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Balanced effort leads high-flying Sun to second straight victory

Washington’s Elena Delle Donne (11) scored 16 of her team-high 21 points in the first quarter, making 7-of-8 shots but Connecticut rallied to beat the Mystics Tuesday night, 94-68.

UNCASVILLE, July 24 – The Connecticut Sun were stumbling. They had lost five of their last seven games when they went to Dallas on Sunday to face the Wings.

Shekinna Stricklen tied a WNBA single game record with eight three-point shots as the Sun routed the Wings, 92-75. Connecticut continued their running ways on Tuesday night with their third win in the last five games with a 94-68 victory over the Washington Mystics at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun (14-12) got big contributions off the bench including a season-high 23 points from Jonquel Jones along with Courtney Williams scoring 17 points, tying a career-high with 10 rebounds and dishing out a team-high six assists. In the last five games, Jones is averaging 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds.

Jasmine Thomas (14 points, four assists), Morgan Tuck (14 points) and Alyssa Thomas (12 points) added to the big offensive night for the Sun, who enter this weekend’s WNBA All-Star Game with a two-game winning streak and tons of confidence.

The Sun limited Washington (14-11), which leads the Eastern Conference, to a season-low nine points in the second quarter and 15 in the third quarter as Connecticut took command. With a 13-rebound edge on the boards, the Sun were off and running as quickly as they could.

“Right now we are in the middle of the stretch that everyone dreads,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said. “We play nine of 13 on the road during this stretch, but that is not an excuse for what happened tonight.

“I thought defensively we were as bad as we have been in a while and Connecticut made a ton of great shots,” he said. “They executed tonight, but we had one extra day of rest on them and they looked fresher than us.”

Washington’s Elena Delle Donne scored 16 of her team-high 21 points in the first quarter, making 7-of-8 shots while staking the Mystics to a 26-19 lead. No one else on the Mystics scored more than nine points (Ariel Atkins) in the contest.

“We rolled out the game plan and absolutely got outcoached and out-executed in the first quarter,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “We had to change on the fly our entire game plan and they didn’t bat an eye. We made adjustments, rolled out a new plan and really had a fun three quarters for us.”

For the second straight game, Connecticut scored more than 90 points. It was shades of the Sun’s 7-1 start to the season when Connecticut scored more than 100 points in three of the first four games of the season.

“It felt a lot like last year in stretches between Dallas and tonight,” Miller said. “You saw a really good game by JJ (Jonquel Jones) and our bench. Our defense – when we figured out something that could work – did a great job and kept them off the glass. Credit to the players big time tonight.”

Tuck had a great day coming off the bench. Washington had a nine-point lead, 28-19, when Jones drained a three-point shot with 30 seconds gone in the second quarter to spark a 20-2 Connecticut run. In the surge, Tuck had nine points and four rebounds.

“I just wanted to do whatever I can do,” she said. “Whether that’s getting a stop, a rebound, making shots or whatever. I was just trying to do whatever we needed just to give us a spark off the bench, I mean, that’s what we’re supposed to do when we come off the bench.”

Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones had a season-high 23 points in Tuesday night’s win over Washington.

In the second half, Washington cut the deficit to eight once and nine twice, but could not get closer. A three-pointer by Williams with 5:04 remaining and the Sun up by 53-44 started a 19-6 run to close the quarter and Connecticut kept rolling into the fourth.

Leading 72-50 after three, the Sun outscored Washington 11-4 to start the fourth quarter. A layup by Jones with.6:05 remaining made it 85-54, and the rest was formality.

“Finally, we’re all healthy, and we’re going back to our identity which is just playing hard and sharing the ball,” Connecticut forward Chiney Ogwumike said. “I think every loss, has taught us how to win. Our intensity, our focus, our depth, those are the things we rely on and those are the things that will carry us through.”

Ogwumike is Connecticut’s only representative at Saturday’s WNBA All-Star game in Minneapolis. The Sun resume the campaign next Wednesday when they host the New York Liberty at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The win puts Connecticut in eighth place in the WNBA playoff race. The top eight teams make the playoffs. The Sun (14-12) are a half-game behind Washington (14-11) and Dallas (14-11) with Phoenix, Los Angeles and Minnesota all tied with 15-10 marks. Seattle is seeded No. 1 at 19-7 with Atlanta at No. 2 with a 15-9 record.

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 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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