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Stricklen helps spark red-hot Sun past Atlanta for seventh straight win

Connecticut guard Jasmine Thomas had a season-high nine assists and scored 13 points as the Sun improved to 9-1 with a win over Atlanta Friday night.

The Connecticut Sun continue to find that open shooter on the floor and that shooter continues to sink shots.

Veteran Shekinna Stricklen made seven three-points shots and scored 24 points to lead the red-hot Sun to an 86-76 win over the Atlanta Dream before 6,608 at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday night.

Connecticut (9-1) won their seventh straight game and extended won their 13th straight regular season game at home – a new franchise record.

The Sun held Atlanta (2-6) to just 26 percent shooting in the first half and built leads of up to 22 points in the second half. The Dream rallied and cut the lead to five points in the final four minutes but Stricklen drained two more three-point shots to keep the Sun ahead.

“The beauty of (Stricklen) is that is what she does (drain 3-point shots) and she owns it and her team looks for her,” Atlanta coach Nicki Collen, a former Sun assistant, lamented. “There is an unselfishness with his team in finding her when (Stricklen) is open. When we make bad decisions and leave her (open) in the corner and she has (already) made five (three-point) shots, we can’t do that.”

Fueled by 10 straight points from Brittney Sykes and 14 points overall in the final period, Atlanta had cut a 22-point lead to five with 3:25 remaining in the game. But Connecticut’s Courtney Williams found Stricklen open in the corner with a quick pass and Sticklen nailed the three-point to push the lead back to eight.

Now in her fourth season with the Sun, Stricklen fell one three-pointer shy of the WNBA record for most in a single game. She has drained 20 three-point shots in the last three games and has scored at least 16 points in the last three contests.

“Shekinna Stricklen stayed red hot from the three-point line,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “The driving lanes are bigger when she’s making shots or when you have to help when people are playing downhill like Jas (Jasmine Thomas) was playing then you’re going to create some opportunities for Strick. That starting group was really, really solid in stretches on both end of the ball.”

Jonquel Jones had 18 points and eight rebounds for Connecticut, which has the best record in the league, while Jasmine Thomas scored 13 points with a season-high nine assists. Williams had 10 points and three assists. The Sun sank a season-high 12 3-point shots.

“Another home win for us. We really have created something special here,” Miller said. “Our fan base is just tremendous. Atlanta had a 51-point second half and really made us work for that. But we took care of business at home and there were stretches of that game when we really efficient and did a lot of good things.

“We saw (guard Jasmine Thomas) in attack mode tonight that we haven’t seen all season. Her ability to play North-South tonight and play with change of pace and tempo really created a lot of opportunities; not only for herself but for her teammates with her nine assists,” Miller said.

Sykes had 18 for the Dream while Jessica Breland scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds for Atlanta. Former UConn star Tiffany Hayes had 12 points, five rebounds and six assists.

Connecticut hits the road for three games next week. The Sun will be at Chicago on Sunday, at Dallas on Wednesday and they conclude the road trip with a Saturday contest in Washington.

The win gives Connecticut the season series over Atlanta, a potential important tiebreaker come playoff time. The Sun have won the first two games in the three-game season series.

NOTES: It is the third time in WNBA history that a team has started 9-1. Atlanta (2013) and Minnesota (2017) also won nine of their first 10 games. The best start in WNBA history is 10-0, which has been done three times.

Stricklen, who was the No. 2 pick by the Seattle Storm in the 2012 WNBA draft, was 7-of-11 from the three-point range.  Her seven made 3’s were a season-high and one shy of her career-high. Stricken also finished with a season high in field goals (8), field goal attempts (13), and rebounds (three) as well as a career high of three-point attempts (11).

Stricklen was traded to Connecticut in 2015 in a deal that sent Atlanta’s Renee Montgomery from the Sun to Seattle.

BOXSCORE: Connecticut 86, Atlanta 76

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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