UNCASVILLE, June 29 – A season-high 8,668 fans may have filled the Mohegan Sun Arena to see old friends Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird – a pair of former national champions with the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.
They also got to see the Connecticut Sun’s dynamic duo – the Thomas’ as the Sun raced to their sixth win in the last eight games Thursday night with a 96-89 win over the Seattle Storm in front of a national TV audience on ESPN2.
Veteran Jasmine Thomas, the sixth-year guard from Duke, scored a career-high 29 points, draining 12 of 16 shots from the floor and making 4-of-6 from three-point range. Alyssa Thomas, the third-year forward from Maryland, had 17 points and a career-high nine assists for Connecticut, now 7-7 on the year.
The Sun led by as many as 17 points early in the fourth quarter before Seattle (6-8) cut the lead to one point with 1:19 remaining in the game. But Shekinna Stricklen hit a 17-foot jumper with 1:06 left to extend the lead back to three.
Connecticut forced a Seattle turnover with 48 seconds remaining and Jasmine Thomas had a driving, finger roll layup with 33 seconds to go to swell the lead to five points. Jasmine Thomas finished off the win with a steal with 17.9 seconds remaining.
“It was a big win for us in this stretch,” Connecticut coach Curt Miller said. “It’s not easy to win in this league in a stretch where this is our fourth game in seven days. Our players mustered up the energy to make plays in the fourth quarter when that game got tight.”
Stricklen had 14 points for the Sun while Jonquel Jones had 13 points and 10 rebounds – the eighth time this year in 14 games with a double-double. The Sun had four players in double figures.
Seattle was led by Stewart with 22 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds. Bird had 16 points and five assists. Guard Jewell Loyd had 21 points for the Storm.
“They are a really good team, they have beaten the best team in the league and they are playing at a high octane clip offensively,” Seattle coach Jenny Boucek said. “They are scoring at a high rate and are a huge challenge defensively especially in transition.”
Jasmine Thomas had a career-high 29 points – breaking her previous record of 23 set last Friday against New York. She has scored more than 20 points in three of the last five games.
“Jasmine Thomas had a tremendous game,” Miller said. “She stayed aggressive. Sue (Bird) was on her. Jewell (Lloyd) was on her. She just kept being aggressive. She is playing with so much confidence right now. She is shooting the ball so well from the three-point line. She just has a confidence that she can make plays when we need them.”
Alyssa Thomas got the Sun rolling early beating Bird to the jump ball and racing to the basket to score the first points of the game. Connecticut raced out to early leads of 7-0 and 9-3. “Once we get going in transition, we’re hard to slow down,” she said.
“Nine assists tonight,” Miller said. “We’re putting the ball in her hands and allowing her to be a point forward in our system, and because of it, our spacing is better than ever and we’re really playing well offensively.”
Seattle started the second half on a 12-4 run to cut the deficit to 52-50 with 6:47 remaining. The Sun would later score 12-straight to take a 70-56 lead with 1:08 left in the third quarter.
NOTES: The 48 points, in the first half, by Connecticut was the second most scored in a first half this season. They scored a season high of 49 at Chicago on May 28. … Connecticut’s players went 39-of-69 from the field for a season high of 56.5 percent made baskets. The Sun’s previous was 55.4 percent on June 17, at Minnesota. … As part of the Sun’s 15th anniversary season, former stars Rebecca Lobo, Katie Douglas and Nykesha Sales were introduced and interviewed at halftime on the floor. … The two Thomas women are not related. … The Sun play at Indiana on Saturday night at 1 p.m. and travel to San Antonio for a game on Wednesday, July 5 before returning home to face Washington on July 8 at 7 p.m.