Connecticut Sun use defense, matchups to defeat Chicago Sky 67-65, move to 2-1 on the season
UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The Connecticut Sun used an aggressive defense to hold the Chicago Sky to 65 points, 29 points less than their season average, en route to a 67-65 victory before a disappointing crowd of 4,523 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Elena Delle Donne, the WNBA leading scorer, scored 27 for the Sky, but she came in to the game averaging 35.5 points per game. She had 12 of those points in a second quarter that saw the Sky erase an early ten-point deficit. Still only Delle Donne, Cappie Pondexter (14) and Courtney Vandersloot (12) scored more than five points in the game for Chicago.
Connecticut on the other hand used a balanced offense with six players scoring at least five points, led by Alex Bentley’s 15, and Alyssa Thomas and Kelsey Bone with 14 each. Connecticut coach Anne Donovan was obviously pleased with her team’s performance, especially the play of her co-captains, Jasmine Thomas and Camille Little.
“I felt good about our matchups with Chicago,” Donovan said. “Jasmine Thomas’ speed against Vandersloot’s speed. Just the IQ Camille has, understanding which way to shade Delle Donne, and not giving up on plays, or looking to switch and when not to, because if she could stay with her she did.”
It was Little’s defense on Delle Donne that forced an airball on the final possession to secure the Sun victory. Delle Donne had seven points in the fourth quarter, but the entire Sky team only scored 13 in the quarter, 27 in the second half.
“Camille came in confident,” Donovan added. “She’s had good matchups with Elena in the past apparently, so she came in talking about playing her and took a lot of pride in it.”
“For us to hold Chicago to 27 points in the second half; we talked about that at halftime. We started off with great offense, great defense and then we lost it in the second quarter. In the second half, we made it our focus again.”
Bone had her first double-double of the season, with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Alyssa Thomas was right behind, with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Thomas started slowly, as she continues to recover physically from a bruised hip, but used a physical match up with Sky rookie Betnijah Laney as motivation, doing work inside, drawing fouls (Laney fouled out in just over 15 minutes of playing time).
“[Early in the game] It really felt like there was a lot of contact and she [Thomas] was looking for the foul and it wasn’t coming,” Donovan said. “Then I think she just got mad, there was still a lot of contact down there but you could see the difference in her face, that’s why we started running stuff for her down there.”
Still, Donovan emphasized the significance of Bone’s performance, saying “If we can get a double-double from Bone on most nights, we’re in good shape.”
“2-1 feels pretty good, because we can feel it all coming together, we’re starting to learn each other and play better as a team,” Jasmine Thomas said, reflecting on where this Sun team currently sits, and thinking about the pre-season predictions of a last place finish for the Sun.
“You try not to listen to what people say about us,” she said, “they’re not in practice everyday, they don’t know what’s in our hearts and what we think about ourselves. We just stay focused.”
Smiling, she added, “I’m happy to be here, this is a good opportunity for me, another step in my career. I think it’s going to be a good season for us.”
Sky head coach Pokey Chatman was not pleased with how her team started the game.
“From the beginning it was disappointing to come out and give up 26 points in the first quarter especially coming off a poor defensive performance in our previous game,” Chatman said. “In the second quarter we hold them to 13 and give ourselves a chance, but then some of the mistakes we made early on reared its ugly head, some matchups, some offensive rebound put backs and you can’t do that against anyone in this league especially against a good Connecticut team at home.”
Both teams return to action on Sunday. The Sky goes on the road to face Indiana while the Sun remain home to host Atlanta.