The schedule handed the Connecticut Sun a prime early-season chance to make hay in the WNBA’s Eastern Conference. If you don’t think hay is an appropriate metaphor for pennant race basketball, you likely don’t believe the postseason is as much a horse race as the coaches.
Saturday at Madison Square Garden, the Sun opened the season with a determined win over the New York Liberty and then repeated the most popular phrase in horse racing these on the bus ride home for Sunday’s rematch at the Mohegan Sun Arena: I’ll have another.
And that’s what the Sun received. Led by Olympians Tina Charles (25 points, 11 rebounds) and Asjha Jones (20 points, eight rebounds), the Sun spotted the Liberty the first eight points of the game, took their first lead late in the second and then rolled to a 92-77 win at the casino.
“It’s an easy summation. If you win the rebound, free throw, turnover battle and shoot a better percentage, you should win,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. And that’s what the Sun did, particularly at the free throw line where they outscored the Liberty, 26-15.
The Sun (2-0), who led just 69-67 with 7:50 play, has quick leg up on New York (0-2), perhaps their fiercest conference rival. And now they also have a few days off before the season resumes Friday here against San Antonio. It’s Connecticut’s first 2-0 start since 2008 and its first time they won two games in two nights since 2008.
The Liberrty was led by Cappie Pondexter (18 points) and Plenette Pierson (16).
“We are typically not a good road team,” said Renee Montgomery, who scored 1 “But to win one on the road, and then come back with another at home, that’s s a great way to start things off.”
It many ways the game was an opposite of Saturday’s, when the officiating in the first half blew the Sun’s stack to the tune of three technical fouls in the second quarter. Montgomery got one for looking crookedly at Denise Brooks. It was that testy.
On Sunday, whistles were reversed. The Liberty had 16 fouls called on them in the first quarter to six on the Sun. That resulted in a point discrepancy of 23-6 from the line for the Sun. And that more than compensated for their putrid shooting in the first 20 minutes. Connecticut was just 10-for-33 from the floor while the Liberty shot 16-of-33.
Despite it all, the Sun ended the half on a 14-3 run that provided a 44-40 lead after that trailed 8-0 to start the game. The Sun kept the momentum going in the third, opening a 67-59 lead heading into the fourth by picking up their shooting (11 of 18). The ended the game shooting 34-of-69 (44.9 percent), making 24 of their last 36 shots (67 percent).
“Other than the first quarter, at both ends, we were really very good,” Thibault said. “It might have been because of having dead legs from [Saturday], but we certainly turned it around in a hurry.”
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