Minnesota committed 24 turnovers and was seemingly doomed, but they transferred their frustrations to Connecticut, resulting in a rally from 16 points down to win 90-87 in overtime.
"We just were fortunate that we started playing a little more defense in the second half and had the good fortune to put the ball in the hole, and then (Seimone Augustus) hit a big shot to keep us playing." said Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve.
The shot Reeve referred to was Augustus hitting a fade-away jumper with 2.3 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 78, a surprise in itself with a flurry of possession changes that had several Twin Cities media members ready to discard the local team's chances of a victory.
"We had a few options. Connecticut played it very well so the last option was for me to get a hand-off. When it left my hand, it felt good," said Augustus, who scored 18 points.
The Sun (0-2) were playing well altogether through nearly three quarters. A combination of pressure defense and sloppy passing from the Lynx (2-0) allowed the Sun to slowly pull away, and rookie forward Chiney Ogwumike capitalized on Lynx's lack of experience in the post. Ogwumike tallied 25 points and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double.
Before theories of a hangover stemming from the pregame ring ceremony to honor last year's championship gained credence, Minnesota battled back in the fourth by rekindling their fearsome transition game. They forced 11 turnovers in the fourth period and overtime that led to 18 points, and finished with a 24-9 edge in fast break points.
"They were gambling a lot on defense, and it works for a team that knows each other. It's high risk, high reward, and tonight it was high reward for them," Ogwumike said.
Lindsay Whalen scored 10 of her 17 points in the extra period, making all three of her field goals and four of five from the free throw line. Her colloquial awakening countered an opening five-point push by the Sun to eventually retake the lead. Connecticut had one chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but Alyssa Thomas missed a three-point attempt, and time expired on a loose ball scramble that would be recovered by Tan White.
Prior to overtime, Whalen hit just 2 of 11 shots, and nearly cost her team the game when she fumbled an inbound pass with 8.4 seconds remaining in regulation. Her play was so anemic that Reeve was hesitant to use Whalen in the later stages after Lindsey Moore's presence influenced Minnesota's rally from a double-digit deficit, but Reeve indicated in the post-game press conference that she would take her chances with the team's "horses."
"She gave me a reason, if we're in the same situation again, to put her back out there," Reeve said.
Maya Moore provided two key surges to keep the Lynx in contention. She scored 11 of Minnesota's 18 points in the first quarter, and chipped in 13 points in a 20-4 run that spanned the third and fourth periods. Moore's efforts produced her first double-double of the season with 33 points and 12 rebounds.
Through two games, Moore is averaging 33.5 points. The figure will likely fluctuate as more data is computed, but the newly designated captain has no reason to jettison her aggressive play.
"Sometimes, you have to take some chances, lock in and be focused. I can help my team in more ways than just catching or shooting," Moore said.
Moore and her crew of notable names remain the focus of the community, but Lynx coaches and players alike have showered praise on rookie center Damiris Dantas. She has made all seven of her shot attempts through two games and posted 10 points and 9 rebounds against the Sun. The native of Brazil played brilliantly in the overtime session as the team's sole anchor in the paint, filling in for an injured Janel McCarville, who twisted her ankle late in the fourth quarter.
"I felt a little pressure, but at the same time, I feel so comfortable because (Reeve) passed me a lot of confidence," Dantas said through her translator, Janeth Arcain. "I have to grab this moment like the last moment in my life."
For Connecticut, Katie Douglas had 13 points and Thomas recorded 12 points and 8 rebounds.
The Lynx will have four days off before a stretch of three games in four days, starting with a Friday visit to Tulsa.