ST. PAUL – If you can’t beat them, join them…and then use your opponent’s formula to beat them.
That was the essence behind the Connecticut Sun’s 98-93 win over the Minnesota Lynx Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota’s reign as the last undefeated team is over, while Connecticut extended their winning streak to four games. The back-and-forth duel offered a glimpse of how to compete with the Lynx and provided a dash of authority to the Sun’s rising youth movement.
Sun hit their marks
Connecticut’s field goal percentage Saturday night was 55.4. Any team who can reach that figure has a good chance to score a victory. Six players reached double digits in scoring, and the team recorded a season-high 26 assists. Such a stat line sounds like something that would be associated with Minnesota, but as the adage goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
“When we kept attacking and moving and shared the basketball at the end of plays, we caught (the Lynx) in some rotations,” Sun head coach Curt Miller told reporters after the game. “That’s what we’re trying to do, have five players on the floor at all times that are hunting for shots.”
Hunting was a sufficient description if your last name was Thomas. Alyssa had 20 points, eight rebounds and a career-high eight assists. The Maryland standout also crossed the 1,000-point mark for her career. Jasmine added 20 points, six rebounds and six assists.
For Alyssa, concentration and precision were keys to her big night.
“Playing pick-and-roll. The guards were making great passes,” she said. “We let one get away from us here last time, so we came in with extra focus, extra motivation.”
The Sun also got a boost from Rachel Banham, who scored 11 points off the bench. The career trajectory of the second-year guard has been hampered by injury, so to come up clutch against a WNBA juggernaut was a satisfying endeavor.
“I’m glad my coaches gave me a chance to get out there and just get comfortable,” Banham said.
An opportunistic bunch
In a game where neither team led by more than eight, Connecticut got some key separation in the fourth quarter. On two occasions, Jasmine Thomas swooped in for a steal and a run-out, and Minnesota ultimately had no answer for their opportunistic opponent.
“We have a lot of people who can put the ball in the basket and we play with energy…believe in ourselves,” she said.
Overall, the Sun scored 26 points off turnovers. Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve was mindful of that influence in her post-game presser.
“They had more turnovers than we did but they’re a team that cashes in. They run downhill and they did a great job tonight,” she said.
Minnesota’s defensive doldrums
Offensively, the Lynx were solid. Maya Moore scored a game-high 22 points, another indication that her early season slump is behind her. Unfortunately, her team’s defense against the Sun was a step behind.
“Just not making it hard enough for them to miss shots. They were hitting shots and we weren’t. We weren’t able to dictate as much as we wanted to,” she said.
The 98 points allowed was a season high for the Lynx. They gave up 40 points in the paint, along with 10 triples. There are few remedies in those situations, but defeats don’t rattle this team for long.
“We did a lot of good things. We can’t forget about that, but definitely go back and look at things and go back from a defensive standpoint,” said Lynx center Sylvia Fowles.