The Connecticut Sun knew it would be difficult to play without their star forward Jonquel Jones, who will be gone for at least the next four to six games with her going to play for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Women’s EuroBasketball tournament.
On Sunday, they got a first-hand look at their upcoming challenge. The defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm forced numerous turnovers that short-circuited the Sun offense and put extended pressure on their defense in an 89-66 win Sunday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Breanna Stewart had a game-high 22 points and nine rebounds along with five assists while veteran guard Sue Bird had 13 points. Katie Lou Samuelson chipped in with eight points and four assists, making the UConn fans watching the game smile. The three former UConn players (Stewart, Bird, Samuelson) scored 22 of Seattle’s first 23 points.
Dewanna Bonner and Kalia Charles had 14 points each for the Sun while Brionna Jones added 12 points. Charles scored her season-high 14 points in the fourth quarter when the Storm holding a big lead.
Jonquel Jones was the Eastern Conference player of the week for her play in wins over New York on June 5 and Las Vegas on June 1. She had 23 points, seven rebounds, two steals and three blocks against Las Vegas and a career-high 31 points and 13 rebounds in the win over New York. She was leading the league in rebounds (10.4).
“She covers up a lot of ills,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “It is those extra possessions. JJ (Jonquel Jones) would get us those extra possessions (by rebounding) when we weren’t shooting well. So, it magnified our turnovers.”
Miller was a bit frustrated after the loss – Connecticut’s first at home this season.
“The stat that stands out to me is they got 12 more shots on goal due to those turnovers,” he said. “It is really hard to beat (Seattle) with than many turnovers (17), leading to that many (additional) shots on goal. We didn’t shoot a bad percentage when we didn’t turn it over. You can’t beat an elite team with that many turnovers.”
Seattle (10-2) used a 14-2 second quarter run to take a 43-24 lead with 2:33 left in the first half. The Sun would score the final five points of the half and trailed 43-29 at the break.
The 29 first half points were the second lowest in the first half this season (27 at Las Vegas on May 23). The 16 first quarter points were the least in the first quarter this season for Connecticut (8-3). The Sun trailed 25-16 after one period.
“We have to figure out to play a whole different style of basketball when you lose a huge piece like that,” Bonner said. “We definitely have to figure out to how play with each other again. It is like figuring out how to play a whole new team. Once we figure this out, our tendencies and how I play at the post I think we’ll be good.”
One Seattle writer asked Bird if this was a statement victory for the Storm against the Sun, who have the second-best record in the league. She politely smiled and shook her head.
“They are missing one of the best players in the league right now, so that is hard,” Bird said. “It is difficult to lose a player at midseason and try to find a new identity. We love that we won and we love that we played well but I don’t think of it in the same way you said.”
Added Connecticut’s Brionna Jones, “It will be a lot to make up for JJ, rebounding wise and scoring. It will be up to everybody, collectively. Everyone just has to do more.”
The Sun return to action on Thursday night when they visit Chicago to tangle with the Sky beginning at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Twitter. It will the first game in a two-game series in Chicago with the two teams meeting again on Saturday at 2 p.m.