The bench shines as the Sun win final game in the series against Atlanta
Natisha Hiedeman, steal, layup, bench goes wild and the crowd cheers like it was a game-winner.
Brionna Jones, catches the pass from Hiedeman, cuts toward the basket, makes the layup, bench goes wild and the crowd cheers like it was a game-winner.
This was not some alternate universe of unexpected game-winning shots. These three shots put the Connecticut Sun up 22, 25 and 27 points on three consecutive possessions as the team extended the lead against the Atlanta Dream in the fourth quarter.
None of the five starters stepped foot on the court in the fourth quarter. It was the bench that extended the lead from 17 to 29 in the final 10 minutes.
Hiedeman, Tuck, Banham, Jones and Bria Holmes played all 10 minutes of the fourth quarter.
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Head coach Curt Miller discussed the starters’ enthusiasm for the bench players’ success after the game.
“When the starters always get referred to as a core group, sometimes as much as I’m trying to build chemistry, I create a little bit of starter [vs.] bench,” he said. “But they [the starters] are terrific and they really cheered them on. They were not happy that I put them back in the game in Indiana, they wanted the bench to finish it out. So tonight allowing the bench to finish the whole fourth quarter and the starters not going back in, allowed them [the starters] to really have fun and cheer for that second unit.”
Shekinna Stricklen enjoyed her time on the bench celebrating her teammates who are often celebrating her and the other four starters.
“Man, It was great,” she exclaimed. “You know, they’re always cheering for us. Like they’re always standing up and always yelling doing crazy things and it was fun we got to do it.”
Forty-five of the Sun’s 98 points came from the bench, the most of any game this season. Having quality games from the bench where they are able to score and play quality minutes, five players came off the bench and were in the game for at least ten minutes, may prove to be the difference for the team down the stretch. If a starter gets into foul trouble, gets hurt or just gets tired the Sun need to be able to rely on their bench. And after tonight, it’s clear that they believe they can.
Holmes led the team with 17 points and Morgan Tuck also added 10 points.
However, the first half was critical in getting the Sun in the position the buzzer sounded and the scoreboard read 98-69.
The Thomases got the Sun rolling
In the first five minutes, Jasmine had seven points, the rest of her teammates had eight. She would finish the half with ten points, three rebounds and two assists.
Early in the second quarter a flash of orange rushed towards the basket, leapt up, grabbed the offensive rebound and remained in the air while putting the ball back up. She of course made the shot. That orange flash was of course Alyssa Thomas, who manages to defy gravity time and time again, staying in the air longer than one would believe is humanly possible.
Alyssa helped the Sun sustain momentum in the second quarter and finished the half with nine points and five rebounds.
For the Sun it’s critical that at least one player takes control of the game early on to set the tone, and Friday night the two Thomases proved that having two players assert their dominance is an even more successful strategy.
It, of course, does not have to be these two players every game, however, it creates a blueprint for how the team can succeed in the future.
The Sun are simply better when they’re hitting threes, and it’s important to get that started early
Connecticut was able to take control of the game Sunday night at Indianapolis in the third quarter when they began to make threes.
On Friday night the Sun proved that they are a more confident team when they’re making threes, because once they start they keep shooting and the shots keep falling. The team made a season-high 11 threes, including two early ones from Jasmine Thomas and Stricklen.
It took less than four minutes for Thomas to set the tone for the rest of the game by confidently making the team’s first three, putting them up 13-6.
A couple of minutes later Stricklen nailed a three before the shot clock expired.
The threes continued steadily for the Sun for the rest of the game.
Having the option for a shot beyond the arc allows Connecticut to take, and often make, any shot that they choose.
The Sun are a different team when they make threes early, something they’ll want to do if they want to continue their winning ways through the second half of the season.
Connecticut continues their homestand Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. when they take on the New York Liberty.
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