UNCASVILLE, May 26 – Curt Miller, the Connecticut Sun’s third-year coach and general manager, knows that this WNBA season will be a challenge with 34 games in just 13 weeks.
That is 25 fewer calendar days that it took to play 34 games a year ago. There will be some long and challenging road trips for every team – including the Sun. So, Miller knows it is important to get wins when you can – especially at home.
Miller wasn’t particularly pleased with some stretches of Saturday night’s WNBA game at the Mohegan Sun Arena but the Sun are off to their first 3-0 start in 10 years after a 86-77 win over the winless Indiana Fever.
Alyssa Thomas led the Sun with a season-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field while Rachel Banham came off the bench to score a career-high 14 points. Courtney Williams (11 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists), Jasmine Thomas (11 points, 4 assists, 3 steals) and Chiney Ogwumike (10 points, 8 rebounds) each scored in double figures.
The Sun never trailed and led by as many as 20 points. The last time Connecticut began the season with three straight wins was in 2008.
“Well it wasn’t always pretty tonight, and certainly we had stretches that we didn’t play particularly well, but mission accomplished,” Miller said. “We didn’t shy away this year from talking about how important May was. We got off to slow starts my first year (1-7) and second year (1-5).
“We knew when the schedule came out and how much we’re on the road in June and early July, that this three game home stand to start the year was very, very important to us,” he said. “So, mission accomplished getting to 3-0. We’re really excited about that, good teams take care of business at home.”
The Sun hit the road for four games in six days beginning on June 1. They will visit Chicago, Washington, Atlanta and New York. After returning home on June 9 to face the defending WNBA champion Minnesota and a game against Washington June 13 at the Mohegan Sun Arena, the Sun return to the road for five games in 11 days on June 15-26.
Saturday night against Indiana, eight different Sun players scored, and Connecticut racked up 20 assists on 32 made field goals.
The Sun appeared ready to break open the game in the second quarter, using a 13-0 run over the first 3:08 to build a 37-21 lead. But the Fever kept it interesting, getting within 40-35 on a layup from Erica Wheeler with 3:37 left in the half.
The Sun led 47-38 at the break, and used a 20-6 run midway through the third quarter to build the lead up to 70-51 entering the final quarter.
The Fever (0-5) staged a late rally, making five of eight three-point attempts in the fourth quarter, but never got closer than nine.
“Tonight, I thought we had good stretches,” Miller said. “We couldn’t sustain it for as long as we wanted. The fourth quarter, as good as it was for us the other night, was a struggle tonight.”
Banham shone when given the opportunity, playing 18 minutes. “She’s finally healthy and playing super confident,” Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas said. “She’s been playing well all preseason for us, and I’m glad to finally see her get some time and she’s playing really well.”
Indiana (0-5) is winless and frustrated. Kelsey Mitchell finished with 18 points, including 4-of-8 from three-point range, while Victoria Vivians had a career-high 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting and three 3-point goals. Erica Mitchell matched her career high of nine rebounds – first set here in Uncasville last year. Candice Dupree scored 14 for Indiana.
“You could see the frustration in how we were making the uncomfortable and they were taking timeouts and uncharacteristic stuff,” Indiana coach Pokey Chapman said. “I will always give the opposition credit in terms of the win, but I think there were some turnovers in there, we had 18 that led to 18 points off of them and it should have been 12. I thought we did the hard part, outrebounding them (37-29), we just have to do a better job of being disciplined defending without fouling.”