Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas continues to shine so brightly and carry the Sun
Three games ago, Thomas became the first player in franchise history to get a triple double in one game – double digit numbers in points, rebounds and assists in a win in Minnesota on July 22.
On Tuesday night, Thomas did it for a second time to help energize the Sun who picked up a needed 87-63 win over the Phoenix Mercury at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
This time, the 6-foot-2 forward from Maryland had 10 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and has 10 assists as Connecticut led by as many as 21 points.
Natisha Hiedeman had 16 points, including four three-point shots, to lead Connecticut (21-10) while DeWanna Bonner and DiJonai Harrington had 12 points each. Jonquel Jones had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Phoenix never could quite find their shooting legs and it hurt that Diana Taurasi, the UConn legend, played just 11 minutes before going to the bench in the first quarter and not returning. She went scoreless and was 0-for-6 from the floor.
Two days ago, the Sun were stung with another loss to the defending WNBA champion Chicago Sky on this same Mohegan Sun Arena floor. Connecticut forced OT but coughed up a six-point lead in the final two minutes of overtime.
The Sun and their fans were feeling much better on Tuesday.
“AT (Alyssa Thomas) continues to lead by example with her energy,” Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller said. “That was an energetic triple double. She just plays so darn hard. She is willing people to come with her and at times, I want more people to get on her level of desire, passion, competitiveness.
“When we have that full team competitiveness, we’re tough to beat,” he said. “She wills it out of us.”
Thomas praised her teammates. “We have a lot of talent,” she said. “When everyone is playing their best basketball and hitting shots, it makes my job easy. None of this is possible without them. They are knocking down shots.”
It was an ugly first quarter with both teams sinking just five field goals and scoring 13 points each.
In the second quarter, Connecticut outscored Phoenix 21-7 to take command of the contest with Hiedmann hitting a pair of three-point shots, Jonquel Jones draining a three and battling to put a rebound back up and into the basket and Bonner taking a nice pass from Thomas for a basket in the lane.
“Everyone is feeding off her energy,” Hiedmann said. “When she is playing like this, it makes it easier for the rest of us.”
The Mercury cut the lead to nine early in the third quarter but the Sun pulled away to win their seventh game since the All-Star break. Phoenix (13-18) dropped their second straight game. Sophie Cunningham and Skylar Diggins-Smith each had 15 points for the Mercury.
The two teams will play again on Thursday night in Uncasville on ESPN2 beginning at 7 p.m.
NOTES: Thomas was named the WNBA’s Eastern Conference player of the month. This marks the second time in Thomas’s eight-year professional career that she has been named Player of the Month honors and the second time this season.
During July, Thomas averaged 14.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 2.4 steals per game, as the Sun went 7-3 in regular season play. She has started in all 30 games for Connecticut this season and is currently leading the team in assists (6.1), steals (1.7) and minutes played (32.7) per game.
In the Sun’s 94-84 win over the Lynx on July 22, Thomas recorded the first triple-double in franchise history and the first for her WNBA career, with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. Other notable performances for Thomas in the month of July include the Sun’s overtime victory over the Mystics on July 3 where she had 23 points, nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and two blocks in 41 minutes played. In Sunday’s overtime loss to Chicago, Thomas filled the stat sheet with 22 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and five steals.
There were 6,135 fans in the building. The Sun picked up a game on the Las Vegas Aces, who lost to Washington on Tuesday night. Connecticut is one game behind the Aces (22-9) in the race for the No. 2 seed in the upcoming WNBA playoffs.
There are five games remaining for Connecticut in the regular season. They host Phoenix on Thursday night at 7 p.m. before traveling to Chicago for a 1 p.m. contest on Saturday. The Sun will travel to Los Angeles for two games with the Sparks on August 9 and 11 at 10:30 p.m. before closing the regular season against Minnesota in Uncasville at 1 p.m. on August 14.