WNBA preseason: Connecticut Sun beat New York Liberty, three takeaways

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 17: Jasmine Thomas
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 17: Jasmine Thomas /

NEW YORK—The Connecticut Sun overwhelmed the New York Liberty during Sunday’s preseason finale, winning 79-57 in Levien Gymnasium at Columbia University. Despite missing Alex Bentley (12.9 points per game in 2016), who’s out with a right ankle injury, and Chiney Ogwumike (12.6 points per game in 2016), out for the season after achilles tendon surgery, the Sun played to their strengths and showed they can maintain their identity even with key personnel losses. Here are three takeaways:

Pressure Defense

The Sun used pressure man-to-man defense to force 23 Liberty turnovers. They had 12 steals and their defensive intensity allowed them to get out in transition. Point guard Jasmine Thomas defended Liberty guard Bria Hartley full court, and the Sun was in denial defense for much of the game.

“We like to get after it defensively, press the ball, get into passing lanes, and we have a lot of players that are really good in the open floor,” said Thomas following the game.


NEW YORK, NY – JULY 17: Sugar Rodgers
NEW YORK, NY – JULY 17: Sugar Rodgers /

Aggressive defense leads to opportunities to run, and the Sun did just that. Connecticut picked up where they left off last season, first in pace in the WNBA. Connecticut dictated the tempo from the opening whistle, jumping out to a 12-2 lead and finishing the first quarter up 21-5. Although forward Morgan Tuck led them in scoring with 20 points, it was Thomas who pushed the ball for Connecticut and had the Liberty scrambling back on defense. Thomas said with their personnel, they are better off running.


The Sun showed surprising depth and physicality inside with quality minutes from Morgan Tuck, Alyssa Thomas, Shekinna Stricklen, Jonquel Jones, Brionna Jones and Lynetta Kizer. They also showcased forwards Reshanda Gray and Danielle Adams, playing eight bigs and out-rebounding the Liberty by three. Without Ogwumike, there were question marks on the interior, but the Sun answered the call Sunday.

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 18: Jonquel Jones /

“We came out with physicality,” said Sun coach Curt Miller. “There’s a little bit of a chip on our shoulders because I call them soft a lot, and I reminded them that we were playing against the most physical team in the league. They were really motivated to go toe-to-toe with them early, and I think that really helped us.”

It was just a preseason game, and the Liberty were without centers Kia Vaughn and Kiah Stokes, so it remains to be seen if Connecticut can be this effective on the inside. They also fouled 33 times, including 18 fouls from their starters in limited minutes. The Sun led the league in fouls in 2016, and will have to get better at maintaining their aggressive approach without picking up fouls.

Overall, it was a positive sign to see Connecticut play with defensive pressure and offensive pace while simultaneously being assertive on the block.

The Sun finished the preseason 3-0, and feel confident they can finally be a postseason team this year, a place they haven’t been since 2012.

“We expect to be a playoff team,” said Thomas. “We want to get there.”