Connecticut overcomes deficit to defeat Los Angeles, 80-76 in overtime, wins seventh in a row

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Box Score || By the Numbers

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The Connecticut Sun continued their comeback success Friday night, defeating the Los Angeles Sparks 80-76 in overtime to raise their record to 7-1, the franchise’s best start since going 8-1 in 2008.

The Sun trailed by 11 after the first quarter and by as many as 14 in the second quarter before going on an 8-0 run to close the half and reduce the margin to six, 32-26. The Sun are now 6-0 in games they trailed after the first quarter this season.

“We played from behind pretty well, that is the good news,” said Sun coach Anne Donovan. “Overall when you play a game that sluggish offensively it is a good thing to be able to fight through and get the win.”

Los Angeles, now 0-6 for their first time in franchise history, came in already missing guards Kristi Toliver, Erin Phillips, and Alana Beard due to overseas commitments and injury, and learned right before game time that swing player Farhiya Abdi would also be unable to go. This was only the second game of the season for star Nneka Ogwumike, recovering from an ankle injury. Shortening the bench even more, starting guard Temeka Johnson had a hard collision with Sun guard Jasmine Thomas and was clearly banged up the rest of the way.

“You just have to keep things in perspective,” said Sparks head coach Brian Agler about his team’s injuries. “I know in this league if you have the injury bug and have people missing it is going to be hard to win games. My focus is on our team getting better. I am focusing on the people that we have and helping get them in position to win games. We are getting better and improving and I just told them we are not going to give in, we are going to keep fighting.”

Jantel Lavender led all scorers with 22 points and 12 rebounds, but the heavy minutes took their toll, as she was 0-5 from the floor in overtime. Ogwumike added 14 points. Jasmine Lister, the University of Connecticut graduate assistant who signed a contract only earlier in the week and rookie Andrea Hoover each played more than 30 minutes for the Sparks, combining for 24 points.

“Andrea played well,” said Agler. “I look at these situations as an opportunity for something. When there is people out it gives other people opportunities and it is up to them to take advantage of it and she surely did tonight as did Jasmine Lister. She gave us a lot of quality minutes tonight. Lister had her first practice with us yesterday. She is smart and competitive and I know her well because we had her in camp last year in Seattle. We are happy to give her this opportunity, she is happy that she has it and she has taken full advantage of it.”

Connecticut came out on top despite shooting only 34.7 percent from the floor, by forcing turnovers (20) and making foul shots when it mattered (7-10 during overtime). The Sun took 32 foul shots, while the Sparks only attempted 13. Jasmine Thomas was 8-for-8 from the line. Five Sun players scored in double figures, led by Alex Bentley’s 18 points and Camille Little;s 14.

Little with one point at the half, took it upon herself to turn things around, hitting all three of her attempts in the third quarter, then adding four more points in overtime.

“I was just telling the team we needed to find some energy [in the second half,” said Little. “Nothing was going to change for us, we need to make it happen and that’s what I was thinking, if no one is going to do it, I’m going to do it. There’s no one person to make plays, whether they are defensive or offensive.”

As they say a win is a win, acknowledged by a noticeably tired Donovan, who was smiling postgame.

“We showed good resilience tonight. This is a team that is showing me a lot of heart even when things are not going well.”

By the Numbers

Points in the Paint: Sparks 30, Sun 28
Second Chance Points: Sparks 10, Sun 18
Fastbreak Points: Sparks 7, Sun 12
Biggest Lead: Sparks 14, Sun 6
Lead Changes: 4
Times Tied: 4

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