If winning the Eastern Conference is on their regular-season to-do list, the Connecticut sun are already in deep trouble.
riddled by injuries and 2-6, the sun may need a wallenda to help make it to the top. But there is more to winning the WNBA championship than excelling prior to the playoffs. and there are 26 games left to figure it out.
The job now is to keep focused and stay close enough to a playoff spot until their injured players return.
“I’m hoping that nobody on this team is thinking that we have to tread water,” Sun forward Kelsey Griffin said Sunday after Connecticut’s 78-77 loss to the Atlanta Dream at Mohegan Sun Arena. “We need to go out and win games and have a certain identity.
“We have to go out there and make this a deeper team when these two come back, and as everyone knows that’s key in this league. Staying healthy and having a deep bench is important. Using this to get better and grow up we will have the whole team to do it.”
The Sun were without arguably their three top guards Sunday – Renee Montgomery (ankle), Tan White (hand) and Kara Lawson (knee). Without them they often struggled early to score and fell behind by 14 with 6:22 to play in the game.
“Tan is in a cast for another week before she gets it x-rayed again, and then at that point, they’ll find out if the bone is calcifying or not. So she’s probably two weeks away,” Sun coach Anne Donovan said. “Renee is [due back] middle of July. That is what we’re looking at.”
Still, the Sun fought back to take the lead with 58 seconds to play on a Griffin put-back. Problem was, they still had to deal with Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, who was dealing on them.
McCoughtry, who took a team-record 33 shots (of the team’s 74) scored the final two of her 34 points on a driving lay-up with 51 seconds to play. Then the Dream held off the Sun down the stretch, surviving Allie Hightower’s last-second jumper to improve their record to 7-1.
The Sun next play Saturday at the casino against Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury. It will be just Connecticut’s third game in 15 days following a loss in New York June 14.
Donovan’s approach during the dry spell has been to look for ways to revigorate the roster. After signing guards Iziane Castro Marques and Sydney Carter she added a new post player last week by trading a second-round pick next season to Tulsa for Kayla Pedersen, a 6-4 forward and former Stanford standout,
“We’re just trying to get bigger; rebounding has been an issue for us [until Sunday when the Sun won, 44-31],” Donovan said. “We’ve known from the beginning we’re smaller than most teams. With Kayla we get a little more size. Hopefully we’ll get some more rebounding, and she’s got great versatility, so I feel like we can use her wherever we need her to post.”
Pedersen, a former USA Basketball teammate of Sun center Tina Charles, ended her Stanford career (2007-2011) as the school’s and Pac-10’s all-time leader in rebounds (1,266). She was also Stanford’s career leader in games played (150) and started (150) and minutes played (4,762). She played just 7:18 on Sunday with no points or rebounds.
“I don’t have any expectations at all about how much playing time I can expect. But I think I can be a big help to Tina,” said Peterson, Tulsa’s first-round pick in 2011. “I get her some high-low passes, create a few more looks to the basket for her. I’m very excited to be playing with her again.
“I have to say that I am even excited about the chance to meet people that may have rooted against me in college. Maybe I can make some fans out of them. … The rivalry we had with UConn [when she was at Stanford] was one of my favorites. You had these two highly competitive teams that really didn’t like each other. It seemed like we were always playing each other.
“But there was always a great respect for each other. They were really good times.”