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Liberty rest veteran stars and fall to Sun in exhibition opener

Connecticut’s Rebecca Allen (9) takes a shot over New York’s DiDi Richards (2) during Wednesday’s WNBA exhibition game in Uncasville. The Sun beat New York. (Photo courtesy Connecticut Sun)

Brionna Jones had 10 points, four rebounds and two steals in 18 minutes of action to lead the Connecticut Sun to a 63-57 exhibition win over the New York Liberty on Wednesday morning at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

It was the first exhibition game of the season for both teams.

Connecticut fans looking to see former Sun MVP Jonquel Jones, former Seattle star Breanna Stewart and former Chicago guard Courtney Vandersloot in Liberty uniforms will have to wait until the regular season. All three sat out the game along with Connecticut veteran Dewanna Bonner.

The Sun outscored the Liberty, 19-3 in the second quarter to take command of the contest. Former New York Liberty guard, Rebecca Allen, dropped seven points, two rebounds and two blocks on her previous squad in the second quarter to lead the Sun.

“We learned a lot at both ends of the floor,” New York coach Sandy Brondello said. “We didn’t have that toughness. We didn’t take pride in the defensive end. We didn’t move the ball. We weren’t selfless.”

The Liberty picked up the pace offensively in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Sun, 24-12 but it was too late. New York was led by rookie forward Sika Koné, who tallied 10 points and four rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench on the game.

“I liked our pressure and our intensity,” Sun head coach Stephanie White said. “Certainly that starts with Alyssa Thomas. She is a high-level defender and she raises everyone’s defensive intensity. You could see there were times it was really elite and we made stops and you could see times it dipped.

Allen finished with nine points, six rebounds and three blocks in her first game in a Sun uniform while Tiffany Hayes had six points and former UConn star Olivia Nelson Ododa had nine points and five rebounds. Thomas had two points, two rebounds but dished out five assists and had three steals.

White started Allen and Thomas at forward, Jones at center and Hayes and Natisha Niedeman at guard.

The Sun play their final exhibition game on Sunday in Atlanta beginning at 3 p.m. Connecticut opens the season on Friday, May 19 in Indiana and plays their first home game on Sunday, May 21 against Washington at 1 p.m.

After the game, the Sun waived three players, including two of their selections in the recent WNBA draft. The Sun released LSU’s Alexis Moore, who they drafted in the second round and Stanford’s Ashten Prechtel, who they selected in the third round. Connecticut also released Georgia’s Diamond Battles.

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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