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Connecticut dominates shorthanded Atlanta for 12th win of season

Former Hillhouse-New Haven star Bria Holmes had a season-high 17 points in Friday night’s big win over Atlanta.

The Connecticut Sun did what good teams are supposed to do against a weaker opponent. They dominated.

The Sun whipped the shorthanded Atlanta Dream on Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena, 98-69 to win their third straight game and improve to 12-6 – the top record in the WNBA.

A year ago, Atlanta went 23-11. This year, they have won just five of 18 games. Angel McCoughtry, the ninth-year guard from Louisville who earned All-WNBA honors a year ago, hasn’t played a minute this summer as she recovers from a left knee injury.

Tiffany Hayes, the seventh-year guard from UConn, missed Friday night’s game with the Sun due to a sore hamstring. She didn’t play on Sunday, either, when Washington hammered the Dream by 28 points.

The loss of McCoughtry and Hayes left Atlanta with fewer options against Connecticut on Friday night. It gave the Sun a chance to build their confidence.

The Sun had five players in double figures including Bria Holmes with a season-high 17 points. She scored in double figures for the fourth time in the last five games. Jasmine Thomas added 14 points while Jonquel Jones scored 12. Alyssa Thomas chipped in with 11 points.

The Sun had a season-high 38 field goals and held Atlanta to just 11 points in the third quarter. Earlier this season, Connecticut held Minnesota to 10 points in a victory. Two weeks ago in a win over Phoenix, the Sun used a 20-1 run to take over the contest that they won.

“Our offense just stayed in attack mode (against Atlanta on Friday),” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “We ran like the Connecticut Sun has run in the past years. The tempo was higher tonight and there was an emphasis to get out and run. Those guys wanted to play fast. It’s how we like to play. You just haven’t seen that all year.”

After beginning the season with a franchise-best record of 9-1, the recent five-game losing streak cost the Sun coaching staff an opportunity to coach in the upcoming WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday in Las Vegas. It also planted a seed of doubt among some WNBA observers regarding the Sun’s chances to contend for a league championship this summer.

However, there is little doubt in the Sun locker room. “We are that team,” Holmes said. “Doubters are going to doubt us. Non-believers are not going to believe us but when we go on the court and play like we did (Friday), I think we’re unstoppable. We have a long way to go still but it was a great game (Friday).”

Connecticut will get plenty of opportunities to prove their mettle.

The Sun host the Liberty in a Wednesday matinee at the Mohegan Sun Arena beginning at 11:30 a.m. followed by home games against Chicago (July 30) and Phoenix (August 1). Then, the Sun embark on a road trip with four games in 10 days in New York, Minnesota, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Brittney Sykes, the second-year forward from Syracuse, led Atlanta on Friday night with 26 points while Elizabeth Williams added 12. Former UConn and Sun guard Renee Montgomery scored seven points while former Sun guard Alex Bentley was held scoreless in 15 minutes of playing time.

The Sun’s 29-point win over Atlanta was Connecticut’s largest margin of victory to date this season.

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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