Connect with us


Sun keep Clark in check, beat Indiana for season-opening win

Indiana’s Caitlin Clark finds it tough to get to the basket in Tuesday night’s WNBA game in Uncasville.

UNCASVILLE, Conn., May 14,2024 – Many came to see and cheer on Caitlin Clark, the No. 1 draft pick out of Iowa who has helped energize interest in women’s basketball.

What they saw was a veteran Connecticut Sun team use their defensive prowess to limit Clark’s effectiveness in her professional debut and the veterans on the Sun shine in a 92-71 win over the Indiana Fever Tuesday night before a sellout crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena and a national television audience on ESPN2.

Connecticut’s DeWanna Bonner, beginning her 14th season in the league, scored a team-high 20 points and hit three from three-point range as she moved into fifth place on the all-time scoring list in WNBA history.

Sun forward Alyssa Thomas picked up where she left off last year when she nearly won the league MVP award. Thomas had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists to record her ninth regular season triple double of her career.

Connecticut guards DiJonai Carrington and Ty Harris each made their first regular season starts and each scored 16 points. Carrington spent most of the game harassing Clark, who scored a team-high 20 points but she shot 5-of-15 from the field and committed 10 turnovers – a new single game record for Indiana.

The Fever committed 25 turnovers in the game, which the Sun converted into 29 points.

Two hours before tipoff, there were long lines of fans waiting to enter the arena. Many were dressed in black Iowa shirts or new Indiana jerseys.

Randy Gerstein and his son, Brisbon, drove two hours from Portsmouth, N.H. to take in the game. Basketball games, including those with Clark, have been a big part for his family of four (three sons and a daughter) this winter.

“Basketball in general became a huge (thing) for us this past season watching the tournament with Caitlin and the different girls competing was something that really brought the family together and we had a really good time,” he said.

Rich Mazzi of Weymouth, Mass., and his six-year-old daughter, Maggie, before Tuesday’s game in Uncasville. Unfortunately, the sign wasn’t allowed into the arena because it was too big.

Rich Fazzi, an assistant men’s basketball coach at UMass-Boston, was in line with his six-year-old daughter, Maggie. She carried a homemade sign for Caitlin.

“After watching Caitlin, she just loved watching her play, shooting a ton of threes,” Fazzi said. “I have 2 boys and they love watching her so we got into a lot this year and they love it.”

Clark got a rousing cheer from the crowd when she was introduced, similar to what happens when former UConn players on the opposition are introduced. Usually, the cheers for the former UConn players become diminished as the game goes on.

For Clark, they didn’t diminish. But the defense from DiJonai Carrington and Sun limited the opportunities for her fans to cheer. Clark missed her first four shots from the floor and sat out for half of the first quarter after picking up two quick fouls.

Her first basket was a driving layup to the basket with 5:25 left in the first half. Her first three-point shot came with 29.9 seconds left in the second quarter.

Connecticut’s Ty Harris (52) had 16 points in Tuesday night’s win over Indiana.

Carrington stole the ball from Clark at midcourt with 1:56 left in the first half and drove to the basket for a layup and a 15-point lead, 46-31.

Clark had five points and five turnovers at the half but finished with 20 points, including four shots from three-point range.

“I thought it was physical,” Clark said. “Obviously too many turnovers. There are a lot of things to learn from. It is the first one. You can’t beat yourself up too much about one game. I don’t think that is going to help this team. Just learn from it and move on.”

For Connecticut, Thomas continued the outstanding play she had a year ago with another all-round effort.

“I know some people think it was a fluke (last season) to put up those kind of numbers, something that was never seen before,” she said. “It was unheard of. But this is my game. This is how I play each and every night. I think pretty much every game last season, I flirted with triple doubles. A lot of credit goes to my teammates. They make it easy for me. They hit the shots. I just put it where it needs to go.”

Bonner looked sharp and Jones (eight points, three rebounds) played well in limited minutes in her first game since tearing her achilles tendon last June.

“I am proud of our group. They came out with a lot of energy did an excellent job on the defensive end for most of the ballgame and made things tough for them,” Sun coach Stephanie White said. “Certainly, defense has been and will always be our identity. I thought they played incredibly well together and connected on both ends of the floor. And it was big first win for us.”

Rachel Banham and Ty Harris provided three-point shooting that the Sun lacked a year ago. Banham sank 3-of-7 shots from long range to finish with 10 points while Harris converted on 4-of-6 to finish with 16 points.

It was a one-point game midway through the first quarter when Harris sank a pair of three-point shots in a span of two minutes and the Sun closed out the quarter with a 9-4 run to take a six-point lead after one quarter.

Carrington had 14 of her 16 points in the second quarter as the Sun opened up a 12-point lead. The Fever cut the lead to six in the third quarter but the Sun pulled away again, building the lead up to 23 points.

The Sun shot 48.5% (32-66) from the field, while the Fever shot 48% (24-50) from the floor. Ten turnovers by Clark set a new WNBA record for a debut contest.

It was the first sellout for a home opener since 2003 when the Sun played their first game at the Mohegan Sun Arena against Los Angeles Sparks.

The Sun return to action on Friday night when they host the Washington Mystics at 7:30 p.m.

Connecticut 92, Indiana 71
At Uncasville, Conn.
Indiana (71)
Samuelson 1-2 2-2 5, Smith 5-12, 2-2 13, Boston 2-6 0-0 4, Clark 5-15 6-6 20, Wheeler 3-3 1-1 8, Wallace 2-3 0-2 5, Mitchell 2-4 4-6 8, Berger 2-3 0-0 4, Fagbenie 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 24 50 15-19 71
Connecticut (92) Bonner 8-14 4-5 20, Thomas 4-8 5-8 13, Jones 2-4 4-6 8, Carrington 6-15 3-3 16, Harris 6-1 0-0 16, Nelson-Ododa 1-2 0-0 2, Banham 3-7 1-1 10, Mitchell 1-4 2-2 4, Ndour-Fall 0-0 0-0 0, Jefferson 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 32-66 19-25 92
Indiana (0-1)                   13  26  18  14  — 71
Connecticut (1-0)            19  30  16  27 – 92
Three-point goals: Indiana 8-20 (Samuelson 1-3, Smith 1-4, Clark 4-11, Wheeler 1-1, Wallace 1-2, Mitchell 0-1); Connecticut 9-21 (Bonner 0-3, Carrington 1-3, Harris 4-6, Banham 3-7, Mitchell 0-1, Jefferson 1-1). Att. 8910 (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.

More in WNBA