Alex Bentley led a balanced attack with 18 points as the Connecticut Sun topped the Washington Mystics, 89-81 in double overtime before 7,348 fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday. Kelsey Bone added 15 points while Renee Montgomery scored 14 points off the Connecticut bench. Alyssa Thomas (11 points) and Katie Douglas (10) also scored in double digits for the Sun.
In her first game back after missing two straight contests with an abscessed tooth, rookie-of-the-Year candidate Chine Owgumike added nine points (on 4-for-9 shooting) and nine boards for the Sun, who improved to 12-20 but were eliminated from playoff contention later in the day when the Chicago topped the first-place Atlanta Dream.
Montgomery, the former UConn star, went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the second overtime, while Bone finished with 11 boards for a double-double—her third of the season.
Ivory Latta led the Mystics with 20 points and six assists, while Monique Curry added 18 and Emma Meesseman put up a double-double (16 points, 10 boards) for Washington, which fell 15-16. Former Sun star Kara Lawson also put double digits (10 points) on the board for Washington.
The Mystics, in second place in the WNBA East Conference two games behind Atlanta, would have qualified for the playoffs with a victory.
Trailing by one at halftime, the Sun outscored the Mystics 25-17 in the third quarter to take a seven-point advantage, 66-49, at the third turn. When Bentley drove the lane and put in a finger-roll, Connecticut extended its lead to 11, 65-53, with 4:31 remaining in regulation.
That’s when things began to unravel for the Sun.
Two free-throws by Meesseman and a three-pointer by Latta sparked an 11-2 run by Washington. Latta’s second tray in the run cut the Sun lead to two, 66-64, with 2:06 left on the clock. Five straight points by former UConn star Bria Hartley—two from the charity stripe and one from beyond the arc—gave Washington a 69-68 lead with just over a minute to play.
Thomas was fouled by Curry and put in one of two from the charity stripe. Then, with 16.9 ticks left, Curry picked off an errant pass by Katie Douglas and was immediately fouled by Douglas. The 6-foot Currie, an eight-year pro from Duke, missed her first gift but hit the second giving the Mystics a 70-68 cushion with 14.8 seconds remaining.
After Connecticut called time to talk things over, Bone missed a short jumper with 1.9 seconds left, but Griffin grabbed the rebound and put in the tying bucket with 0.2 seconds left, sending the game into overtime.
The end of the contest seemed more like an episode from M*A*S*H than a basketball game. First, Washington's Kara Lawson, the former Sun star, left the game with 5:50 remaining in regulation with an ankle sprain. Then Ogwumike, who leads the Sun in scoring and rebounding, had to leave with a little over three minutes left due to nausea—perhaps a residual effect of her abscessed tooth.
The trend continued into extra time as Katie Douglas (10 points, five boards) was forced to depart with 2:34 remaining due to back pain. Douglas had back surgery last October.
The two teams battled to a 5-5 draw in the first extra session, but the second overtime was all Connecticut.
After Kelsey Bone hit one of two from the charity stripe a minute and a-half in, Griffen followed with a bomb from downtown New London that put the Sun up by four, 79-75, with 2:18 remaining. A jumper by Currie cut Connecticut’s lead to two, but the Sun closed out the game with a 10-4 run, with eight points coming from the line. The Sun defense also put the clamps on Washington during the second OT as the Sun outscored the Mystics 14-6.
''It's disappointing,'' said Washington head coach Mike Thibault, who coached the Sun for their first xxx years in Connecticut. ''They have Ogwumike and Douglas out at the end and we can't get enough stops to win the game. Rebounding, turnovers and free throws is how you become a great team, and we got beat in a couple of those categories tonight. They went and took it from us.''
Perhaps the most important take away for the Sun was Renee Montgomery stepping up and the team leader after Douglas left the game.
“I kind of always feel that way,” said Montgomery. “I feel like when I’m on the court I have a responsibility to make the least amount of mistakes as possible. Obviously, you are going to make mistakes, but I don’t want to be the cause of trouble. I just try to come in and be solid.”
Another positive was the solid defensive play of Kelly Farris. The second-year pro, who reached four Final Fours and played on two national championship teams with the Huskies, had played precious few minutes lately and had scored just two points in her past seven appearances. Then again, defense has always been the calling card.
“Kelly Farris did a super job off the bench defensively,” said Sun head coach Anne Donovan, the 5-11 guard from Plainfield, IL. “She had some good stops.”
She also had good things to say about Kelsey Griffin.
“She was the MVP of the game just in terms of her defensive energy, timely deflections, the last steal on Hartley, and knocking down the three at the end of the game,” continued Donovan. “We had some good energy of the bench which we did not get in New York. Our bench struggled in New York and it was nice to see that aspect of our game improve.”