The two teams with the best records in the young WNBA season meet at the Mohegan Sun Arena Tuesday night in Uncasville.
A year ago, the Washington Mystics went to the WNBA finals for the first time in franchise history. A little over two weeks ago, the Mystics opened the season here in Connecticut without injured star Elena Della Donne and dropped a 15-point decision to the Sun.
The two teams went at each other hard on Tuesday night. The Mystics led by 10 points early in the third quarter but Jonquel Jones caught fire and scored nine straight points in an 12-1 run by the Connecticut Sun to help the Sun pull away from Washington with a 83-75 victory before a 5,224 fans.
Connecticut (6-1) hit ten 3-point shots in the contest. The Sun closed out the third quarter with a 24-9 run to take command of the game.
The win also gives Connecticut the tiebreaker advantage and that could prove pivotal for seeding when the WNBA playoffs begin in September. With the win, the Sun have won two of the first three game with the Mystics (4-2).
For the second straight season, Connecticut has started the season 6-1 and they currently hold the best record in the WNBA.
Jones led the Sun, who have won four straight, with 24 points and seven rebounds while Courtney Williams scored 23 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Shekinna Stricklen had 12 points on four 3-point shots.
“Big win, proud of those guys in that locker room tonight,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “We made shots tonight. We were able to regroup at halftime and talk about their scheme against us that was giving us trouble. We made some adjustments and did a much better job attacking them offensively.
“But our defense was good all night against a team that has shot makers all around the floor,” Miller said. “
The Mystics were led by Arel Atkins with 18 points while Aerial Powers added 14. Della Donne scored 13 points as Washington had their four-game winning streak snapped. Washington came into the game averaging a league-leading 89.6 points a game and led the WNBA with eight 3-points a game. Against the Sun, they hit six from long range.
“We missed assignments tonight. If we double off the wrong person and leave Courtney Williams or Shekinna Stricklen open behind the three-point line when you are not supposed to be the helper, that is a killer,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said. “On top of that, we had a couple of players have tough shooting nights.”
On Sunday, Connecticut used their defense to beat Atlanta, holding the Dream to just 11 points in the fourth quarter. That was necessary since the Sun shot 28.4 percent from the floor and still found a way to come away with 65-59 victory.
Last night, the Mystics led by as many as eight points in the first half although Connecticut did cut the lead to three times in the second quarter. The Mystics led 37-33 at halftime.
With three consecutive baskets to begin the third quarter, Washington boosted their lead to 10 points. The Mystics led by 10 with 7:41 remaining in the third quarter when Connecticut rallied.
Alyssa Thomas grabbed a rebound in the lane, put it back up, scored and was fouled on the play. She hit the free throw to cut the Mystic lead to seven, 46-39. That’s when Jonquel Jones took over, scoring nine consecutive points on a pair of three-point shots, a foul shot and a baseline basket as the Sun grabbed a 48-47 lead.
“She is playing great,” Thibault said of Jonquel Jones. “Those long, tall players, the five or six in the league that post up and step out are all special. She is clearly one of those players. You don’t have a team that is 6-1 and her as player of the week by accident. She has worked at her game. She started working on her three-point shot when she was a junior in college (at George Washington).”
Tied at 55 all, Connecticut’s Layshita Clarendon got hot. She drained a three-point shot after taking a nice pass from Alyssa Thomas in the paint. Clarendon drove to the basket with 40.5 seconds left for a 60-55 Sun lead at halftime.
A floating one-handed basket over Della Donne by Clarendon and a reverse layup on the baseline from Williams gave the Sun a seven-point lead, 64-57.
Connecticut led by four with 5:18 remaining before a quick 7-0 run gave the Sun some breathing room. Stricklen drained her fourth 3-point shot of the day, Williams hit a shot hanging in the air in the middle of the lane and Jonquel Jones ripped down a rebound and outfaced Washington defender LaToya Sanders for a basket with 3:40 remaining an 11-point lead, 77-66.
“I think we picked up the intensity (in the second half),” Connecticut’s Courtney Williams said. “(Shekinna Stricklen) knocked down some big shots that got us going, JJ (Jonquel Jones) knocked down some big shots. We got some shots where we were able to get out and run. So I think that was huge for us.”
The Sun travel to Minnesota on Friday night for a game with the Lynx before returning home to the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday at 3 p.m. to host the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm.
NOTES: With the win, Connecticut matched a franchise record with their eleventh straight regular season win at home. The Sun won 11 regular season games at home during 2004 and 2005. Connecticut did lose to Phoenix in the second round of the playoffs at home last September. … Alyssa Thomas had just five points but pulled down a season-high 12 rebounds. … The Sun shot a season-high 47 percent from the floor, knocking down 30 or more field goals (31) for the fourth time this season. … Connecticut has won three straight games over Washington. … Jonquel Jones was named the WNBA’s Eastern Conference player of the week for the second straight week. She averaged 17.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and five blocks her game last week. She came in Tuesday night’s game leading the WNBA in rebounds (13.0) and blocks (3.2)