On draft day, the Connecticut Sun announced that 2014 would be the beginning of a new age in Uncasville when they accommodated an unhappy Tina Charles' request to send the All-Star center to play in her hometown with the New York Liberty, and drafted Stanford All-American Chiney Ogwumike with the No. 1 overall pick. On Friday, the 6-4 rookie forward showed that the Sun's confidence in her was not misguided as Ogwumike scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Sun to a 71-59 victory over the Seattle Storm before 6,573 fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
It was the fourth straight time that the ebullient Ogwumike has led the Sun in scoring in her four-game WNBA career.
Kelsey Bone had 13 points and eight rebounds off the Connecticut bench, while Allison Hightower contributed 14 points, and rookie Alyssa Thomas added 10 for the Sun, who picked up their first win after starting the 2014 campaign with three straight losses. Connecticut's Kelsey Griffin led all rebounders with nine boards.
Crystal Langhorne, a two-time WNBA All-Star during her six seasons with the Washington Mystics and now in her first season in the Pacific Northwest, led Seattle with 15 points and seven boards, while former UConn legend Sue Bird added seven points, four assists and two assists for the Storm, who fell to 0-3.
It was a hard-fought defensive effort from start to finish for the Sun, who held a 17-rebound advantage off the boards and limited the Storm to 37.3 percent shooting (19-for-51).
"You know, it’s been coming and I can’t say there won’t be ups and downs as we move forward,” said Sun head Coach Anne Donovan, who led the Storm to their first WNBA title, a 2-1 series win over the Sun in 2003. “We are a young team—a team that comes to practice every day, that supports each other, that gets into each other, that works their tail off every day. We are talented enough for good things to happen to us. If we can keep focused and keep positive to face adversity and respond to it. We did that tonight. I’m really proud of that group.”
“I think that we were really good on the defensive end,” said Katie Douglas, who scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds for the Sun. Douglas returned to Connecticut this season after playing six seasons with her hometown Indiana Fever. “I think that once we were able to solidify ourselves offensively, we were getting stops at crucial times then going down the court. But like coach said after the game, our post [play] was huge tonight and we need to continue. It’s just going to make everyone’s lives that much easier.”
“In the fourth quarter, we gave them a lot of easy layups,” said Seattle's Sue Bird, a key member of two UConn championship teams during her four-year run in Storrs from 1998-99 - 2001-02. (She missed the majority of her games as a freshman after suffering a torn ACL eight games into the season.) “They were pounding the ball inside, they have some good post players and we just didn’t do a good job of helping each other and making it harder.”
“I think it was a great win for us,” added Douglas, who led the Fever to their only WNBA title in 2012. “We don’t want to get too high. It’s just one win. But it was a much needed win for us. We’ll get after it tomorrow and continue to try to get better.”
Next up for the Sun will be two game road trip that will take them to Indianapolis on Thursday where they will take on the 0-3 Fever (7 p.m. tip-off), and to Chicago on Friday to play the 4-0 division leading Sky (8:30 p.m.). The Sun will return home next Sunday, June 1, when they will entertain the 2-1 Atlanta Dream. Tip-off at the Mohegan Sun Arena is 3:00 p.m. For tickets, please click HERE.