New look Sun off to a good start, defeat Liberty 75-54 in preseason opener

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Before fans get too excited about the Connecticut Sun’s 75-54 preseason win over the New York Liberty, let’s consider the players that were not in attendance. Connecticut was missing centers Kelsey Bone and Yelena Leuchanka; New York was missing centers Tina Charles and Kara Braxton, forward Plenette Piersen and guard Cappie Pondexter.

It was a preseason game with all the trimmings; a lot of personnel shuffling and combinations, not a lot of flow on offense, some things to be optimistic about, and some things to worry about, for both teams.

“I told them the things we wanted to work on were really put out there today,” Sun coach Anne Donovan said post game. “Our guard play is solid and I’ve been saying to most of these guys in camp that I’ve been very impressed with our guard play.”

Veteran Katie Douglas led the way with 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting, including 5-for-6 three-point shots. Alex Bentley scored eight points, and while Allison Hightower struggled with her shot, she had eight assists.

The aggressiveness of the Sun showed in the form of 20 second-chance points on ten offensive rebounds.

Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer commented that this game for his team was all about assessment and roster spots.

“We are trying to get handle on our guard corps,” he said, “what we look like, we have two or three spots open at this time and we are trying to see who can do what.”

Returning Essence Carson struggled, shot only 3-for-13, but showed the signs she has recovered from her knee injury. Rookies Tyaunna Marshall and Meighan Simmons both performed well, with Marshall hauling in nine rebounds from the guard spot and Simmons scoring seven points.

Connecticut’s rookie tandem of Chiney Ogwumike and Alyssa Thomas shook off some early jitters to combine for 16 points, 11 rebounds, one lost contact lens and one cut mouth.

“It was so much fun!,” exclaimed Ogwumike. “It was a good way to get the jitters out, I loved our team defense and the morale on this team is so much fun; I had a blast today.”

“It was good, I was definitely nervous at first,” said Thomas, “but when I went out there it all went away.”

“First day, contact came out, mouth got a gash,” said Ogwumike, “but at the end of the day you go back in there and you act like nothing’s happened because you have to be tough as a player.”

Donovan also was looking at a variety of options for her roster, and the decisions on who to waive will be difficult. Guards Kelly Faris, Kaleena Greene and Danielle McCray all had positive and negative moments, as did posts Kayla Pedersen and Kelley Cain.

In addition to Simmons and Marshall, Chucky Jeffery showed promise, scoring four points with four rebounds and two assists. Rookie post Shanece McKinney had six points, one rebound and two blocks as well.

The two teams will meet again on Thursday.

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