Breast cancer awareness and encouraging people to get tested means a lot to Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas. Her mother, Sharon, was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago and is now in remission.
Sunday’s game with the Las Vegas Aces was the first of two games to be hosted by Connecticut to help fight breast cancer. The Sun will wear special commemorative uniforms that will be auctioned off to benefit the Norma Pfriem Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital in Bridgeport.
Thomas scored a career-high 30 points, including five three-point shots, to lead the Sun to their fourth straight win with a 109-88 victory over the Aces at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Thomas scored 20 points in the first half and tied her career-high with 12 field goals in a single game.
“She got us going,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “She stayed really aggressive and then you saw the confidence. She made some pull-up jumpers but then she started to make the three (point goals) and you saw her hunting for it. She willed us. She really wanted to play this game.”
Thomas said this performance was special – especially since her mother is a breast cancer survivor.
“If you knew my mom and you could see her here when she gets a chance to come to games, I can already picture how she was watching this game,” Thomast said. “I’m excited I got to play well for her and have her be able to brag about that.”
Thomas wasn’t the only one to play well for the Sun. Chiney Ogwumike had 16 points and seven rebounds while Morgan Tuck had 10 points and six rebounds. The Sun set a new franchise record for most field goals in a single game (46) – one shy of the WNBA record. The 109 points scored in a single contest was one point shy of the Sun’s team record of 110 points.
“It’s definitely a good time for us,” Thomas said. “(Las Vegas) plays such a fast-paced game that it’s likely that it’s going to be a high-scoring game. It’s a lot of possessions and when you shoot well and you’re scoring, it can be a high scoring game.”
Connecticut (16-12) continued their push to qualify for the WNBA playoffs. Not only did they win their fourth straight game but they picked up a crucial tiebreaking edge over Las Vegas. Should the two teams finish tied, Connecticut has the first tiebreaker – a 2-1 edge in the season series.
The Sun are now ranked fifth in the league, just a half game behind Washington (16-11). With six games remaining, Connecticut is aiming to get a top four seed and avoid playing two single elimination games. Washington and Connecticut teams split their four game series. The next tiebreaker is record against teams over .500.
“That’s a big one for us tonight, a really important win,” Miller said. “Hats off to a crowd (6,791 fans) on a nice Sunday, they gave us the energy and kept pushing us through.
In preparing for this game, “we talked about being more disruptive and how important it would be to convert some turnovers tonight,” Miller said. “We had 20 points off their (14) turnovers tonight. We turned those three talented guards over five times and got more deflections on top of it, so there was much more disruption tonight.
“(Las Vegas is) a dominating offensive rebounding team,” he said. “They got an offensive rebound on the first possession of the game. For the next 39 minutes, we held them to one offensive rebound. A dominating, physical team on the boards, and we held them to one offensive rebounds for the next 39 minutes, a huge part of the game plan going in. Our defense wasn’t perfect tonight and they scored at a good percentage, but I loved the tempo we played at.”
A’ja Wilson had 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting while Kelsey Plum (21 points, 5 of 6 made threes) and Kayla McBride (17 points) also played well.
Connecticut had a franchise-record 64 points and 26 made field goals in the first half, building its lead to as large as 21 points, 58-37, when Alyssa Thomas sank a free throw with 2:15 left in the second quarter to cap a 23-10 Sun surge. Connecticut led, 64-49 at halftime.
The Aces (12-15) used a 10-3 run to get as close as 10 points (71-61) with 6:04 remaining in the third quarter but Connecticut pushed the lead back to 88-69 after three quarters.
The Sun lead crested at 23 points (105-82) with 4:50 remaining on a jumper from Courtney Williams.
“I thought Connecticut played very well, they made all their shots, they were geeked to play,” Las Vegas coach Bill Laimbeer said. “They’ve found their mojo again, they are a quality basketball team especially at home. We played OK. We didn’t play our stellar game, we are still learning, we are young and you saw all that inexperience out there especially when we made substitutions. We are still growing.”
Connecticut will make its last road trip of the season this week, visiting Dallas on Wednesday night and Chicago on Friday night before returning home for the last four games of the year. The Sun return home on Sunday, August 12 when they host Chicago at 3 p.m. at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
NOTES — The second breast cancer awareness game for Connecticut will be August 12 when they host Chicago. … Connecticut is just one game behind third place Los Angeles (17-11) and the Sun have the tiebreaker edge over the Sparks having won the first two of the three games between the two teams.
The Sun will host a blood drive to benefit the American Red Cross at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Thursday, August 9 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free parking is available and anyone who donates will receive a free ticket to Connecticut’s August 14 game against Dallas and a tour of the arena. … Fans are encouraged to register to donate ahead of time to secure a specific time. Visit https://rdcrss.org/2NLpVsq and enter code CT SUN to sign up for an appointment. Walk-ins are also welcome. To donate blood through the American Red Cross, individuals must be at least 17 years of age, weigh 110 pounds and be in general good health.