By David Siegel
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — “All of a sudden in the fourth quarter, an ABA game broke out,” Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault joked. He could afford to joke, as his 4-1 Connecticut Sun held off a physical Washington Mystics team in a game that featured two superstars putting up big numbers, a flagrant foul, and a fourth quarter that saw both teams outscore their entire output for the first half.
Tina Charles performed like an Olympian today, putting up 30 points and adding nine rebounds (five offensive) in a dominant performance. Washington features two centers, Ashley Robinson and Michelle Snow, and neither could stop Charles, who hit 13-of-22 shots and was perfect from the foul line.
For the Mystics, all star forward Crystal Langhorne was also phenomenal, scoring 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting, and perfect five-for-five foul shooting.
The Sun started fast, and opened up an eight-point lead after the first quarter (23-15). They seemed to sleepwalk through the second however, scoring only eleven points, ten of them by Charles. A three-point shot by Jasmine Thomas sent the Mystics into the locker room at the half with a one-point lead, 36-35.
The third quarter saw the Sun open up a nine-point lead as the halftime message of Thibault was heard, and the Sun fed Charles and Jones repeatedly, with each scoring eight points.
Things got chippy in the fourth quarter, as the aggressive Mystics’ defense began to scramble to try and catch up with the Sun. Matee Ajavon stole the ball from Kara Lawson, on what could have been called a foul, leading to Lawson aggressively fouling Ajavon. Less than a minute later, Natasha Lacy grabbed a rebound and started up court for Washington, only to have Lawson commit a flagrant foul stopping the break. After the two foul shots, the score was only 69-66 Connecticut.
Lawson was ignited however, and after Charles hit two foul shots, she nailed a huge three-pointer, to get the lead back to eight. From there it was free throw shooting that sealed the win for Connecticut, despite three-point baskets by Thomas, Ajavon and Noelle Quinn for Washington. The Sun hit sixteen straight to close the game out. The nineteen free throws made in the fourth quarter was a team record.
Lawson finished with 18 points for the Sun, a perfect six-for-six from the foul line when it was needed. Still it was Charles that had the coach raving.
“She knew tonight we needed every one of those points,” said Thibault, “and she came through.”
The 60 points scored in the second half is the most in Sun franchise history, and the 35 point fourth quarter tied a Sun record for most in one quarter.
The Mystics have lost four games to three teams with a combined record of 14-2. They are close to breaking through it seems, and they are getting help for Langhorne from various sources. Today, Currie and Ajavon were cold, but Thomaas scored seventeen off the bench, and Quinn added ten points.
“They are a pretty good team and they’ve had some tough luck in the last week,” Thibault said of the Mystics, “I expect they are going to make life miserable for a lot of teams, so it’s good to get the first one against them.”
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