Anne Donovan's transition into her role as the head coach of the Connecticut Sun has been a rocky one. Seen somewhat of an interloper after she was named to replace the popular Mike Thibault before last season, she was met with a lukewarm—at best—reception from fans and players alike.
UConn legend Tina Charles, heretofore the face of the Sun franchise, let it be known that she wasn't real happy with the way things were playing out in her adopted home and requested a trade. She was accommodated by Sun management and sent to her real hometown team, the New York Liberty, in a draft-day blockbuster trade.
So too, Renee Montgomery, a teammate of Charles' on the Huskies who has averaged 11.7 points and 3.3 assists per game throughout her five-year WNBA career, went into Sunday's game against the Atlanta Dream scoring just 7.2 points and 1.8 assists per game. Even more telling of Montgomery's status in Donovan's pecking order was the fact that she had not started a game this season, and going into Sunday's match she averaged just 12 minutes per contest—less than half her career average of 25.5.
But Montgomery went a long way towards climbing out of Donovan's dog house with an 18-point effort off the Connecticut bench to lead the Sun to an 85-76 victory over the Dream before 6,071 fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Sun rookie Chiney Ogwumike, the Stanford wunderkind drafted No. 1 overall in this year's WNBA draft, added 18 points and 10 boards—both game-highs—while Allie Hightower added 13 points, and Kelsey Bone, a second year player acquired from New York in the Charles trade, put 12 points on the board for the Sun, who improved to 2-5 on the still-young season.
Montgomery's opportunity probably came from the fact that teammate Kelsey Griffin sat out the game because of a gastro-intetenal issue.
Atlanta, which has advanced to the WNBA championship series in three of the last four seasons, was led by another former UConn star Tiffany Hayes who scored 17 points. Former Sun center Erika de Souza added 15 points and grabbed six boards, while rookie guard Shoni Schimmel out of Louisville had 11 points, and 10-year vet Sancho Lyttle added 19 points, seven rebounds and three steals for the Dream, which dropped to 3-3.
Katie Douglas had a respectable eight-point, five-rebound effort for the Sun, but it was a gargantuan defensive effort, limiting Atlanta All-Star forward Angel McCoughtry, the former Louisville and US Olympic Team star who entered Sunday's game as the WNBA's fourth leading scorer, to just seven points (none in the first half) on 2-for-14 shooting, that made the ultimate difference in the game for Connecticut.
“I was just trying to get in her space,” said Douglas, who returned to the Sun before the season after playing six seasons and earning one WNBA championship ring with the Indiana Fever. “You are not going to stop Angel, [you] just try to break her rhythm.”
The affable Douglas was quick to spread the credit around.
“It wasn’t just me,” she continued. “My teammates were helping me contain her. We made sure she saw a lot of white jerseys around her, it was a total team effort. It is hard to guard her, she is one of the most explosive players in the league. I think we did a good job when she was on the court.”
After leading by six points at the first turn, the Sun opened the second stanza with a 12-6 run, opening up a 12-point advantage after a three-pointer by Montgomery 3:41 remaining until intermission, and never looked back. Connecticut's biggest lead—78-57—came with just over five minutes remaining in the game after a put back by Bone, the 6-4 forward/center/forward out of Texas A&M.
The Sun are next home to take on old friends Mike Thibault, Stephanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, Kalana Greene and the Washington Mystics on Thursday night. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. There is no local media, but the game will be streamed live on WNBA Live Access. For ticket information, click HERE.