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Connecticut rallies but comeback bid falls short in loss to Dallas

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas had a career-high 28 points Wednesday night but it wasn’t enough in a loss at Dallas.

For the second straight game, the Connecticut Sun fell behind by double digits. On Sunday night, the Sun fell behind by 21 as the Chicago Sky snapped Connecticut’s seven-game winning streak with a convincing 18-point victory.

On Wednesday night, the host Dallas Wings were upbeat, despite a 20-point loss to Las Vegas over the weekend. The Wings came into the game with victories in two of their last three contests.

Dallas built a 13-point lead late in the third quarter only to see the Sun erase it with a terrific start to the fourth quarter. But the Wings received 23 points from rookie Arike Ogunbowale and played some stifling defense in the final two minutes to hand Connecticut their second straight loss with a 74-73 victory in WNBA action at the College Park Center in Arlington, Texas.

The Sun took a 70-69 lead with 1:44 left in the game when Alyssa Thomas put in arcing shot with her left hand but Connecticut (9-3) wouldn’t score again until Jasmine Thomas drained a three-point shot with 2.3 seconds left to cut the lead to one, 74-73.

But by that point it was too little, too late and the Wings (3-6) were able to win their third game after a 0-5 start to the season.

After a blistering 9-1 start to the season, Connecticut has had to deal with some adversity. They were a step too slow in a 93-75 loss to Chicago on Sunday and lost backup point guard Layshia Clarendon for the season. Clarendon hurt her ankle in practice – stepping on a teammate’s foot — before the loss to the Sky. She had successful surgery on her right ankle on Tuesday.

Yet, the Sun still had a chance to come away with a victory against Dallas. They just couldn’t quite make it happen.

Alyssa Thomas had a career-high 28 points and pulled down six rebounds in the win while guard Jasmine Thomas had 19 points, six rebounds and a game-high 11 assists. Jonquel Jones, who was slowed by foul trouble, finished with 13 points and six rebounds.

For the second straight game, Connecticut’s Shekinna Stricklen struggled offensively. She had no points in Sunday’s loss to Chicago – going 0-for-5 from three-point range – and had just two points against Dallas on Wednesday.

Before this three-game road trip began, Stricklen had a season-high 24 points and seven three-point shots in a win over Atlanta last Friday – the sixth time in the first eight games of the season that she scored in double figures.

In the last five games before the road trip, Stricklen drained 19 three-point shots. She is 1-for-9 in the first two games of the road trip.

Alyssa Thomas, who was 12-of-16 from the floor, gave Connecticut a 70-69 lead with 1:44 left in the game. But Ogunbowale, despite Jasmine Thomas being right in her face defensively, drained a long three-point shot with 1:23 left to put Dallas back out in front, 72-70.

On Connecticut’s next three possessions, they had a turnover with a shot clock violation, saw a jumper from Jasmine Thomas with 35 seconds roll off the rim, saw Alyssa Thomas miss a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left and Jasmine Thomas miss an off-balance three-point shot with 7.6 seconds left.

Allisha Gray scored with 2.2 seconds left to give the Wings a commanding 74-70 lead.

The Sun trailed by 13 points with 2:41 left in the third quarter but outscored Dallas 21-5 over the next six minutes to take the lead again.

Connecticut closed out the third quarter with four points from Jasmine Thomas, a basket in the paint from Alyssa Thomas and a tremendous defensive play from Bria Holmes.

Leading by 12, the Wings stole the ball and were off the races. Kayla Thornton was able to lay the ball into the basket but Holmes sprinted the length of the floor to block the shot from behind.

Instead of a 14-point lead, Jasmine Thomas scored with 2.2 seconds left to cut the lead to 10 after three quarters.

The Sun scored 15 of the first 17 points in the fourth quarter to take a 66-63 lead. Good hustle, rebounding and passing carried the Sun. In one sequence, Jasmine Thomas put up the shot but it went off the rim. Alyssa Thomas hustled for the rebound and kicked it back out to Jasmine Thomas, who found Alyssa Thomas in the low post for the basket.

Connecticut (9-3) returns to action on Saturday when they complete this three-game road trip with a 2 p.m. game at Washington.

* * * *

Alyssa Thomas’ previous career-high was 26 points against Washington on August 29, 2017. … The Sun will need more production from the bench in future contests. The Connecticut bench was outscored 22-6 with Kristi Anique, Bria Holmes and Morgan Tuck scoring just two points each.

Clarendon was having an excellent season coming off the bench for the Sun, averaging 6.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in eight contests. Twice, she had a season-best nine points and had four assists in a June 16 win over Seattle.

The surgery, a repair of the peroneal retinaculum and stabilization of the dislocated peroneal tendons in her right ankle, was performed by Dr. Raymond Walls in consultation with Dr. Michel Medvecky at Yale New Haven Hospital. The expected recovery time is three to four months.

“As much as I hoped, wished and asked if there was a way to just like use some tape or brace to be able to play, it just wasn’t possible,” Clarendon wrote on Twitter. “Just like that, I probably won’t play again this season. I worked so hard this off season and am in the best shape ever so this hurts even more.”

Clarendon sees the potential in this group with the Sun. “Every season is so special and this one really felt like the stars were gonna align,” she said on Twitter. “The good news is, they very much still could! This is a special group. It will just look different for me.”

BOXSCORE: Dallas 74, Connecticut 73

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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