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Liberty rally for win, maintain dominance over Connecticut

New York’s Sabrina Ionescu gets to the basket during Saturday’s WNBA game in Uncasville. The Liberty handed Connecticut their first loss of the season.

UNCASVILLE, June 8, 2024 – There was a time when the New York Liberty couldn’t get a win against the Connecticut Sun. For four seasons from 2018 through 2021, the Sun dominated the series, winning 10 of 11 games.

That situation is reversed now.

With a dominant fourth quarter performance, the Liberty came from behind to hand the Connecticut Sun their first loss of the season Saturday afternoon, 82-75, at the Mohegan Sun Arena in front of a sellout crowd of 8,910 and a national television audience on ABC.

In the final 8:30 of the contest, the Liberty hit 10-of-14 field goals from the floor while the Sun scored on just four of 12 shots. New York finished the game on a 25-13 run with former Sun MVP Jonquel Jones sinking three shots from three-point range in the run and guard Sabrina Ionescu scoring or getting the assist on 18 of the Liberty’s final 25 points.

Ionescu had a game-high 24 points and five assists while Jones had 22 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four 3-point shots.

New York (10-2) has now won nine of their last 10 games against Connecticut dating back to 2002. The Liberty won all four regular season games a year ago and won their semifinal playoff series, 3-1.

The Sun (9-1) got double-digit scoring from six players, led by DeWanna Bonner with 16 points and Brionna Jones with 13 points in a season-high 34 minutes. Alyssa Thomas, who will named to the U.S. Olympic team for the upcoming Paris Olympics according to the University of Maryland, had a game-high 12 rebounds, seven assists and 10 points.

Connecticut built their 9-0 record on the backs of the league’s weaker teams. Only two of their nine wins came against teams with winning records as of Saturday – Minnesota and Atlanta and the Sun had four wins from games with Indiana (3-9) and Washington (0-11).

The Liberty was the kind of team that the Sun brought Ty Harris and Tiffany Mitchell to Connecticut to play against. They needed that additional scoring from the guard position to supplement the outstanding inside games provided by Bonner, Thomas and Brionna Jones.

“Every time you are a team hunting a championship, you have to go through the teams that were there last year and the year before,” Sun coach Stephanie White said. “Our record against New York (last year) wasn’t great. But we had our moments and our opportunities in ballgames we didn’t get it done.

“We’re still hunting New York and Vegas. They are where we want to be.”

Midway through the third quarter, it looked like Connecticut was on their way to beating the Liberty. A 12-5 run in the third quarter gave the Sun a seven-point lead, 54-47 and the surge was capped off by a Thomas steal and drive to the basket with 5:21 left in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, Connecticut lead by five after DiJonai Carrington got a block at one end and Thomas finished with a drive to the basket and a 62-57 lead.

But New York, who played in last year’s WNBA finals, didn’t crumble. “We stayed poised and played our style of basketball,” Ionescu said. “It was a statement game. No matter what adversity we were facing, we showed we can play against the best teams in the league.”

Jones hit a three-point shot with 7:43 remaining to tie the game at 62-62. Tied at 64, Ionescu scored on the baseline to put the Liberty ahead again before Thomas tied the game at 66 with a drive of her own to the basket.

Leading by three, Jones hit another three-point shot with 3:25 remaining to boost the Liberty lead to six, 74-68. The Sun sliced the lead to two, 74-72, when Bonner grabbed her own rebound and scored with 2:55 left and Carrington drove to the basket for two points with 1:59 remaining.

Ionescu drove to the basket with 1:50 left to boost the lead to four, 76-72 before Harris cut it to one with a three-point shot with 1:33 remaining.

But Jones another three-point shot with 1:15 to go and a 79-75 lead.

“She is so skilled. She has a post (position player) body and has guard skills so it makes really tough (to guard Jones),” White said. “You have to pick your poison. She got loose at the three-point line. She adds a different dimension. When she is willing to score as much in the paint as she is willing to score on the perimeter, it makes it that much harder to stop.”

League MVP Breanna Stewart had 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Liberty while Betnijah Laney-Hamilton had 10 points. Starting guard Courtney Vandersloot didn’t attend the game for personal reasons.

“They took advantage of every breakdown and miscue we had, whether it was offensively or defensively,” White said. “We got a little stagnant on the offense end in the fourth quarter.”

The Sun got off to another slow start as New York scored the first eight points of the game and led 11-2 early in the first quarter. But the Sun played some tough defense and got some key rebounds from Brionna Jones to battle back.

Connecticut had a 12-0 run in the second quarter to turn a 10-point deficit into a two-point lead with Mitchell scoring five of her season-high 12 points in the run. Mitchell sank 5-of-6 shots from the floor in the game.

With two three-point goals, Bonner moved into 10th all-time in WNBA history in three-point field goals with Nicole Powell (580).


New York finished with zero offensive rebounds, which marks the first time in Liberty franchise history that a team has not grabbed an offensive rebound in a regular season contest. This is also the first time in Connecticut Sun history that an opponent grabbed zero offensive rebounds in a regular season game.

With 16 points in the game,  Bonner moved into 9th all-time in scoring in Connecticut Sun history, passing Tina Charles. Bonner now has 2,249 points in a Sun uniform.

With 13 points in the game, Brionna Jones moved into 13th all-time in scoring in Connecticut Sun history, passing Courtney Williams. Jones now has 1,785 points in her career.

The Sun forced the Liberty into 12 turnovers, scoring 13 points off those mistakes. Connecticut outrebounded New York, 35-28.

With the win, New York will represent the Eastern Conference in the 2024 Commissioner’s Cup. Connecticut falls to 2-1 in Commissioner’s Cup games this season.

New York 82, Connecticut 75
At Uncasville
New York (82) Thornton 2-5 1-2 6, Stewart 5-11 2-2 13, Jones 9-14 0-0 22, Laney-Hamilton 4-8 2-2 10, Ionescu 8-16 6-6 24, Fiebich 3-6 0-1 7, Dojkic 0-0 0-0 0, David 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-60 11-13 82
Connecticut (75) Bonner 4-14 6-6 16, Thomas 5-11 0-2 10, Jones 5-12 3-3 13, Carrington 5-10 2-2 12, Harris 5-16 0-1 11, Nelson Ododa 0-2 1-2 1, Mitchell 5-6 1-1 12, Banham 0-0 0-0 0, Burton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-71 13-17 75
New York (10-2)           28  11  17  25  — 82
Connecticut (9-1)       18  21  21  15  — 75
Three-point goals: New York 9-25 (Thornton 1-2, Stewart 1-3, Jones 4-7, Laney-Hamilton 0-3, Ionescu 2-6, Fiebich 1-4), Connecticut 4-16 (Bonner 2-6, Jones 0-1, Carrington 0-2, Harris 1-6, Mitchell 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.

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