After an good two-game road trip on the West Coast, the Connecticut Sun were lacking a little energy in the first half of Sunday’s WNBA game against the lowly San Antonio Stars in Uncasville.
Connecticut, which leads the Eastern Conference, beat Seattle on Tuesday, 83-79 behind a team-record tying seven 3-point goals from Shekinna Stricklen. The next day, the Sun got an early lead but couldn’t hold it in an 87-77 loss to defending league champion Los Angeles.
Yesterday, the Stars, who have won just two of 18 games, had a five-point halftime lead over the Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Sun didn’t panic. They came out energized in the third quarter with a 33-10 run to grab control of the game and run away with an 89-75 victory before 6,355 fans. Every player made at least one field goal for the Sun (12-8), who were led by Courtney Williams with 15 points. Alyssa Thomas, Jonquel Jones and Jasmine Thomas each scored 13 points.
“We’re proud of our team in the second half. The energy, the desire, the effort that they brought in the third quarter was really, really impressive,” Connecticut coach Curt Miller said. “There was no magical X-and-O change at halftime; there was no yelling at them. It was a calm locker room. We stayed with the game plan that we talked about. We talked about disrupting and getting more hands on the ball.
“That third quarter was a dominant performance,” Miller said. “That’s total in effort, desire and veteran leadership that got us together and they played their butts off in that second half and that third quarter obviously changed the game.”
The Sun shot 68.4 percent from the floor (13-of-19) in the third quarter. After trailing 40-35 at halftime, Connecticut had a 68-50 lead after three quarters.
Connecticut had eight steals in the third quarter, a franchise record for thefts in a quarter. The previous record was seven, most recently done on August 8, 2006 at Chicago.
“Our defense gets us going so once we keyed in on our defense, as you can see we were just getting out on our transition and really took the life out of them,” Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas said.
Williams sank 7-of-12 shots to lead Connecticut with 15 points. She was a perfect 5-for-5 with 10 points in the third quarter.
“They upped their energy and aggressiveness and we turned the ball over 12 times in the second half compared to just two in the first half and that says everything,” San Antonio’s Kayla McBride said. “Connecticut wants to play in transition and we allowed them to play their game instead of playing our game.”
Center Isabelle Harrison led San Antonio (2-17) with 17 points. Former UConn All-American guard Moriah Jefferson had eight points for the Stars.
For Connecticut, Jones had six rebounds and two blocked shots to go along with her 13 points. It was the 16th time in 20 game with 10 or more points in a single game. Alyssa Thomas led the Sun with a team-high nine rebounds. Stricken had a career-high four steals.
Connecticut plays at New York (9-9) on Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. at Madison Square Garden before taking off next weekend for the All-Star break. The Sun have two starters on the Eastern Conference squad – Jonquel Jones and Jasmine Thomas. It is the first WNBA All-Star appearance for both players. The All-Star Game is Saturday in Seattle.
The Sun (12-8) hold a one-game lead over Washington (11-9) in the Eastern Conference and are ranked No. 3 in the WNBA. The top eight teams in the league overall, despite the conference, play in the WNBA playoffs. That change began with the 2016 playoffs. The Sun have missed the playoffs the past four seasons.