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Determined Sun win fourth straight with win over New York

Jasmine Thomas scored 18 points and a game-high seven assists in Wednesday’s WNBA win over New York.

Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller was pleased his team was able to grind out a win over the New York Liberty Wednesday morning before a large matinee crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena. In front of a season-high 8,249 fans, the Sun won their fourth straight game with a 70-63 win over the Liberty.

The Sun (13-6) go into Saturday’s WNBA All-Star break tied for the best record in the league with the Las Vegas Aces.

Jasmine Thomas led the way for Connecticut with 18 points and a game-high seven assists while Courtney Williams had 13 points and eight rebounds and WNBA All-Star starter Jonquel Jones had 12 points and 10 rebounds – her ninth double/double of the season.

The visiting Liberty, who started three former UConn players – Tina Charles, Bria Hartley and Kia Nurse, were never quite out of the game but the Sun simply continued to make plays down the stretch.

A Hartley three-pointer tied the game at 51-51 with 8:06 remaining in the game only to see Connecticut go on a 9-3 surge to take control of the contest. The Liberty cut the lead to three points, 62-59, with 3:35 remaining and Jones responded with a big three-point shot off an assist from Thomas to push the lead back to six points.

“It wasn’t pretty the whole time but we were determined to come away with the win,” Thomas said.

Charles led the Liberty (8-11) with 13 points while Hartley scored 12 points. Nurse, who will play in Saturday’s WNBA All-Star game, had two points and two assists. The Liberty have lost four of their last five games.

“Throughout the game I think we had some moments that were good and some moments that were really bad,” Hartley said. “If we can work on being more consistent throughout the game I think we’ll be okay. But even throughout the bad moments we were still in the game the whole time.”

Once again, the Sun had a solid third quarter, giving up just seven points – the lowest number of points that an opponent has scored against Connecticut in the third quarter this season.

It enabled Connecticut to turn a three-point halftime deficit into a four-point lead. The Sun led by six with 12 seconds left in the quarter before New York scored with 6.5 seconds remaining.

“Happy for them to be able to go on the break with the momentum of four in a row and a win,” Miller said. “We knew going into this game, New York is playing well. That (Los Angeles) win was so physical, so for the past 48 hours we haven’t talk about anything but the physicality and how physical this game was going to be.”

New York beat Los Angeles on Saturday night with an 83-78 victory with 17 points from rookie Marine Johannes and 14 points from Nurse.

“There were stretches (Wednesday morning) in the first half where they got us out of rhythm with the physicality and I challenged their toughness,” Miller said regarding the Sun. “I challenged if we had the toughness to beat that team. Proud that we continue to have unbelievable third quarters defensively… That was the difference in the game.”

Liberty coach Katie Smith thought her team had a shot.

“I think we made some strides. I thought we had a shot today,” Smith said. “The third quarter obviously, we told them [Connecticut was] going to ratchet up their pressure, they were going to pound us on the glass and we did not execute and/or handle that pressure. And we got seven points and that kind of put us in a hole. We have to put the ball in the hole and handle that pressure but I think we’re on the right track.”

NOTES: Connecticut improves to 9-1 at home this season. The Sun return to action on Tuesday, July 30 when they host the Chicago Sky at the Mohegan Sun Arena at 7 p.m. … The Sun hosted Camp Day with an 11:30 a.m. start time. … Jasmine Thomas was also selected as a reserve and will be playing in Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas.

Sun forward Shekinna Stricklen will participate in the WNBA three-point shooting contest on Friday night on All-Star weekend while Jonquel Jones will participate in the WNBA Skills Challenge.

ESPN will provide live coverage of both events beginning at 7 p.m. While the two most recent WNBA All-Star Games have included a three-point contest at halftime, this marks the first time since 2006 that the long-distance shooting competition and the Skills Challenge will be paired together at WNBA All-Star Game.

Allie Quigley is the two-time reigning three-point contest champion, having won the event at the 2018 All-Star Game in Minneapolis and the 2017 All-Star Game in Seattle.  She will be joined in this year’s field by Stricklen, Nurse, Las Vegas Aces guard Kayla McBride, Los Angeles Sparks guard Chelsea Gray, and Indiana Fever guard Erica Wheeler.

In the Skills Challenge, the seven players who will be competing against Jones include Phoenix Mercury forward Brittney Griner, Chicago guards Diamond DeShields and Courtney Vandersloot, Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier and guard Odyssey Sims, Seattle Storm guard/forward Sami Whitcomb, and Atlanta Dream center/forward Elizabeth Williams.

The Skills Challenge is a head-to-head, bracket-style tournament.  The three-round event features two players competing simultaneously on identical obstacle courses that test ball handling, passing, agility and three-point shooting skills.  The fastest finisher in each matchup advances to the next round.

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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