This isn’t the same Connecticut Sun team that the WNBA has been beating on for the past few seasons. A year ago, the Sun were 4-13 at the midway point of the 34-game season.
Tonight, the Sun are 10-7 with four consecutive wins and are in first place in the Eastern Conference after erasing a 22-point deficit to beat the Washington Mystics, 95-92 Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena in front of 6,073 fans here in Uncasville.
It was the biggest comeback in franchise history for the Sun. Connecticut beat the Phoenix Mercury after being down by 19 points on this same date 11 years ago with an 82-77 victory.
Washington (10-8) led by 22 points with 5:04 left in the third quarter. But Connecticut used their defense to get back into the game. The Sun went on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 12 thanks to several key rebounds and steals from Jasmine Thomas. Connecticut had four steals in the final four minutes of the third quarter to trim a 22-point lead to eight.
Alyssa Thomas’ driving layup with 4:32 tied the game to fully erase Washington’s lead. Again, it was Thomas with 36.4 seconds left on a driving layup that gave Connecticut the lead for good, 94-92. She finished with 19 points, including 15 points in the second half.
Jonquel Jones led the Sun with 22 points and a team-high nine rebounds while Jasmine Thomas had 15 points and a team-leading five steals. Courtney Williams and Shekinna Stricken each chipped in with 12 points.
“I’m so proud of the team tonight. That’s a huge win, and in the manner that it happened is pretty incredible,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “The thing that I’m most pleased about is that they stuck together. They didn’t panic. They kept believing and we kept attacking.”
Alyssa Thomas didn’t participate in pre-game shoot around because she was slowed by a fever. It didn’t show on the court against the Mystics.
“Our team feeds off (Alyssa Thomas) and when she’s in attack mode, and when she’s being really aggressive, our team can’t help but follow,” Miller said. “She was going to be a game-time decision with a fever, for her to get out the amount of minutes that she did, just a true warrior. We fed off of her warrior mentality, attacking the basket at the end.”
The Sun lost to Washington in their first meeting of the season with a 78-76 win in Washington, keyed by a three-point play from Elena Delle Donne with 44.8 seconds remaining.
“We are tired of losing,” Jasmine Thomas said. “We just made a decision tonight we were going to fight until the end and the game turned around in our favor. I just think we truly believe in ourselves now. We talked about it a lot. We had individuals that really believed in this team, and I think now it has trickled through everybody. We really believe that if we play together as a team we can beat anybody.”
The Sun were the first team to beat Minnesota (13-2) this year, 98-93, on June 17 in Minnesota. Connecticut is 9-3 in their last 12 games.
“We just have a lot of heart,” Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas said. “This team never quits and it’s just a lot of fun out there.”
Delle Donne led Washington with a game-high 28 points. Guard Kristi Tolliver had a season-high 17 points while Emma Messerman had 16 points, also a season-high. The Mystics, under former Sun coach Mike Thibault, have lost three straight – all on the road.
“The game changed in the second half. If you are allowed to hold and grab, you will get away with a lot of stuff. Our turnovers were gifts. They got 19 points off our turnovers. It is hard to come off screens when you are being held,” Thibault said. But he also told his team that if they expect to do well in the playoffs they’ll have to perserve in games like this.
“As physical as it got, I told our team, we can’t complain because sometimes playoffs games are like that too,” he said. “We must learn to play through that even if we are not getting calls or getting held, you must play through that. I do not think we did a good job of that tonight.”
The Sun have a tough two-game road trip approaching. They’ll be in Seattle on Wednesday to face the Storm in an 11 a.m. start or 3 p.m. here on the East Coast. The next night, the Sun will be in Los Angeles to face the defending WNBA champion Sparks at 10:30 p.m., EST.
Connecticut returns to the Mohegan Sun Arena in about a week when they host San Antonio on Sunday, July 16 at 3 p.m.
NOTES: Jonquel Jones led the Sun with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. This is her fifth game this season with 20 or more points and in double-figures nine out of the last 10 games. Jones scored her 500th career point tonight. … Alyssa Thomas scored in double figures for the 11th consecutive game. … For Jasmine Thomas, the five steals was a season-high. .. Stricklen drained four 3-point shots and leads the Sun with 38 3-point shots. … It was the first loss of the year for the Mystics against Eastern Conference foes. Washington is now 7-1 against the Eastern Conference.