Nothing that’s happened this upbeat season has pleased Connnecticut Sun coach more than the play of third-year guard Allison Hightower.
After playing a marginal role in her first two seasons, Hightower has emerged in a striking way, and in doing so has helped the Sun build its credentials as a first-place team (16-5) team in the Eastern Conference.
“She has grown up so much,” said Thibault. “I made a prediction that she is going to be maybe a top-20 player in this league in a couple of years. She has the ability to do that.
“People laugh when you say that, but every week she gets better and her teammates trust her. I think that is a big factor.”
Hightower has started 16 games this season, 13 at guard. The Sun is 12-4 in those games. She was at guard again Saturday night with Lawson against the New York Liberty at the Mohegan Sun Arena and she played perhaps the best game of her career.
Hightower, averaging just 6.5 points this season and 3.5 in her career, scored a career-high 20 points in 33 minutes. She was one of four Sun players to score double-figures in their 85-74 win. The Sun holds a three-game lead over second-place Indiana.
“I haven’t seen every WNBA game this year, but I’ve seen quite a few scouting and preparing, and that was one of the better two-way performances of the season by a perimeter player,” said Lawson. “She always defends the team’s best player, whether they’re a 1, 2, or 3, but she went right back at them and made some big plays and that was probably the best performance of her career.”
Hightower never scored more than nine points in any of her 25 appearances last season. But she scored 10 in the pivotal fourth quarter Saturday while taking on the toughest defensive role Thibault had to disperse, Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter.
Pondexter and Essence Carson ended up leading the Liberty with 17 points each, but New York was also forced into 26 turnovers, the tying the record for the most by an opponent in Sun history.
“She’s just got a confidence about her right now,” said Thibault. “And the thing about someone like her is, you can count on her to do things on both ends of the court. She took over the game offensively when things were bogging down.”
Hightower, a second-round pick (15th overall) in 2010, played on two Final Four teams at LSU during the Sylvia Fowles era. And those teams thrived on defense. Hightower twice made the Southeastern Conference’s all-defensive team.
But Hightower also scored 1,509 points for the Tigers, at that time good enough for 13th in program history. She averaged 18.2 points as a senior and led the Tigers in three-pointers (45).
“I know that I can score. It’s just being confident and taking what the defense gives you,” said Hightower. “My teammates and my coaches have so much confidence in me. That also helps that they know that I can score and they know the things that I’m capable of doing. I just want to go out there and do it and take what they give me.”
Tina Charles’ 1,000th career rebound came with 7:36 left in the 2nd quarter. She became the fastest player in WNBA history to reach 1,000 career rebounds in just 89 games, besting Yolanda Griffith’s previous record of 92 games. Charles also scored her 1,500th career point on a jump shot with 6:54 left in the second quarter … Lawson registered the 700th assist of her career on a Charles layup with three minutes remaining in the first quarter. Lawson had 10 of her 21 points (9-for-14 shooting) in the third quarter to go along with five rebounds and five assists. … Charles, Lawson and Hightower gave Connecticut three players with 20 or more points scored in a game for the first time this season. The Sun last accomplished the feat at Phoenix on Aug. 7, 2011, where Renee Montgomery had 28, Asjha Jones 27 and Charles 23.
- -- ADVERTISEMENT --
UConn Women Photos
Text AlertsFREE Huskies, breaking news, and/or weather alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
*Or text UCONNFB, UCONNMB, UCONNWBNEWS, WEATHER, NEWS to 37798
*These programs are available on the following carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, Nextel, Boost, Alltel, US Cellular. By clicking Submit you are confirming agreement with the terms and conditions governing this station and these mobile alerts. All submissions must be authorized by the account holder. Contact your carrier for more details.