Dream hold off Sun comeback, as McCoughtry powers Atlanta past Connecticut, 78-77 in Eastern Conference struggle

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (June 23, 2013) - The injury-riddled Connecticut Sun: Kara Lawson, Renee Montgomery, Tan White.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (June 23, 2013) – The injury-riddled Connecticut Sun: Kara Lawson, Renee Montgomery, Tan White.

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The Girl Scout crowd booed her during introductions. They cheered when a foul was called on her. They booed when she went to the foul line. However, in the end the crowd and the defense of the Connecticut Sun could not stop Angel McCoughtry. The Dream forward poured in 34 points off an array of drives, put backs and jump shots that the Sun could not stop.

Trailing throughout, the Sun mustered a 18-3 fourth quarter run to take the lead 77-76 with 58 seconds left on a Kelsey Griffin put back and foul shot. However, after a Dream timeout, McCoughtry drove down the lane to give the Dream a 78-77 lead for good. Tina Charles and Allison Hightower each had opportunities to score after that, but when Hightower’s 25-foot jumper at the buzzer missed the mark, Atlanta won their third in a row. They hold a two-game lead in the Eastern Conference after only eight games.

Both teams entered the game shorthanded, with Atlanta’s Sancho Lyttle still playing for Spain in EuroBasket and the Sun missing Renee Montgomery and Tan White with injuries. When the Sun added starting point guard Kara Lawson to the injury list with a bruised knee before the game, it forced newcomer Iziane Castro Marques into the starting lineup and left the Sun bench reduced to rookie Kelly Faris, replacement signee Sydney Carter, and power forwards Mistie Bass and recently acquired Kayla Pedersen.

Both teams had a week off since their last game, and the time off showed in the first quarter, as Atlanta shot 31 percent and Connecticut 27 percent. The Sun had at least four air balls in that time period, and Charles completed the quarter 0-for-5, while McCoughtry was only 2-for-8. Connecticut committed six personal fouls though, giving the Dream eight foul shot attempts in the first quarter alone, and they converted on them all, giving them a 21-14 lead.

With the rust worked off, McCoughtry took over for the Dream in the second quarter, scoring 13 points on 6-for10 shooting, while grabbing a pair of offensive rebounds as well. Connecticut would not disappear though, as Kalana Greene scored nine points in the quarter, as the Sun shot 61 percent to stay within eight at the half.

The Dream extended that lead to thirteen after three quarters, and fourteen with just over six minutes to go in the game, before the Sun made their charge. Castro Marques hit a three-point shot to get things started, as Griffin scored six and Hightower five of the Sun’s 18 in the run to their first lead since 4-2.

In the end, however, the Sun did not have an answer to defending McCoughtry. She overpowered Hightower, went over Greene, and around Griffin at various points in the game. The Dream frequently ran a set that positioned McCoughtry at the top of the key with the ball, and let her operate. The team only had five assists for the game, and McCoughtry took 33 shot attempts, but the result is all that counts in the end, a road win for the first place Dream.

For Connecticut, Charles had yet another double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds, but the performances of Griffin and Greene were particularly pleasing to coach Anne Donovan, as both scored season highs for the Sun. Griffin played with the confidence they were expecting this season, scoring sixteen points on 6-for-9 shooting, while Greene scored 14 on 6-for-11. Hightower was defended extremely well by Armintie Herrington of the Dream, and was held to a season low 3-for-15 shooting.

The Sun fell to 2-6 for the season, but most troublesome is the current three-game home losing streak. Overall they have lost four of five, with the one victory being over injury-riddled Indiana. With Phoenix and Tulsa coming in to the Mohegan Sun aArena next, difficult games are still ahead for the Sun as they try to stay within reach of the conference leaders.

Atlanta returns home for a three-game stretch with Indiana, Washington and San Antonio as they look to extend their conference lead over second-place Chicago.

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