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New York erases 20-point deficit and beats Sun in OT

Connecticut’s DeWanna Bonner, left, scored a team-high 30 points in Thursday’s WNBA game in Uncasville.

UNCASVILLE, August 24, 2023 – How much more can the Connecticut Sun expect to get from MVP candidate Alyssa Thomas or DeWanna Bonner, the 36-year-old forward, who has led the Sun in scoring all season?

On Thursday night, the Sun went toe-to-toe with the New York Liberty, one of the so-called dream teams constructed in the offseason when they signed current WNBA MVP Brianna Stewart, former MVP Jonquel Jones from the Sun and former Chicago sharpshooter Courtney Vandersloot.

Thomas played every second of the overtime contest, scoring 22 points, dishing out 12 assists, getting three steals and seven rebounds. Bonner had a game-high 30 points and hit six three-point field goals. She banged up her knee after blocking Jones at the rim with 5:50 left in regulation but never left the game.

Stewart scored a crucial rebound basket with 7.6 points remaining to put the Liberty in position to tie the game and scored five points in overtime to lift New York to a 95-90 win over Connecticut Thursday night before a sellout crowd of 9,138 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Desperate to prove they can contend with the Liberty, the Sun led by as many as 20 points in the third quarter but just didn’t have enough to hold off New York. The Sun missed six of their final eight shots of regulation and had two crucial turnovers in the final four minutes to help the Liberty force overtime.

New York (26-7) has won three straight over the Sun and four of the last five contests. Stewart led the Liberty with 24 points. Jones added 21 and Sabrina Ionescu scored 18. New York sank 21-of-26 free throws while the Sun only converted on 7-of-8 free throws, a discrepancy that Sun head coach Stephanie White noted afterwards.

It was a crushing loss for the Sun, who have been trying to prove that they can contend with the Liberty and the defending league champion Las Vegas Aces.

“We let that one get away,” Thomas said afterwards. She wasn’t down about it.

“We put people on notice,” she said. “People thought we couldn’t play with them. Everyone has New York as the super team but we came out and played great. Unfortunately, we didn’t finish.”

Connecticut led by 11 points, 77-66, with 4:41 remaining when Tiffany Hayes hit a cutting layup to the basket off a feed from Thomas.

But Connecticut made just two of their final 10 shots of the game, allowing the Liberty to hang around for a chance to steal the game, which they did.

Ionescu hit a three pointer and Jones hit a pair of foul shots before Stewart drove past Thomas with 3:00 remaining to cut the lead to four, 77-73.

The lead was still four when Bonner grabbed a rebound of a shot from Thomas that fell off the rim and put it back in with one second left on the shot clock and 37.9 seconds remaining to allow the Sun to stretch their lead to six, 81-75.

Stewart hit a three-pointer from the corner with 33.4 seconds left to cut it to three and Connecticut rookie Tyasha Harris missed on a drive to the basket with 23.7 seconds left and the Liberty controlled the rebound.

The Sun held defensively and Rebecca Allen was fouled going to the basket with 14.9 seconds remaining. She sank one of two free throws to boost the lead to 82-78.

New York’s Betnijah Laney missed on a three-point shot with 7.6 seconds left but Stewart swooped in to grab the rebound and quickly scored off glass to cut the lead to two, 82-80. Thomas tried to inbound the ball quickly but it was stolen by Vandersloot, who dished it to Ionescu, who was fouled trying for a three-point shot by Allen with 1.4 seconds left.

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas scores during Thursday night’s WNBA game in Uncasville.

onescu hit two of three shots to send the game into overtime where the Sun were out of fuel. New York hit their first three shots of the extra session – two from Stewart and one from Jones – to take a seven-point lead with 3:20 remaining.

Thomas hit a shot off glass with 3:00 remaining and Bonner hit a pair of shots in traffic to cut the New York lead to three, 91-88. After Ionescu scored with one second left on the shot click to boost the lead back to five, Thomas scored in the low post to cut it to three again, 93-90. That is as close as the Sun would get.

Outside of Thomas and Bonner, the Connecticut offense ground to a halt in the fourth quarter and overtime. Their teammates were 2-of-10 from the field in the fourth quarter and OT.

“We have to give them some help, especially on the offensive end,” Sun coach Stephanie White said.

This game had a playoff feel to it.

“There is really no substitute for experience,” she said. “It’s experience and confidence. I hope they know we all believe in them to take shots in those moments and get rebounds in those moments. We have to continue to build them up.”

Thomas, who was guarded by Stewart for most of the contest and Jones, expressed confidence in her teammates. “You have to put on your big girl pants. You’re out there for a reason,” Thomas said. “We’re professionals. We believe in them but you have to go out there with the confidence in yourself and be ready, be able to execute the game plan and knock down shots.”

Hayes had 13 points before fouling out of the game with 3:13 remaining in regulation with Allen scoring 11 points. Hiedeman struggled shooting, scoring seven points and sinking just 2-of-11 shots.

The Sun closed out the second quarter with a 10-2 run to take a 14-point lead at the half, 48-34. The Liberty scored just 12 points in the second quarter. Bonner had 13 points at halftime with Allen scoring eight points with five rebounds and a steal in the first two quarters. The Sun led by as many as 20 points in the third quarter.

Connecticut returns to action when they host the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday at 1 p.m.

NOTES: Thomas earned her 24th double-double of the season 22 points and 12 assists. That breaks the WNBA record for most double-doubles in a single season, once held by Tina Charles, who had 23 for the Sun in 2011. … Bonner tied a career-high with six three-point goals with her 12 rebounds matching a season-high. … The last time that the Sun beat a team with a winning record was on July 25 when Connecticut beat Dallas. The Sun are 0-3 against teams over .500 since that win on July 25. … New York is 8-1 since the All-Star break.

New York 95, Connecticut 90
At Uncasville, Conn.
New York (95)
Laney 3-9 2-2 9, Stewart 9-20 4-5 24, Jones 8-16 5-5 21, Ionescu 5-13 6-7 18, Vandersloot 5-12 1-2 13, Thornton -2 0-0 2, Johannes 2-3 3-5 8 , Dolson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 33-75 21-26 95
Connecticut (90) Allen 4-8 1-2 11, Bonner 12-20 0-0 30, Thomas 9-18 4-4 22, Hayes 6-10 0-0 13, Hiedeman 2-11 2-2 7, Hatar 1-2 0-0 2, Harris 2-7 0-0 5. Totals 36-76 7-8 90
New York (26-7)         22  12  19  29  13  — 95
Connecticut (23-11)  24  24  15  19  8  — 90
Three-point goals: New York 8-31 (Laney 1-3, Stewart 2-9, Jones 0-2, Ionescu 2-7, Vandersloot 2-6, Thornton 0-1, Johannes 1-1); Connecticut 11-32 (Allen 2-5, Bonner 6-12, Thomas 0-1, Hayes 1-4, Hiedeman 1-7, Harris 1-3). Att: 9168 (sellout)

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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