Professional Basketball

Lynx Outlast Late Sun Attack


Minnesota Lynx center Dorka Juhasz attempts to block a layup attempt by Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas during Sunday’s game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

It took Minnesota Lynx center Dorka Juhasz to block a shot by Connecticut Sun forward DeWanna Bonner in order for the Lynx to pull off an 87-83 upset on Sunday afternoon in front of 8,275 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The visiting Lynx began the game on a 7-3 run, but Bonner single-handedly scored all eight of Connecticut’s points in the first four minutes to give the Sun the 9-8 lead with 6:20 remaining in the opening quarter. Both teams traded baskets for the remainder of the quarter. The score was tied, 13-13, with 3:54 left on the clock. The Lynx led by two points, 23-21, when the quarter ended.

Minnesota shot 60 percent in the quarter but turned the ball over seven times. Connecticut shot only 31.8 percent during the same duration but was able to go 6-for-7 from the free throw line to maintain competitiveness. Bonner scored 12 of the Sun’s 21 points.

The teams began the second quarter the same way they ended the first. Both teams traded buckets and leads for the first four minutes, with neither team getting any separation.

However, Aerial Powers got hot for the Lynx. First she scored a layup and a free throw for Minnesota’s last three points before the quarter break. Then she opened the second quarter with a block, two rebounds and a three-pointer. After scoring a driving finger-roll layup with 5:45 left in the half, the Lynx held a 33-31 lead and Powers had scored ten points.

Minnesota Lynx guard Kayla McBride shoots one of her four three-pointers over the outstretched arms of Connecticut Sun guard DiJonai Carrington during Sunday’s contest at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Lynx guard Kayla McBride connected on a three-pointer with 2:44 left in the half. She then stole a pass from Sun guard Tiffany Hayes and then nailed another three-point shot giving the Lynx their largest lead, 44-36 with two minutes left in the half. McBride went over the 4,000 point mark during the exchange.

Not to be outdone, Connecticut center Alyssa Thomas took it upon herself to close the gap in the waning moments until halftime. She scored two layups and two free throws plus grabbed two rebounds to cut the lead in half. Minnesota led 48-44 at the half.

The Lynx shot 63.3 percent in the first half to Connecticut’s 35.1 percent. The Sun made 19 trips to the free throw stripe and scored on 17 of them. Minnesota went 6-for-8 from the charity stripe.

The Sun came out of the locker room energized and began the third quarter with a 6-0 run, which gave the home team the 50-48 lead. A short jumper from Juhasz tied the score at 50-50 with 7:35 remaining in the quarter.

The game was tied five times in the third quarter as neither team could find separation until McBride got hot again. She hit another three-pointer with 4:09 left on the clock. That was answered by a layup by Bonner on the next Connecticut possession. McBride answered that with another three-pointer. Minnesota was now up 62-58 with 3:15 left in the quarter.

Minnesota forward Jessica Shepard showed dominance in the last 1:24 of the quarter by going on a personal 6-1 run. Shepard scored three consecutive layups, but picked up a technical foul in the process. Bonner shot the free throw for Connecticut.

Connecticut Sun guard Rebecca Allen drives towards the baseline as Minnesota Lynx center Dorka Juhasz defends during Sunday’s contest at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Yet the quarter ended with heroics from Sun guard Natisha Hiedeman who nailed a long driving three-point shot as time expired. Minnesota led by six, 68-62, at the end of the third.

The fourth quarter began with a Juhasz layup to give the Lynx the eight-point lead again, but the Sun went on an 8-2 run of their own to pull to within two, 72-70 with 6:13 on left in regulation. Bonner scored six points during the run.

Thomas took over the scoring duties for Connecticut as she scored eight of her team’s next ten points to keep their hopes alive. Every time the Sun rallied for a small run, the Lynx answered.

With the Lynx leading 85-83 and 11.7 seconds left, Connecticut inbounded the ball to Bonner who dribbled to the elbow and launched a step-back three pointer with 1.8 seconds left. Juhasz stayed on her feet and posted up, blocking the shot in the progress. Shepard grabbed the rebound for Minnesota and was promptly fouled with just 0.3 seconds remaining. Shepard converted both free throw attempts to extend the lead to 87-83 for the win.

The Lynx finished the game shooting 35-for-61 from the field (57.4 percent); 6-for-19 from beyond the arc (31.6 percent); and 11-for-16 from the free throw line. They outscored the Sun 52-42 in points-in-the-paint and turned the ball over 20 times.

McBride led Minnesota with 19 points, guard Lindsay Allen added 16, Powers scored 14, Shepard netted 12 and Juhasz connected for 11 points in the effort. Shepard led all rebounders with 14.

For the Sun, they finished the game shooting 28-for-72 (38.9 percent) from the field; 3-for-17 in three-point field goals (17.6 percent) and 24-for-27 from the charity stripe. Connecticut led the Lynx in second chance points, 10-4, as they grabbed 11 offensive rebounds to Minnesota’s three.

The Sun were led by Bonner’s 31 points. Thomas scored 17 and DiJonai Carrington added 11. Thomas pulled down 14 rebounds and had 11 assists for the eighth triple-double of her career.

“We played hard but we didn’t play smart today,” said Sun head coach Stephanie White. “We’ve got to play smarter basketball in this league. Minnesota’s a team that plays their butts off and they take advantage when you make mistakes. They took advantage of every mistake we made tonight. They outplayed us. They out executed us. They earned the right to win this ballgame.”

Bonner knows they didn’t execute well.

Minnesota Lynx guard Kayla McBride (left) celebrates a play with her teammate, center Dorka Juhasz, during Sunday’s contest at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

“They came out in the first half and outplayed us,” said Bonner. “We gotta execute down the stretch. We’ve got to know what we are doing, know what we are running, and we have to take care of the ball. No matter what happens in the first half, there is still another half left to play, and I didn’t feel that we’ve come out of that locker room and made adjustments for ourselves.”

Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said, “We felt like we had to be really persistent. Connecticut’s defense is difficult to play against. There’s pressure on the perimeter.”

“Jess Shepard’s defensive rebounding was exceptional. It was helpful to our offense in a key stretch,” she added.

“It’s a paint game. Both directions. We were disappointed, certainly, in the second half with our paint protection and allowing their penetration. But that’s what both teams want to do and both teams had success. Both teams are going to try to clean it up for round two,” she concluded.

Minnesota began the season 0-6 but have since gone 13-7 over the last 20 contests to hold a 13-13 record, which is good enough for sixth place. Connecticut’s loss dropped them to 18-7, currently third place, one game behind the New York Liberty.

The Lynx (13-13) and Sun (18-7) will face each other in a back-to-back rematch on Tuesday at 6 p.m. CT on Tuesday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

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