Alex Bentley led all scorers with 25 points, while Kelsey Bone chipped in with a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) to lead the Connecticut Sun over the Tulsa Shock, 80-74, before 4,682 fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Wednesday night. Camille Little also scored in double-digits for the Sun (11 points). All five Tulsa starters scored in double digits led by Karima Christmas and Odyssey Sims, who scored 15 points each. Riquna Willams added 14, while Vicki Baugh and Courtney Paris added 10 points apiece for the Shock, who lost their 10th straight game and fell to 10-14. Tulsa’s down-tick correlates directly to the loss of former Notre Dame star Skylar Diggins, who went down with a torn ACL in a 93-89 victory over the Seattle Storm on June 28. At the time, Tulsa was riding high—the Shock was 8-1 and was riding an eight-game winning streak. Since the loss of the former UConn nemesis, Tulsa is 2-13.
Behind 10 first-period points by Sims, the Shock led at the first turn, 29-23. Tulsa’s lead reached double digits, 35-25, after a three-pointer by Jordan Hopper with 7:35 remaining in the half. But the Sun began chipping away at the Shock lead, and trailed by just seven, 48-41, at intermission.
“Coach Donovan was frustrated with ball screen defense,” said Bone of her team’s sub-par first-half performance. “Odyssey [Sims] had 14 first half points, and we had a game plan that we were not executing. When we changed it to something different our execution was still poor, and Coach was frustrated with our play. We had to figure out as a group how to correct that and we did that in the second half.”
The Sun finally kicked it into gear, starting the third period on a 15-6 tear that included three straight three-pointers by Bentley and Little. A short jumper by bone gave the Sun its first lead since midway through the first quarter, 56-54, with 4:11 in the third. And from that point, there was no looking back. The Sun outscored the Shock 23-12 in the third period, taking a 64-60 lead into the final period. The Shock remained competitive in the fourth period—Connecticut won the final stanza 16-14—but were never able to draw even or take the lead. One reason was that the Sun defense clamped down on Sims, holding the former Baylor star to just one point in the second half.
“You are playing against very athletic, quick guards that can shoot the three and go off the dribble,” said Donovan after the game. “When we changed our defensive scheme on how we were guarding the ball screen they were reluctant to come on board with the change. That was my frustration. Once we got on board with the change we were able to stop the penetration which was initially a problem for us.
“I thought we were scrappier and more intense defensively,” she continued. “ I am not saying we did not play hard in the first half but we did get after it more in the second half. Tulsa struggles to shoot the ball and in the first half they shot 57 percent, so we talked about that at half time. In the second half we held them to 27 percent. You saw a different level intensity and accountability in the second half.”
With the win, the Sun improve to 12-10 and trail the fourth-place Chicago Sky by just one game with 12 games remaining on the regular-season schedule for the final playoff spot in the red-hot Eastern Conference race. Indeed, fourth-place Connecticut trails the first-place New York Liberty by just 3.5 games. The Sun can improve their postseason prospects on Friday night when they entertain the Liberty. Tip-off at the Mohegan Sun Arena is at 7 p.m., and tickets are available at the Mohegan Sun box office or by clicking HERE. For those unable to attend, the game will be televised on MSN Network and streamed live on WNBA Live Access.
On Friday night, the Connecticut Sun will honor the career of one of the WNBA’s greatest players when they hoist the uniform of Katie Douglas to the rafters. No. 23 will join the numbers of Nykesha Sales (42) and Margo Dydek (12). During five seasons in Connecticut from 2003-07 Douglas averaged 13.4 points while collecting 444 assists, 256 steals and 272 made three-pointers. In that span, the Sun qualified for the playoffs each year, advancing to the WNBA Finals twice and the Eastern Conference Finals four times while compiling a regular-season record of 104-64 (.615). One of the greatest three-point shooters in WNBA history, Douglas was selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star team five times, and was the MVP of the 2006 WNBA All-Star Game played at Madison Square Garden.
This may have been the last chance Connecticut fans had to see the Tulsa Shock as currently constituted. The team, which originated in Detroit before moving to Tulsa in 2010, is eyeing Dallas-Ft. Worth as a home. The Detroit Shock,then coached by former Detroit Piston badboy Bill Laimbeer, won WNBA titles in 2003, 2006 and 2008.