Whatever goes up, must come down. The Connecticut Sun are living proof that this age-old adage continues to have relevance today.
The Sun, the hottest team in the WNBA as recently as three games ago, fell victim to the current hottest road team in the league, the San Antonio Stars, 74-71, before a disappointing crowd of 4,873 fans at the Mohegan Sun on Tuesday night. The game was also televised throughout Connecticut on WCTX My9.
It was the third straight loss for the Sun, who had won six straight before the current skid. Connecticut's Katie Douglas led all scorers with 25 points, while second-year forward/center Kelsey Bone put up a double-double—12 points, 14 rebounds—for Connecticut. Chiney Ogwumike, who was named the WNBA's Rookie of the Month for the second straight time on Monday, got into early foul trouble and was held to just six points.
“I realize that when I get into early foul trouble I tend to be more passive,” said Ogwumike, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft. “At this point, I’m trying to be more aggressive and physical within the confines of the game. I’m learning a lot early on about what I can and cannot do, but I just have to keep my head up and keep playing hard and hopefully things will start coming together.”
Veteran leader Becky Hammon led the scoring parade for San Antonio with 18 points, while Danielle Robinson had a tremendous all-around effort with 17 points, seven assists and three steals. Kayla McBride added 15 points for the Stars, who improved to 9-8 for the season.
The Sun led by seven, 20-13, at the first turn, and by three, 30-27, at half-time. The Stars stepped on the gas coming out of the locker room at intermission, however, and led by 12 points, 55-43, with 1:07 remaining in the third. The Sun answered back with a 18-6 run over the next nine minutes spanning the third and fourth periods to knot the score at 61-61 with 2:42 remaining in regulation.
Jayne Appel, who played at Stanford with Ogwumike's older sister and current Los Angeles Sparks standout Nneka, as well as Connecticut's Kayla Pedersen, stopped the Sun run with a layup at the 2:25 mark, staking the Stars to a 63-61 advantage. Soon thereafter, the San Antonio defense trapped Sun point guard Renee Montgomery, who heaved up a three-pointer as the shot clock expired. Officials ruled that the clock had indeed expired, turning the ball over to the Stars. McBride responded with a bomb from downtown Norwich giving San Antonio 66-61 lead with just 1:45 left.
The teams exchanged possessions for a minute before Alyssa Thomas sent McBride to the line with her third personal foul. McBride calmly knocked down two from the charity stripe, and San Antonio was up by seven, 68-61, with 45.7 ticks left on the clock.
A three-pointer by Allie Hightower, the fourth-year veteran from LSU, cut the San Antonio lead to four, 68-64, with only 27.9 seconds remaining in regulation. Douglas immediately stopped the clock by fouling Robinson, who hit both of her free-throw chances to put San Antonio up by five, but the Sun had one last gasp left.
Douglas drove the lane and put in a layup to cut the margin to three with 9.2 seconds left in regulation, but any chances the Sun had for a comeback went up in smoke when Hightower fouled Hammon, who dropped in two from the line, putting San Antonio up by five, 74-69, with only 8.3 seconds left on the clock.
Douglas scored on a meaningless put-back of a desperation three-point attempt by Alex Bentley as time expired for the final 74-71 margin.
The Stars, who won their second straight game, improved to 6-3 on the road, but are just 3-5 at home. “There is no secret,” said San Antonio head coach Dan Hughes. “We have had a couple of good defensive games in a row and that helps you win on the road, but I don’t know, if I had the secret, I would feel like I’m smart.”
The Sun, who fell to 8-9, will have little time to ponder the recent woes as they prepare for Skylar Wiggins and the Tulsa Shock, who will visit Uncasville on Thursday. Tip-off at the Mohegan Sun Arena is set for 7 p.m. There will be no local or national television, but the game will be streamed live on WNBA Live Access.
“The last three games we lost sight of ourselves a little bit,” said Bone, who came to the Sun from the New York Liberty on draft day in the blockbuster trade for Tina Charles. “Things that we were doing when we were winning six games in a row... we’ve kind of gotten away from it. We’ve got to get back to what we were doing [during our] winning streak.”