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Las Vegas hands Connecticut their second straight loss

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas had 11 points and two steals in the Sun’s loss to Las Vegas Sunday in Nevada.

For a while this season, it was the Connecticut Sun who were dominant in the third quarter. Four times this summer, the Sun have held opponents to 11 points or less in the third quarter.

On Sunday night, Las Vegas’ Kayla McBride scored eight points in the third quarter and the Las Vegas Aces scored nine of the first 11 points of the quarter as the Aces beat Connecticut, 89-81 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center to hand the Sun their second straight loss after a seven-game winning streak.

Tied at halftime, Connecticut gave up the first seven points of the third quarter and eight of the final 10 points of the quarter.

The Sun (16-8) struggled to rebound the basketball, had a rough night from three-point range and saw All-Star Jonquel Jones held in single digits for the second straight game.

Connecticut, on the strength of their bench players, cut a 13-point lead to three points with 6:52 remaining in the game. Bria Holmes drained a three-point shot to cut the Aces’ lead to 73-70. Sun players off the bench scored 18 straight points for Connecticut to that point of the contest.

But Las Vegas, coached by Sun nemesis Bill Laimbeer, scored 12 straight points to seize control of the contest. Laimbeer and his Detroit Shock were a constant irritant to Connecticut and then-coach Mike Thibault in the mid-2000s.

Six-foot-8 Liz Cambage led the way for the Aces (16-9) with 21 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter while McBride scored 18 points. Kelsey Plum added 16 as all five starters for the Aces scored in double figures.

Courtney Williams had 13 points for the Sun while Alyssa Thomas and Jasmine Thomas each scored 11 points. For the second straight, Sun center Jonquel Jones didn’t score at least 10 points. She had eight points in a 32-point loss to Minnesota on Friday night and had eight points against the Aces.

Jones pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds but struggled shooting from the floor, converting on just 3-of-11 shots.

Not only did Connecticut struggle to hit from three-point range, converting on just 9-of-27 shots but they were also outrebounded by Vegas, 40-33. The Sun pulled down just 11 offensive rebounds.

While the Sun played better than in Friday’s 32-point loss to Minnesota, it was a disappointing loss for a Connecticut team hoping to contend for a WNBA championship when the playoffs begin in September. The Aces were also playing without two-time WNBA All-Star A’ja Wilson.

Connecticut has absorbed two of their three most lopsided defeats in franchise history in the matter of a few weeks. Washington beat the Sun by a team-record 43 points in June.

McBride had eight points in the third quarter as Las Vegas built a nine-point lead midway through the quarter. The Sun tried to keep pace with strong drives to the basket from Jasmine Thomas but the Aces extended the lead to 13 points with a pair of second-chance baskets in the lane after pulling down rebounds.

Connecticut’s bench got the Sun back into the game. Morgan Tuck hit a three-point shot and Bria Holmes drove to the basket for two points. Rookie guard Natisha Hiedeman scored eight straight points for the Sun with a pair of three-point shots and two foul shots.

Holmes’ three-point shot with 6:52 remaining cut the Ace’s lead to three, 73-70.

But that is as close as Connecticut would get to a victory. Las Vegas’ Dearica Hamby got behind the defense to score an easy layup to extend the lead to five and Cambage scored over Jones in the lane to push the lead to seven points.

Hamby sank a pair of free throws and Campage scored in the lane and was fouled. Her foul shot with 4:35 left pushed the lead back to 12 points. In a span of 2:20, the Sun missed four shots from the floor, didn’t pull down an offensive rebound and saw the Aces score nine points.

The Sun made one last run. Two steals and baskets in the lane by Alyssa Thomas and a three-pointer from Jasmine Thomas cut the lead to five points, 82-77 with 2:38 remaining.

But Cambage scored in the lane over Jones with 1:21 left and was fouled. Cambage sank the three throw to push the lead back to eight, 85-77.

The Sun conclude a four-game road trip with a game in Phoenix on Wednesday night at 10 p.m. Connecticut fell into second place in the league with the loss behind Washington (17-7).

NOTES: Holmes scored nine points for Connecticut while Hiedeman scored eight. Tuck chipped in with six points.

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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