The Connecticut Sun coughed up the ball at will in the first half of Tuesday night’s game at the Mohegan Sun Arena against the defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces and the visitors were happy to run up the score.
The Sun turned the ball 12 times in the first half, giving the Aces ample opportunity to race out to big leads that reached as high as 19 points.
The Sun (6-2) rallied in the fourth quarter but the undefeated Aces were able to secure the win, 90-84, in the first meeting between the two teams since last year’s WNBA finals. The Aces won their first WNBA title at the Mohegan Sun Arena last September, winning the best-of-five championship series, 3-1.
Las Vegas (7-0) received 23 points and 10 rebounds from A’ja Wilson on Tuesday and 22 points and six assists from Jackie Young. Kelsey Plum added 17 points.
The Sun received a season-high 22 points off the bench from Rebecca Allen, who had tied a career-high by sinking six of seven three-point shots, including four in the fourth quarter. She also pulled down five rebounds and had a block and a steal.
The Aces ran out to an early 11-4 lead. They led by 17 at the half and after three quarters. Las Vegas had a 15-point lead with 7:49 remaining before the Sun cut the lead to three points with 3:50 seconds remaining thanks to a 21-10 run.
“We didn’t come out and play our game from the beginning,” Connecticut’s Brionna Jones said. “We did the job right in the second half and that is what we should have done in the first half. We were making too many turnovers.”
The Sun made 12 of their 15 turnovers in the first half.
Sun coach Stephanie White said, “Certainly disappointing the way we started the game. I am proud of our effort in the second half. We regrouped and kept coming back at them.”
Jones had 15 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and had seven assists. Alyssa Thomas, who was named the WNBA Eastern Conference player of the week earlier in the day, had 14 points, a team-high 11 rebounds and five assists. Leading scorer Dewanna Bonner scored a season-low five points.
Connecticut opened the fourth quarter on a 13-6 run to cut Las Vegas’s lead to 10, 76-66, with 4:00 remaining. Allen hit three 3-point shots for the Sun in that stretch.
“It felt good,” she said. “It felt good to see the ball go through the net. I’ve needed something like that for a while now.”
Added Jones, “She is a knock-down shooter. Today, she showed what she brings to this team and I’m happy it came today.”
After consecutive misses from Natisha Hiedeman, Wilson scored on a driving layup and Plum hit a three-point lead to boost the lead back to eight in less than a minute.
A jumper and a pair of free throws from Thomas cut the lead to four, 81-77 with 2:14 remaining. But Jones missed a hook shot with 1:36 remaining and Wilson ripped down the rebound and Young drove to the basket to push the lead back to seven with 1:15 left.
The two teams will meet again on Thursday night beginning at 7 p.m. at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
THOMAS HONORED: For the seventh time in her 10-year professional career, Alyssa Thomas was named Eastern Conference player of the week.
Last week (May 29 through June 4), Thomas nearly averaged a triple-double with 14.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game as the Sun went 3-0. Most notably, she broke the franchise record for most assists in a single game with 16 assists in Connecticut’s 89-84 win over Minnesota.
Thomas also broke the franchise record for most assists in a single half with 10 assists in the first half that night, ending the game with a stat line of 16 points, nine rebounds, 16 assists, and one block.
In the Sun’s 81-78 win over the Indiana Fever on May 30, Thomas tallied a double-double with 13 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists. To close out the week, the 6-2 forward recorded another double-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the Sun’s 80-74 victory over the Dallas Wings on June 4. Thomas leads the league in double-doubles this season with six.
Las Vegas 90, Connecticut 84
At Uncasville, Conn.
Las Vegas (90) Parker 2-1-5, Wilson 9-5-23, Gray 4-4-14, Plum 6-4-17, Young 7-8-22, Clark 2-0-5, Stokes 2-0-4, Bell 0-0-0. Totals 32-22-90
Connecticut (84) Bonner 2-0-5, Thomas 4-6-14, Jones 6-3-15, Hayes 2-2-6, Hiedeman 3-3-11, Nelson-Ododa 0-0-0, Allen 8-0-22, Harris 0-0-0, Carrington 4-2-11, Brown 0-0-0. Totals 29-16-84
Las Vegas (7-0) 25 23 22 20 — 90
Connecticut (6-2) 14 17 22 31 — 84
Three-point goals: Las Vegas (4-15) Gray 2, Plum, Clark; Connecticut (10-26) Bonner, Hiedeman 2, Allen 6, Carrington