Professional Basketball

Sun suffer home loss to give road-weary Mystics first win of season

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UNCASVILLE – In a game with 54 personal fouls leading to 68 free throws, the Connecticut Sun (1-2) lost 84-76 in overtime to the Washington Mystics, which had their first win of the young WNBA season in a game in which they could easily have fallen to 0-4.

“This was a very disappointing loss for us,” said first year Head Coach Curt Miller. He said his team had the advantage of being fresher than the Mystics which were playing their third game in four days (including back to backs) but despite a game plan to put his team “in position late to wear them down,” the Sun seemed worn down making compound errors in the final seconds of regulation to send it into overtime and then failing to execute when it was necessary.

In regulation the Sun held a 67-64 edge with less than two minutes remaining but Chiney Ogwumike missed a layup after grabbing an offensive rebound and with less than a minute, Washington made a layup to cut the lead to two points.

Sun 6-4 center Kelsey Bone took an ill-advised jump shot, the Sun fouled Mystic Stephanie Dolson whose one made free throw forced the overtime. Miller said the ball got “stuck” in Bone’s hand, and she was unsure whether to pass it off, dribble in for an easier shot and that hesitation cost her. The ball stuck several times but “we have to keep the ball moving.”

In the  5-minute overtime, the Sun missed four straight shots while the Mystics built a 4-point lead on a layup and two free throws. The Sun came within one point midway through the overtime which quickly turned into a six point deficit because of missed shots and turnovers while the Mystics were 6 of 6 from the line in the final 37 seconds to get their first win of the season.

“Regardless of how poorly we shot the ball (34.6 percent from the floor), we put ourselves in a position to win and with under a minute to go and didn’t make the plays.,” Miller said.

“We feel like we gave one away but you’ve got to play to the buzzer and we didn’t get it done.”

He said he has emphasized that teams have to beat you by making shots and not going to the foul line. The Mystics (1-3) shot 74.4 percent (29 of 39) from the line while Connecticut shot 65.5 percent (19 of 29).

Miller said some of his team “played their hearts out” but his dilemma is that some offensive players aren’t ready to make defensive stops and some defensive players don’t shoot well.

He said he’s still trying to find a rotation of players “who can give us both.”

Sun forward Alyssa Thomas held up the offensive end with a season high 18 points.

Mystics Head coach Mike Thibault, who was fired by the Sun after the 2012 season, said it was a huge relief getting the win, especially on the road where the team has started to bond together.

Mystic guard Taylor Hill was the game’s leading scorer with 24 points (10 of 11 from the free throw line) followed by former UConn player Bria Hartley with 16 and Emma Meesseman with 14.

Sun players said they weren’t aggressive enough in attacking the basket – a style that Miller has tried to introduce from the start of training camp.

They also said they were too complacent at points in the game and seemed to settle instead of staying on the attack

Ogwumike, whose minutes were limited to 13:36 as she works her way back into form after sitting out the 2015 season after knee surgery, had 6 rebounds but only 2 points.

She said watching all last year made her realize the importance of every single possession. “We have to be mentally locked into every possession,” she said, adding that it’s a new season and a new offense and the team has to learn to play together. “We hope we can learn that very very quickly but it’s a journey.”

The journey could get rougher Thursday when the undefeated Los Angeles Sparks (3-0) come to town, led by perennial all-star Candace Parker who is averaging 18.7 points a game, and Chiney Ogwumike’s sister, Nneke, who is scoring an average of 16 points a game.. The two are the major reason the Sparks are leading the league in average points a game with 90.7.

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