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Sun see playoff hopes fade with 82-66 loss to Chicago

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Epiphanny Prince led all scorers with 20 points, while Allie Quigley, a fifth-year guard out of DePaul, added 17 points off the bench to lead the Chicago Sky to a 82-66 victory over the Connecticut Sun before 5,343 fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Tuesday night. Elena Delle Donna added 15 points, and Sylvia Fowles put up a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) for the Sky.

Rookie Alyssa Thomas led the Sun with 15 points and six rebounds, while Kelsey Bone added 14 points and eight rebounds. The Sun were playing without the services of Chiney Ogwumike, the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year accolades. The former Stanford stare and overall No. 1 pick in this year's WNBA Draft and Connecticut's leading scorer and rebounder was forced to miss the game due to an abscessed tooth.

Connecticut, which trailed by just one at the first turn, 20-19, outscored Chicago 22-16 in the second period, including a 15-8 run to end the frame, and entered the locker room leading 41-36 at intermission. But at the end of the third period, the game began to unravel for the Sun.

After Kelsey Griffin put in two from the charity stripe to give the Sun a five-point lead, 47-42, with 6:23 remaining in the quarter, the Sky chipped away and were down by just one, 49-48, after a 12-foot jump shot by Tamera Young (four points). Danielle McCray was then fouled by Young—her fourth—and calmly dropped in two from the line to bump the Sun lead back up to three, 51-48, with 2:17 left in the third.

Prince then decided to take over the game and scored the next 10 points as the Sky took a 58-51 lead heading into the fourth quarter and never was threatened thereafter.

Chicago held the Sun to a paltry 8.7 percent shooting (2-for-23) from the field in the third period.

“We struggled to stay in this game shooting the ball the way we were shooting from beginning to end,” noted Sun head coach Anne Donovan after the game. “It’s tough to win games when you shoot that poorly from the outside. I think it’s a little bit harder for our guards when Chiney [Ogwumike] is not out there. Defensively, they aren’t as open and they can focus more on the perimeter.”

Delle Donne, the former University of Delaware star who originally signed on with UConn, but transferred back to her home-state team in her freshman year because she was homesick, opened the fourth quarter with a trey, then followed with a short jumper to put Chicago up by 12, 63-51, just over a minute into the last quarter. The closest Connecticut would get after that was 10 points—which they did on three occasions, the last being with 4:43 remaining in the contest.

After former Maryland All-American Alyssa Thomas (15 points), who came to the Sun along with Kelsey Bone and the New York Liberty's No. 1 pick in 2015 in the Tina Charles deal, hit one of two from the free-throw line to draw the Sun within 12, cut the Chicago lead to 74-63 with 2:41 remaining in regulation, the Sky closed out the game on a 6-0 run for the final 82-66 margin of victory.

“What’s the difference right now? I think it’s crunch time,” continued Donovan. “Chicago is playing at that level. They are trying to get to the postseason with experienced players and we’re one man down tonight [Ogwumike]. One strong man, one leading scorer, one leading rebounder down tonight.

With the win, the Sky improved to 13-16 and moved into a tie for third place in the WNBA Eastern Conference with the Indiana Fever. The last-place Sun, saw their postseason hopes virtually evaporate. Falling to 11-19, seven games behind first-place Atlanta, Connecticut has lost eight of its last 10 games, and is 2.5 out of the fourth and final playoff spot with four games remaining in the regular season.

The Sun now head to New York with their season on the line to take on the 12-16 Liberty on Friday. Currently in fifth place, New York, led by Charles, the former Sun and UConn superstar, is just is one-half game behind both Indiana and Chicago for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East. Tip-off at Madison Square Garden is slated for 7:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on CPTV Sports and MSG, and will be streamed on WNBA LiveAccess.

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