Chicago Sky rely on defense in fourth quarter comeback win over Connecticut, 77-74

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The highest scoring team in the WNBA, the Chicago Sky, relied on their defense in holding first place Connecticut to nine points in the fourth quarter, coming back to steal a 77-74 win on the road Thursday night.

“It was by far the best defense that we have played the entire year,” said the league’s scoring leader Elena Delle Donne. “I’m just hoping that it gives us confidence and we will continue playing that way because we can.”

With Delle Donne and Cappie Pondexter held to 20 points combined by a Sun defense determined to hold down the Sky leading scorers, Allie Quigley (19 points) and Courtney Vandersloot (16 points) stepped up for the Sky, scoring 19 of the team’s 39 second half points.

Still, it was a fourth quarter lineup that featured Jessica Breland and rookie Betnijah Laney alongside Vandersloot, Delle Donne and Quigley that held Connecticut, holding Connecticut to 2-14 shooting in the period. Laney also scored the first six points in the quarter, trimming a seven point lead to three.

After scoring a career-high 25 points through three quarters for Connecticut, Alex Bentley was denied by Chicago’s defense in the fourth quarter, and she went 0-6 from the floor.

“That’s basketball,” Bentley commented, “shots go in shots go out. That is basketball.”

Playing without suspended center Kelsey Bone, Kayla Pedersen and Elizabeth Williams gave the Sun quality minutes in the post (combined 12 points and eight rebounds), and the Sun still outrebounded the Sky 32-28, which made the loss even more disappointing to Sun coach Anne Donovan.

“I feel like defensively we did such good things,” Donovan said. “To outrebound them without Bone, and to hold Delle Donne to 12 and Pondexter to eight like we did means we were doing good things defensively. In the fourth quarter you have to score and we struggled to put the ball in the hole.”

Alyssa Thomas scored 12 points and had nine rebounds (six offensive rebounds), and played through a painful hip injury that happened when she and Pondexter got tangled up and fell hard to the ground. A double foul was called on the play.

““It was a little painful,” Thomas said post game, “but I pushed through and tried to get a win, but we fell short tonight.”

Delle Donne, earlier in the day announced as the leading vote getter in the Eastern conference for the WNBA All-Star game, came in to this game averaging over 28 points per game, still managed a double-double with ten rebounds alongside those 12 points, but it was the intangibles that Sky coach Pokey Chatman liked about Delle Donne’s play in this game.

“We used Elena early on as a screener, because [Sun forward Camille] Little wouldn’t help, so we could score nine straight points in two minutes to start the game,” Chatman explained. “Elena finds other ways to help our team. There’s certain times I just have to tell her to stand to the side because her man won’t rotate. You have to have that mentality as a player to trust me as coach and trust your teammates, and that is what separates Elena from the others.”

Chatman smiled though, when asked if she wanted to have other games with Delle Donne and Pondexter quiet offensively. “It’s nice to have Delle Donne and Pondexter combine for 20 and get a win on the road against the number one team in the east. Let’s leave it at that.”

Both teams have time off to rest and get some rare in-season practice time. Chicago plays host to Minnesota next Friday, and Connecticut is off until they visit the Sky next Sunday

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