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Hayes leads Sun to exhibition game win over Atlanta

Connecticut’s Tiffany Hayes had 20 points in Sunday’s WNBA exhibition win over Atlanta. (Nala Burton photo courtesy Connecticut Sun)

Tiffany Hayes had a game-high 20 points with five rebounds, two assists and two steals to lead the Connecticut Sun to a 86-68 win over the Atlanta Dream in a WNBA exhibition game on Sunday at the Gateway Center in College Park, Georgia.

Hayes, the 5-foot-10 guard from UConn, played with Atlanta for 10 years before coming to the Sun in the off-season in a February trade for the No. 6 pick in the 2023 WNBA draft.

“For us to have a veteran on the floor with her experience is just huge,” Sun coach Stephanie White said of Hayes. “It’s another person who brings an even keel temperament who is offensively dynamic, a tough competitor on the defensive end of the floor and a terrific rebounding guard.”

Brionna Jones had 12 points and pulled down eight rebounds for the Sun while Alyssa Thomas had 10 points, nine rebounds and a team-high five assists.

Oliva Nelson-Ododa, Tyasha Harris and Dijonai Carrington each had eight points off the bench for Connecticut, which opens the 2023 WNBA season on Friday night with a game at Indiana at 7 p.m.

Connecticut plays their first home game on Sunday, May 21 at the Mohegan Sun Arena against Washington at 1 p.m.

Offensively, it will continue to be a process,” White said. “We’re still trying to learn our reads, still trying to learn to play at pace with space. We want to continue to be balanced offensively. Defensively, they have really good instincts. We have to continue to define our rotation and substitution patterns so we don’t have a drop off (defensively).”

In the second and final exhibition of the season, Connecticut opened the game on a 6-0 spurt and took an eight-point advantage over the Dream after the first quarter of action, 26-18. Thomas had eight points, five rebounds and four assists in the first quarter.

Connecticut outscored Atlanta, 19-16, in the second quarter to push their lead up to 11 at the halftime break, 45-34. Hayes came alive in the second quarter of action, dropping seven of her 20 points to lead the Sun.

Connecticut’s defensive intensity continued throughout the third, outscoring Atlanta 23-17, to take a 68-51 advantage into the fourth. Hayes continued pushing pace offensively for the Sun, leading the team with 10 points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal in the third.

Connecticut 85, Atlanta 68
At Atlanta

Connecticut (85) Thomas 4-2-10, Jones 6-0-12, Hayes 7-5-20, Allen 1-3-5, Hiedman 3-0-7, Cox 2-0-5, Bickle 0-2-2, Nelson-Ododa 3-2-8, Harris 4-0-8, Carrington 3-0-8, Everett 0-0-0. Totals 33-0-85
Atlanta (68) Parker 2-1-5, Coffey 1-0-2, Robinson 0-3-3, Gray 2-8-12, Howard 2-0-4, Cubaj 0-2-2, Hillmon 1-1-3, Durr 4-1-11, McDonald 3-3-11, Brown 1-5-7, Kones 2-0-4. Totals 19-26-68
Connecticut (2-0)         26  19  23  17  — 85
Atlanta (0-2)                 18  16  17  17  — 68
Three-point goals: Hayes, Hiedman, Cox, Carrington 2; Durr 2, McDonald 2

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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