Minneapolis – The Connecticut Sun brought out all their weapons Sunday.
Morgan Tuck came off the bench to lead six Sun players in double figures, with 15 points; shooting guard Courtney Williams had a team-high eight rebounds to go with her 10 points; and the team shot a blistering 48 percent from beyond the arc in their 83-64 rout of the Lynx.
It was the second straight win for Connecticut and the second consecutive loss for Minnesota in an up-and-down season for two teams that began with high expectations. And ironically, the game gives each team a 12-10 record and ties them for seventh place in league standings.
Sun coach Curt Miller said his team was ready for the Lynx, knowing they’d be hungry to avenge their last loss, also at Target Center.
“They are really, really tough to beat in this building, so we had to get off to a decent start to know that we could compete,” Miller said. “We tried to give them different looks and tried to keep them off balance, and I don’t think they had the offensive night that they’re certainly capable of.”
Miller said Connecticut also took advantage of the absence of Minnesota starting forward Rebekkah Brunson, who has now missed three games with a hamstring injury.
“Brunson is such a big part (of the team) on both ends of the floor, and so it allowed us to try some different things,” he said. “Our bench gave us a lot of really good points and gave us really good energy…..we scored in the first half and (that) gave us a lead and that confidence, and then we broke it open.”
Sylvia Fowles was the lone Lynx player in double figures, with 12 points. The team’s other top-scorer, Maya Moore, had a season-low five points.
The match up was closely-fought in the first quarter, with the visitors taking a 24-20 lead into the break. But in the second period they began to blow the game open, and continued their assault in the third frame, holding their opponents to one field goal for the first five minutes.
The fourth quarter saw the Sun inflate their lead to as much as 31 points before Minnesota began chipping away against their opponent’s bench, as the starters sat the entire ten minutes.
After the first 10 minutes of play, few could have predicted the lopsided final score – especially with the hosts having everything to prove after a loss. But back-to-back three-point shots by Minnesota Gophers legend Rachel Banham gave Connecticut a six-point lead. The hosts had trouble regaining their momentum.
Tuck credited team play for the win.
“I think the biggest thing was that my teammates found me when I was open,” Tuck said. “I was able to knock some shots in but I think we played the way that we did as a team. It’s easy for everyone to get something. Overall, we shot the ball really well, and every person that stepped on the court played well.”
Even with Chiney Ogwumike playing limited minutes in foul trouble, the Sun had a 41-27 rebounding advantage on the night. The Lynx successfully held forward Alyssa Thomas to two points, but the rest of her team stepped up to erase the difference.
“(We’re) not making up any excuses, just not going out there and getting it done,” Fowles said. “That’s been the story of the last two games. I think the coaches do a really good job at giving the information that we need, we just haven’t been able to go out there and get it done. Simply said, it is nothing that other teams are doing. We basically aren’t getting it done, and that’s the end of the story.”
Connecticut began the season hot, going 8-1 before stuttering as Thomas was injured and had to sit out. Defending champion Minnesota went 3-6 before winning seven straight. Now they are inconsistent, at best, with no one seeming poised enough to step up for longer than a couple of possessions at a time.
“I think it’s the hardest thing to do right now because it’s still fresh,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said about rebuilding from this point on. “We have to move on to the next one. It’s a really hard thing to do in the moment; it hurts. The fact remains that, we said we still have our goals intact. I think that even sounds hollow at this point, so I don’t even want to see that. I know we want to win a game before we go back on the road again.”
Reeve said the team had planned to win at home before going on the road.
“We talked about that this was going to be such an important stretch, it would be a defining stretch, four of five games at home are not off to a good start,” she said. “We just got to go try to win the next game and hope that we can get our collective will together. Which is what’s missing. We’re just going to keep trying like heck, that’s for sure.”
The Sun head home to host the Atlanta Dream Tuesday, while the Lynx face the Indiana Fever at home.
Sue Favor contributed to this report.