Connecticut’s ferocious third-quarter comeback against Dallas snaps 3-game losing streak
I had the pleasure of attending the Connecticut Sun vs. Dallas Wings game last night, and I learned a LOT about both teams. First of all, Sun fans love UConn alums unconditionally, as Moriah Jefferson got almost the same level of applause when announced in the Wings’ starting lineup as the actual Sun players.
After dropping two games to the resurgent Sky and one to the Seattle Storm in the absence of superstar Jonquel Jones, there was a lot of nervous energy around the arena that Connecticut could not win without her.
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That energy was matched on the defensive end of the floor by Kaila Charles. The second year wing out of Maryland played sparingly before Jones’s departure, but was Curt Miller’s pick to replace her in the starting lineup. Right from the jump, Charles was the catalyst on offense, generating shots and creating extra possessions, as well as shutting down her assignment of Arike Ogunbowale (5/14) or Marina Mabrey (0/3) . Miller went as far as giving Kaila player of the game honors with her double-double. It is safe to say that even when Jonquel returns, Charles will be getting increased minutes off the bench.
For Dallas, the early part of the game was dominated by Ogunbowale’s playmaking. While she made a few nice moves of her own (top 5 handles in the league, easily), her ability to draw the defense’s attention led to open teammates to whom she zipped the ball to for easy buckets. The Wings desperately need a secondary playmaker, however, as when Arike went cold in the second half, no one stepped up to the challenge.
Satou Sabally is really growing into her game on offense, and her ability to knock down the three will be a nightmare for opposing defenses once she becomes a little more confident with her drives. The Sun bigs contained her down low, but her potential to develop into a legitimate star is undeniable.
The biggest detriment to her game right now is defense. Brionna Jones walked all over Sabally and Bella Alarie, as almost every Connecticut possession began with a pass to the post for Jones to go to work. This continual pressure inside led Jones to a career high 26 points, and should cement her status as an all-star this year under the new format.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the first half and first few minutes of the third quarter was that neither Curt Miller nor DeWanna Bonner (or my mom sitting next to me who was just as animated), picked up a technical after some egregious missed calls that led to the Sun being down 14 with just a quarter and half to play.
Bonner took it personally, and then she decided to take over. The all-star scored 10 points in a row to singlehandedly bring Connecticut back into the game to the roaring delight of the crowd. It might be time for her to patent this lefty scoop layup, as it might comprise of half her points on the season.
After the Sun took the lead with 2 minutes left in the third, the fourth quarter seemed like a formality, as the young Wings team looked defeated and could not match the intensity of the Connecticut veterans. The final score of 80-70 did not reflect the hardships (and poor three-point shooting) that the Sun had to overcome to win the game, but it is a massive win to stay on top of the Eastern Conference.
For the Wings, the loss stings but is also very insightful. At 6-8 they are in playoff contention despite a new head coach and a very young core, and they get a chance to bounce back against the WNBA punching bag Indiana Fever on Thursday.
Another note about aforementioned coaches Curt Miller and Vickie Johnson, is that their execution after timeouts was impeccable. Almost every stoppage resulted in a bucket when the teams resumed play, which was very impressive to watch.
While this post was supposed to focus on the Wings vs Sun game, I would be remiss if I did not mention former Connecticut star Tina Charles and her 34-point performance in the Mystics win over the Storm last night. Charles may be running away with the MVP award if she can sustain this level of offensive efficiency and productivity, nine years after she first won it in 2012.