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Defense helps Sun beat Dallas to win seventh straight game

The Connecticut Sun won their seventh straight game Friday night to beat Dallas. It is the best start in team history. (Photo courtesy Connecticut Sun)

The offense may not always be consistently clicking but for the Connecticut Sun, the defense is always in town. And that helped the Sun with their seventh straight game Friday night with a 74-72 win over the Dallas Wings at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun made two big defensive stops in the final minute to secure the victory and remain the only unbeaten team left in the WNBA. Connecticut is off to the best start in franchise history.

With Connecticut leading by a point, Alyssa Thomas blocked Dallas’ Kalani Brown in the low post with 9.6 seconds remaining in the game to force a turnover. Leading by two, Ty Harris slapped the ball away from Dallas’ Maddy Siegrist with 1.6 seconds remaining to force a turnover and deny the Wings a shot at a game-winning shot.

Connecticut let a 14-point lead in the third quarter slip away and had to erase an 11-point deficit in the first quarter. Still, they prevailed.

“We just made some tough defensive plays down the stretch that saved the game for us,” Sun coach Stephanie White said. “While sometimes it doesn’t look pretty, a win is a win. Winning in this league is hard. It is a grind. Learn from the things we did or didn’t do and move on.”

Brionna Jones led the way with 22 points, converting on 10 of 14 shots from the floor. Frequently left open, Thomas found her often. Thomas had a game-high 14 assists along with 15 points and nine rebounds along with the big block in the closing seconds.

“Even with a 7-0 start we still have a lot of room to grow,” Thomas said. “It’s a long season. It’s about us. We can be a lot better than we are right now and that is scary. I am looking forward to how we can continue to grow.”

Guard Sevqi Uzun gave Dallas (3-3) their biggest lead of the second half when she hit a three-point shot with 1:20 remaining in the game, 72-69. But Thomas came right back and drove to the basket to pull the Sun within a point, 72-71 with 1:10 to go.

Thomas was fouled on the play but missed the free throw. The Sun missed seven of eight free throws in the final 4:28 of regulation to keep Dallas in the game.

Arike Ogunbowale missed a three-point shot with 46.1 seconds left and Jones came down with the rebound. After a timeout, the Sun nearly threw the ball away on the inbounds play but Thomas was able to slap the ball out of the hands of a Dallas defender and drove to the basket for two points with 39.6 seconds left and a 73-72 lead for the Sun.

Ogunbowale missed two shots in the lane and Thomas came up with the rebound and was fouled but Thomas missed both free throws.

That set up Thomas’ defensive stop with 9.6 seconds left and Harris’ steal with 1.9 seconds remaining.

Ogunbowale had 21 points for Dallas while Siegrist had 17 points, sinking 8-of-8 shots from the floor. Kalani Brown had eight of her 10 points in the second half, including six points in the fourth quarter.

Jones had four baskets and eight points in a three-minute stretch of the fourth quarter as the Sun built a 14-point lead, 59-45.

Seven of Thomas’ 14 assists came in the third quarter, tying a career-high for the veteran forward.

Dallas responded with a 13-0 run to cut the lead to one, 59-58, with 5:59 left in the game. Brown had six points in the run while Ogunbowale had five points, including a three-point shot.

Dallas got off to a fast start and led by as many as 11 points, 21-10, in the first quarter. But the Sun closed out the first quarter with an 8-0 run to get themselves back in the game, 21-18.

The Sun’s 7-0 start is the fifth longest winning streak to begin a season in WNBA history and ties the 2023 Las Vegas Aces, 2014 Minnesota Lynx, 2007 Detroit Shock, 1999 Houston Comets and 1997 New York Liberty. The team also becomes one of 12 teams in WNBA history to ever start season 7-0 or better.

The Sun return to action on Sunday when they travel to Atlanta to face the Dream beginning at 3 p.m.

Connecticut 74, Dallas 72
At Uncasville, Conn.
Dallas (72) Siegrist 8-8 0-0 17, Billings 2-5 0-0 4, McCowan 5-8 0-2 10, Ogunbowale 8-21 2-2 21, Uzun 3-8 0-0 7, Sheldon 0-2 0-0 0, Soares 1-3 0-0 3, Brown 5-6 0-0 10, Senechal 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 32-62 2-4 72
Connecticut (74) Bonner 5-13 2-3 12, Thomas 6-11 3-8 15, Jones 10-14 2-2 22, Carrington 3-6 3-5 9 Harris 3-9 1-2 7, Mitchell 1-3 2-2 5, Jefferson 0-0 0-0 0, Nelson Ododa 0-0 1-2 1, Banham 1-4 0-0 3, Ndour-Fall 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-60 14-24 74
Dallas (3-3)                   21  13  16  22  — 72
Connecticut (7-0)       18  22  19  15  — 74
Three-point shots: Dallas 6-16 (Siegrist 1-1, Ogunbowale 3-8, Uzun 1-3, Sheldon 0-1, Soares 1-2, Senechal 0-1); Connecticut 2-10 (Bonner 0-4, Harris 0-2, Mitchell 1-1, Banham 1-3)

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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