called a timeout to get her team to regroup.

Coming out of the timeout, Young scored on a layup, stole a pass from Connecticut’s Jones, which she converted into a fast break layup. Allen and Aces forward Alysha Clark traded three point buckets. When the quarter ended, Las Vegas had a comfortable 70-53 lead.

Two free throws by Young put the Aces back up by 19 with 9:01 left in the game. Then Allen got the hot hand again. She hit a three-pointer, which was answered by a jumper by Young. Allen hit another three-pointer. Young turned the ball over which allowed Thomas to score a layup for Connecticut. That was promptly answered by a layup by Aces center Kia Stokes. It was now 76-61 in favor of the Aces with 7:49 left on the clock.

Connecticut then went on a 12-0 run with a layup from Jones, two three-pointers by Allen, and four points from forward DeJonai Carrington. The Sun cut the deficit to three points as the Aces led 76-73 with 4:00 to go.

A layup by Aces forward A’ja Wilson and three-pointer by guard Kelsey Plum coming out of the timeout put the Aces back up by eight points, 81-73 with just over three minutes remaining.

On two occasions the Sun cut the deficit to four points, but would go no lower. Forced to use fouls to stop the clock, the Aces connected on their free throws and were able to put the game away. The visiting Aces continued to be unbeaten, having withstood the late Connecticut attack, securing a 90-84 victory.

The Aces shot 32-63 for 50.8 percent field goal shooting, went 4-15 from beyond the arc, and made 22-for-26 from the charity stripe. Wilson led all scorers with 23, Young added 22, Plum pitched in for 17 and Gray had 14. Wilson led the Aces with 10 rebounds.

Connecticut went 29-71 for 40.8 percent from the field, shot 10-26 on three-point field goals, and made 16-of-23 free throws. Allen led the Sun with 22 points including six three-pointers, Jones scored 15, Thomas 14, while Carrington and Heideman each added 11. Thomas led all rebounders with 11.

Las Vegas Aces guard Chelsea Gray attempts a pull up jumper while Connecticut Sun forward Brionna Jones tries to defend. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

“I’m happy with how we started the game,” said Hammon. “We’ve been struggling a bit coming out of the gate. We’re still in the process of building great habits but I thought this was a good test for us.”

Said Wilson, “We were very locked in on the defensive end in the first quarter and we needed that from here on out. We came in with the mindset that we had to take the first punch but also throw it at the same time. I think we showed that.”

“[I was] certainly disappointed that we didn’t come out with a win,” said Sun head coach Stephanie White. “Disappointed with the way that we started the game, but proud of our effort in the second half. We regrouped. We kept coming at them. We played more like Connecticut Sun basketball in the second half.”

Connecticut forward Brionna Jones said, “We didn’t come out and play our game from the beginning. I think we let them get a lead too early. We did a great job fighting back and doing everything right in the second half that we should have done in the first half, but I think it happened because of our start, today.”

When asked about regrouping at halftime, White said, “I felt like this team could have gone either way at halftime, and this team showed what we’re about. Look, they [Las Vegas] did what they were supposed to do. They came in and they punched us in the mouth. For whatever reason, we were at our heels. I don’t know what that reason is. We got knocked in the mouth, so how were we going to respond?”

They responded with Allen’s 20 point fourth quarter.

“It just feels good to see the ball go through the net. I think I’ve needed something like this sort of game for awhile. It’s awesome having a team like this getting you hyped up, even if I didn’t show it,” said Allen.

“I need to work on my celebration, I think,” she laughed.

Hammon was not happy with the fourth quarter for her Aces.

“Do you think I like giving up 31 points?” she asked. “That’s a championship caliber team so they’r enot going anywhere. They’re not going to miss every shot. They’re going to make shots. That’s part of the game. The good thing is that we played solid enough and buckled down enough towards the end of that fourth quarter to walk out of here with a win.”

“Some of the shot she [Allen] hit were tough. That’s why you have to be solid and sturdy in so many other areas. But we never like it when one person comes in and makes more threes than our entire team,” she added.

Both teams will have the day off before they face each other again on Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville for a rematch. Las Vegas (7-0) will see if they can remain the WNBA’s lone unbeaten team, while the Sun (6-2) will try again to knock the defending champions off their perch.

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