Professional Basketball

Thomas’s Historic Outing Lifts Sun Over Lynx


Connecticut Sun center Alyssa Thomas puts up a left-handed layup during Tuesday night’s record-setting performance as Minnesota Lynx forward Nikolina Milic tries to defend. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine.

Never before in the history of women’s professional basketball has a single player ever recorded more than 20 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a single game. Not in the short-lived Women’s Professional Basketball League that lasted from 1978-1981, not in the American Basketball League that lasted from 1996-1999, and not in the history of the WNBA, now in its 27th year – until now.

Connecticut Sun center Alyssa Thomas’s performance on Tuesday was nothing short of spectacular. It was her second straight triple-double performance and she finished with 21 points, a career-high 20 rebounds and 12 assists. This is her fifth triple-double of the season and the ninth of her career. She is the only person in women’s professional basketball history to amass 20+ points, 20+ rebounds and 10+ assists in a single-game.

The first triple-double recorded in the WNBA was on July 27, 1999 when Houston Comets forward Sheryl Swoopes recorded 14 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists against the Detroit Shock. There have been a total of 25 triple-doubles including Thomas’s most recent. Two of them, Utah Starzz center Margo Dydek’s July 7, 2001 game against the Orlando Miracle; and Los Angeles Sparks forward Lisa Leslie’s September 9, 2004 outing against the Detroit Shock, substituted blocks in place of assists.

For the Sun-Lynx matchup, the game started much like it finished during their meeting on Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville. It was a dogfight in the paint and a close game. The Lynx led 16-14 at the end of the quarter.

The Sun began the second quarter on a 10-2 run to take a 24-18 lead on a 19-foot step back jump shot by forward DeWanna Bonner with 5:43 left on the clock. The half ended with the Sun holding a comfortable 37-30 lead. It was guard Tyasha Harris who provided the spark for Connecticut in the quarter. She scored 11 points in 10 minutes of play.

Connecticut Sun center Alyssa Thomas puts up a short jumper during Tuesday night’s record-setting performance on Tuesday, as Minnesota Lynx center Dorka Juhasz and forward Bridget Carleton try to defend. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine.

Minnesota began the third quarter with a 7-4 run, which cut the Sun lead to four with 8:10 remaining in the quarter, which forced the Sun to take a timeout. After regrouping, Connecticut went on a 11-6 run of their own, pushing their lead back up to nine, 52-43 with 4:51 remaining on the clock.

However, with 1:37 left in the quarter, Connecticut guard Tiffany Hayes tied up Minnesota guard Aerial Powers for a jump ball at the Sun end of the floor. Hayes tipped the ball to Thomas who was in the paint. She threw a bomb across the court to a streaking Harris who laid it in for a layup to put the Sun ahead by 10. Thomas gained the assist and was credited with her fifth triple-double on the year and the ninth of her career.

Lynx guard Lindsay Allen tried to get the momentum going for the Lynx with nine points and dished two assists in the quarter, which ended with the Sun up 60-52.

The Lynx had no answer for Thomas in the fourth quarter. Between missed shots and defensive lapses, Connecticut would not be stopped. When the final buzzer sounded, the Sun had downed the Lynx 79-69 in front of 4,894 at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun improved to 19-7 on the season while the Lynx dropped to 13-14.

Connecticut was led by Thomas’s 21 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists. Harris added 17 points, Hayes was good for 16, and Bonner chipped in 15 points and three blocks in the effort. The Sun shot 36-for-71 from the field (50.7 percent), made 4-of-20 three-pointers (20 percent) and converted 3-of-6 free throws.

Minnesota was led by 16 points from Lindsay Allen, 15 from guard Kayla McBride along with 13 points and six assists from Miller. Forward Dorka Juhasz pulled down 11 boards. The Lynx shot 23-for-59 in field goals (39 percent), hit 5-of-18 three pointers (27.8 percent) and went 18-for-24 from the charity stripe (75 percent).

“I’m just really proud of our team’s response, especially on the defensive end of the floor. I feel like we set the tone early,” said Sun head coach Stephanie White, who was amazed at learning from the ESPN announcers in the early part of the fourth quarter that Thomas had hit the triple-double mark in the third quarter. “There are sometimes, players that do things that you’re really just speechless. [It was] a spectacular moment that we all witnessed here tonight – a really, really incredible effort by her.”

Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve lauded Thomas’s effort.

Connecticut Sun guard Tiffany Hayes attempts a three-point shot as Minnesota Lynx guard Kayla McBride attempts to defend. Photo by James C. Garman /Sportspage Magazine.

“The first quarter was a little bit more like the other night,” said Reeve. “Then [Thomas] decided that things were going to be different and she just imposed her will that we had no answer for. She took over at both ends – defensively just being disruptive and her team fed off of that, and offensively, our bigs were ineffective in guarding her in any kind of way that was providing any kind of assistance. I thought AT just took over at both ends.”

Thomas’s performance notwithstanding, Reeve feels that her team could have played better and likened her feeling to the way that Stephanie White felt at the conclusion of Sunday’s game.

“If you look at our early attempts in the paint, we had perimeter cutters that were open and we missed three or four layups. In that first quarter, we had nice shot attempts but things waned a little bit,” said Reeve. “Once the second quarter began, it never felt like we were physically in it. They did anything they wanted to do.”

Thomas credits her teammates for her success on the court.

“I think before my injury, I think I was playing really good basketball and unfortunately, I had the injury,” she said. “I worked really hard to get back where I wanted to be, but a lot of my credit goes to my teammates. You know, I say this every time that without them making shots, I really can’t get triple-doubles.”

When asked about why she sees so much success against Minnesota, Thomas said, “I think I have [a lot] of triple-doubles against Minnesota, so I think I see the floor well against them. I think the biggest thing with them is that I have fives trying to guard me and pressure me outside the three-point line. Today I was really focused on getting to the hoop and finishing through contact.”

With 21 points, 20 rebounds, 12 assists and 0 turnovers, Connecticut Sun center, Alyssa Thomas earned her place in the history books as only the fourth person in the history of the NBA and WNBA to record a 15+, 15+, 10+ triple-double with no turnovers. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Watching Thomas’s performance is something that rookies, like Minnesota forward Diamond Miller, can take to their own game.

“One thing about her is that she is very consistent on what she does every night,” said Miller. “She doesn’t take a possession off. She’s a dog. She works really hard and she does the intangibles that everybody wants in a teammate. It is a testament to all of her hard work and whatever she puts in. She’s a hard worker.”

White sees that hard work every day in practice.

“It’s an honor to coach somebody that works as hard as she does, that gives so much to her team and to the game. You can take it for granted, so I hope that everybody who is in the building when she does it DOESN’T take it for granted,” said White. “I mean – nine career triple-doubles? Are you kidding me? And she still has so far to go. I hope that we never do take it for granted and always continue to be awed at the numbers that she is able to put up.”

One person who doesn’t take it for granted is the opposing coach, Cheryl Reeve. After coaching some of the greatest championship caliber players to ever play in the league during her coaching career, regarding Alyssa Thomas, Reeve said, “She’s clearly somebody that’s one of the best players in the world.” That’s not an understatement.

The Minnesota Lynx (13-14) host the New York Liberty (20-6) Friday night at 7 p.m. CT at Target Center in Minneapolis. Also on Friday, Connecticut (19-7) visits the Indiana Fever (7-19) at 6 p.m. CT at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

NOTE: Thomas’s triple-double was also done without giving up a turnover. In the NBA and WNBA combined, a 15+, 15+, 10+ with 0 turnovers triple-double has only happened four times. In the NBA, Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic accomplished it in 2021, Phoenix Suns forward Charles Barkley did it in 1992, along with Denver Nuggets guard Fat Lever accomplished it in 1988. Thomas is the only player in the WNBA having hit that plateau.

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