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Winless Connecticut still struggling to close out games and earn victories – The Collinsville Press
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Winless Connecticut still struggling to close out games and earn victories

Connecticut’s Jasmine Thomas drives to the basket during Saturday’s WNBA game in Florida. The Sun lost their fourth straight game in a 78-69 loss to Minnesota. It was their second loss to the Lynx in the last six days. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

A brutal week is over for the Connecticut Sun. The squad played four games in seven days and in three contests, Connecticut led at halftime and held a lead in the third quarter.

Earlier this week, Sun head coach and general manager Curt Miller said there the margin between winning and losing is small. The Sun are playing hard but they haven’t found a way to play well enough to win yet.

The Sun lost their fourth straight game in this pandemic-condensed season with a 78-69 loss to the Minnesota Lynx at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. COVID-19 delayed the start of the season and all 12 teams live, train and play their games here in Bradenton.

The teams will play 22 games in about seven weeks, leaving little time to rest, recover and plan for the next game.

DeWanna Bonner, who came into the game as the leading scorer in the WNBA, continued her torrid start with the Sun with a game-high 28 points. She drained five 3-point shots. But Connecticut continues to struggle offensively – especially in the fourth quarter.

On Sunday, the Sun were 3-of-17 from the floor in the final quarter and scored just nine points. Thanks to a three-point shot with five seconds left in the third quarter from Minnesota rookie Crystal Dangerfield from UConn, the Lynx led by one after three quarters.

Jasmine Thomas’ jumper with 6:50 remaining tied the game at 65-65 but the Sun missed their next seven shots from the floor, had one blocked and turned the ball over twice. By the time, Bonner scored a layup with 1:34 remaining, the Sun trailed by nine.

“We played hard again. We’re tired and we’re just defeated a little bit mentally,” Miller said. “We know that we’re close. We just have to string two good halves together.”

Connecticut led by 10 points in the second quarter and had a seven-point lead at halftime, 42-35.

As they did six days ago in the season-opening game for both teams, the two former UConn stars on the Lynx – Dangerfield and last year’s WNBA rookie of the year, Napheesa Collier – again sparked Minnesota’s victory.

Dangerfield, who was 1-for-6 from the floor in the first half including an airball on a second quarter three-point shot, scored 11 points in the third quarter. She drained three 3-point shots and had a steal.

“I think she understands now when we are lacking something, she gives us that spark,” said Minnesota center Sylvia Fowles, who scored a team-high 21 points and pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds. “No one had to tell her. She took things into her own hands. She shows up at the right time for us.”

Dangerfield finished with 17 points for Minnesota (3-1).

“I don’t know if those (UConn) players know this but it is the way (UConn coach) Geno (Auriemma) coaches (that) prepares them (for professional basketball),” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeves said. “This is when it shows. Geno recruits certain types of players. They’re relentless. They’re tough. They’re coachable. They listen. All of those things helped her.”

Collier finished with 17 points and nine rebounds. She came into the game with the most offensive rebounds in the league after three games. She also had four assists and blocked four shots.

Connecticut (0-4) received a season-high 15 points from Brionna Jones, sinking 5-of-7 shots from the floor. “I felt more myself,” she said. “Today, for the first time (this season), I felt I wanted to go right at them. I wanted to guard them but I also knew they would have to guard me.”

Jasmine Thomas had nine points on 4-of-14 shooting while Alyssa Thomas scored just three points. She was 0-for-5 from the floor. However, she did pull down seven rebounds and five steals. Bria Holmes had a good first half and finished with seven points.

For the first time this season, the Sun will have two days off before facing Seattle on Tuesday night beginning at 9 p.m. on ESPN2. That kicks off a brutal stretch of 10 games in 19 days.

The last time that Connecticut began the season 0-4 was in 2017 – Miller’s second year with the team. That team ended up winning 21 games.

Upcoming Sun schedule
Tuesday, August 4: Seattle, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Thursday, August 6: Dallas, 8 p.m. (NESN)
Saturday, August 8: Chicago, 5 p.m. (NESN)
Monday, August 10: Atlanta, 6 p.m.
Wednesday, August 12: Dallas, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
Friday, August 14: Chicago, 7 p.m.
Sunday, August 16: Seattle, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, August 18: Indiana, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
Thursday, August 20: Las Vegas, 10 p.m. (CBSSN)
Saturday, August 22: New York, 4 p.m. (CBSSN)

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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