Alex Bentley continues high-scoring streak as Connecticut holds off Phoenix, 96-95

UNCASVILLE, Conn – It took all 40 minutes, but the Connecticut Sun held off the Phoenix Mercury in a wildly entertaining game, 96-95, when Pheonix’s Candice Dupree and Brittney Griner missed good looks in the final seconds.

It was a back and forth, hotly contested game that saw 14 ties and nine lead changes, two technical fouls (both on Phoenix), two buzzer beating three-pointers (both by Connecticut), and no team getting a lead larger than seven points. Both teams had five players score in double figures.

Connecticut shot 10-for-13 from the three-point line, a scintillating 77 percent. Alex Bentley scored a career-high 22 points to lead the Sun, her second consecutive game with a career-high on the heels of her 21-point effort against Indiana last week. However, the night belonged to veteran Katie Douglas, who tied a season-high with 16 points, including nine points in the fourth quarter with two three-pointers. Douglas also goaded a frustrated Diana Taurasi into a technical foul with 4:43 left in the game; the subsequent free throw from Douglas ended up being the margin of victory.

“It was great to see her come back,” said Sun coach Anne Donovan. “With KT [Douglas] we knew it was going to come around you know she’s out for a year with surgery and yet you still have tremendous confidence in her.”

Chiney Ogwumike had her fifth double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Kelsey Bone contributed 12 points and four rebounds. Allison Hightower scored ten points before departing with a knee strain (status day-to-day).

Phoenix dominated offensively in the paint, outscoring Connecticut 50 to 30. Candice Dupree led the Mercury with 21 points and ten rebounds, five of them offensive. Griner had 18 points despite having some foul trouble. Former Sun forward Mistie Bass added 15 points off the bench.

Former University of Connecticut star Taurasi received a great ovation from the Connecticut crowd at the start of the game, and then felt their disdain as the home fans cheered on the Sun. She scored 19 points, eight in the fourth quarter, to go with six assists as she continues to play more in the role of facilitator for the Mercury than primary scorer.

When asked if the youthful Sun, who started the season dropping five of their first six games before winning three of their last four, could have won a game like this a few weeks ago, Donovan said she was not sure they could have.

“We had some young kids out there for long stretches,: she explained. “I’m not sure if our maturity was there a couple of weeks ago. We’ve got a long way to go, we’re not there yet by any stretch, but I really like the improvement I’m seeing.”

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