Professional Basketball

Storm Upset Sun in Seattle, 72-61

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Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd goes up for a layup while being defended by Connecticut Sun guard Tyasha Harris during Sunday afternoon’s game at Climate Pledge Arena. Photo by Chuckarelei/Sportspage Magazine

The Seattle Storm used a 17-3 run and 16 points from guard Jewell Loyd to turn an 11-point deficit into an 11-point 72-61 win over the visiting Connecticut Sun in front of 9,935 spectators at Climate Pledge Arena on Sunday afternoon.

The Sun, playing their fourth road game in the last five games, began the contest with a layup from center Brionna Jones to take the early 2-0 lead. It was answered by a short jumper from Storm center Ezi Magbegor to even the contest.

Connecticut jumped out to a 6-2 lead on two free throws by Jones after getting fouled by Magbegor, and a steal by forward Alyssa Thomas who scored an easy fast break layup. After a Loyd layup and a transition layup from guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, the game was tied 6-6 with 4:33 remaining in the opening quarter.

The visitors finished the quarter on an 6-2 run with layups from Jones and Thomas. Seattle guard Sami Whitcomb’s layup was the only score for the home team.

With 1:09 on the clock and Connecticut holding onto a 14-8 lead, Sun guard DiJonai Carrington was driving for a layup, lowered her shoulder and made contact with Storm forward Jordan Horston, who was trying to avoid the contact. The officials called a foul on Horston, which was challenged by Seattle head coach Noelle Quinn. After a three-minute wait for the officials to review video and confer, the call was overturned. Even though the challenge was successful, the Storm failed to take advantage on the offensive end. Connecticut led 14-8 at the end of the first quarter after a layup by Thomas with 39.3 seconds extended their lead by two more.

The teams traded baskets during the beginning of the second quarter. Neither team was able to make a run, though it appeared as if the Sun was going to start walking away with it. Connecticut held the 28-17 lead following a layup from guard Tiffany Mitchell with 5:13 remaining in the half.

Seattle Storm forward Nneka Ogwumike splits a pair of defenders while attempting to drivet he paint for a layup during Sunday’s game at Climate Pledge Arena. Photo by Chuckarelei/Sporspage Magazine

Then Seattle struck hard and fast.

Loyd made a layup and was fouled by Sun guard Rachel Banham. She made the free throw to make the score 28-20. Loyd and Diggins-Smith hit jumpers and the score was 28-22. Magbegor scored on a cutting layup, and then scored another one on a tough pass from Horston to tie the score 28-28. Then Loyd was fouled by Jones. Seattle took their first lead of the game after converting two free throws. It was 30-28 in favor of the Storm with 1:43 left in the half having gone on a 13-0 run.

Connecticut guard Tyasha Harris missed a three-point shot but was fouled by Diggins-Smith. She converted all three free throws to restore the Connecticut 31-30 lead with 1:21 remaining in the half.

Layups by Loyd and forward Nneka Ogwumike extended the Seattle run to 17-3 and gave them the 34-31 halftime lead.
Diggins-Smith scored a layup when play resumed after the halftime break to extend the lead to five-points and the run extended to 19-3.

The Sun shooting went ice cold. They were 0-10 from the field during the Storm run. When Harris nailed a three-pointer at the 8:28 mark in the period to make the score 36-34 in favor of the Storm and end the run, it was their first field goal since the 5:12 mark in the first quarter.

The visitors weren’t going away easily. After Ogwumike and Loyd scored layups to extend the lead to 41-34 with 7:04 left in the third quarter, it was time for another run. This time it belonged to Connecticut.

Seattle Storm guard Skylar Diggins-Smith and Connecticut Sun guard DiJonai Carrington battle for a loose ball during Sunday afternoon’s game at Climate Pledge Arena. Photo by Chuckarelei/Sportspage Magazine

Forward DeWanna Bonner scored her first points of the game and then scored some more. Two layups and a jump shot by Bonner, and a layup from Carrington, and the Sun held the 42-41 advantage after the 8-0 run midway through the third quarter.

Ogwumike hit a three-pointer to give the Storm the two-point lead, but after Jones made two free throws after being fouled by Ogwumike, the game was knotted up 44-44 with 3:57 left in the third quarter.

Then Seattle went on another long sustained run as Diggins-Smith, Ogwumike, Horston and Magbegor each scored layups and Thomas scored a put back layup with 8.8 seconds left in the quarter. It was 55-48 in favor of the Storm as they finished the period on an 11-4 run.

The Sun players now had to battle the clock and fatigue in order to try to get back into the game.

Magbegor’s layup to begin the fourth quarter certainly didn’t help the Connecticut Sun cause. Thomas and Diggins-Smith exchanged free throws to cancel each other out. Jones scored on a layup, and Bonner hit a three-pointer and the deficit had been cut to four points, 59-55 with 5:07 remaining in the game.

The Storm continued to play aggressive. It paid off in a 10-2 run that was fueled by Ogwumike, Loyd and Magbegor combining to go 5-for-6 from the free throw line over the next two minutes, a Horston layup and a three-pointer by Diggins-Smith and the Storm led 69-57 with just over two minutes remaining in the game.

The Sun had one last chance to get back into the ballgame.

Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas gets wrapped up by Seattle Storm guard Jordan Horston during Sunday afternoon’s game. Photo by Chuckerelei/Sportspage Magazine

Jones scored on a layup with 1:50 left on the clock. She was fouled by Magbegor but missed the free shot. Horston connected on a three-pointer for Seattle with 56.6 seconds left in the game. This was answered by a jump shot from Thomas, which would be the game’s final score. When the buzzer sounded, Seattle was on top 72-61.

Seattle went 27-for-64 (42.2 percent) from the field; 4-for-16 (25.0 percent) from three-point range; and 14-for-16 (87.5 percent) from the free throw line. They committed 15 turnovers that led to 18 Connecticut points.

“I was trying to engauge our physicality versus a team who was historically physical,” said Storm head coach Noelle Quinn. “Watching Nneka [Ogwumike] go up against [Alyssa] Thomas showed that we have an ability to match up in a way that maybe we haven’t in the past.”

Connecticut went 25-for-67 (37.3 percent) from the field; 2-for-14 (14.3 percent) from three-point range; and 9-for-17 (52.9 percent) from the charity stripe. They gave up 17 turnovers that led to 17 Seattle points.

“I thought our defense was good enough to give us a chance,” said Sun head coach Stephanie White. “Our offense really struggled today. I thought for most of the ballgame, we just really struggled to put the ball in the hole,”

Seattle had the 44-40 edge in points-in-the-paint; the 10-7 margin in second chance points; and 12-6 lead in fast break points. There were five ties and five lead changes.

“I think the grind it out, start with the defense and focus on stopping teams on that end of the floor is very similar [between the two teams] right now,” said Quinn.

All five Seattle starters reached double figures. The Storm was led by Jewell Loyd’s 16 points. Skylar Diggins-Smith and Nneka Ogwumike each scored 13 points, Ezi Magbegor tallied 11 points and Jordan Horston pitched in for 10 points. Diggins-Smith led the team with eight assists and Magbegor led the team with nine assists.

“I think we did a great job of just sustaining our energy defensively throughout all four quarters,” said Magbegor, “When we’re like that, I feel like our offense just comes a lot easier.”

The Sun was led by 14 points from Alyssa Thomas; 14 points from Brionna Jones; and 10 points from Tyasha Harris. Thomas also led the Sun with 14 rebounds and three assists.

“They pressured us. I think we did a poor job of making the reads and seeing the mismatches. I think that was on us. We have to be better and ready to play,” said Thomas. “I think this is a learning experience for us. We have a lot of video to watch and we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to be a lot better. We can’t come out and play the way we did.”

The Storm (10-6) host the Indiana Fever (7-11) at 6 p.m. CT on Thursday at Climate Pledge Arena. Meanwhile, the Sun (13-3) travel to Washington, D.C., to face the Mystics (4-13) for a 6 p.m. CT matchup also on Thursday.

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