Tina Charles comes alive for Connecticut Sun

Marilyn Indahl-US PRESSWIRE

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Allison Hightower had 23 points, and Tina Charles notched a 20/10 double-double to help Connecticut stave off San Antonio, 86-84. Kara Lawson had 14 points off the bench in her return to action. Jia Perkins had 23 points to lead a San Antonio team that put six scorers in double figures. For action, reaction, driving, windshield wipers slapping out the tempo, tight squeezes, and the kindness of acquaintances, join your intrepid and sore blogger after the jump, and don't drop a chair on your leg.

Because one game this weekend just wasn't enough, your intrepid blogger and her stalwart companion headed up to Connecticut for their game against San Antonio, on a bus with questionable suspension and entertainment of dubious provenance. Adventure!

I forgot how much I liked San Antonio and their style (well, except for D-Nasty, and even then, I like Sunshine just fine). I hadn't even planned to root for them in this one, but as I watched the bench working together, and watched Dan Hughes and Vickie Johnson working on the bench, I found myself wanting good things to happen for them.

The Tina Charles wobble-head is awful. I don't think they were prepared to deal with long hair. We were joking that that thing was enough of a mortal insult that she might ask for a trade just because of that.

The advantages of hanging out with the Usual Suspects: one of our fellow autograph collectors had two extra seats that she wasn't using and offered us the opportunity to move down from our upper deck endcourt seats to the third row in the lower deck. Sometimes it was a little too close for comfort, and those seats are a tight fit with the cupholder, but we had a primo view of the drama and heartbreak that is the rage and sorrow of Dan Hughes. Since we got our original tickets for free (we drink a lot of Coke in my family), you really can't beat the price.

That anthem. Dear Lord. All the things my dad told me never to do when singing, she did. The performance was nasal even when her voice wasn't cracking. She strangled and destroyed about six notes in the middle. She was gasping for air through her mouth- no, no, no, you sing through the mouth and breathe through the nose, not the other way around. Kelsey Griffin could barely keep her composure, and if looks could kill, Kara Lawson might have vaporized the poor girl. I'm sorry, but sometimes a bad anthem is a bad anthem.

Did I mention I love the cohesion of the San Antonio bench? Because they're clearly happy when their teammates do good things. I like that. They stay involved in the game even when they're not on the floor.

Kayla Alexander played very briefly in the first half, sort of like Dan Hughes was trying to determine if she had anything to offer today. She didn't. Davellyn Whyte seemed to get more minutes than the box score would indicate, though part of that might be because she tended to bridge quarters (first to second, third to fourth) and thus was technically checked into the game for long stretches of time that there wasn't actually a game going on. She looked more comfortable on defense than she did running the point on offense, and she's got to convert those lay-ups if she's going to make the drives. She's only a rookie- she'll learn, I hope, because I see a little of what Dan Hughes saw when he took her in the second round. It hurts me as a Liberty fan to see Shameka Christon looking as beat up as she does. I'm not necessarily talking about her play, though that's never recovered from Big Syl's elbow and then the knee injury, but strictly in terms of how she looks and how she carries herself. Her shot heated up a bit in the third quarter, no matter what the Mohegan Sun scorekeeper thinks (as of this writing, the wnba.com box score I sorely lacking in accuracy). But she got beat so badly on defense on one play that I thought VJ might have a conniption, and Hughes pulled Christon aside for a lecture after that. She just looks like she has not aged well. Cathrine Kraayeveld looks like she's blending in with her teammates, and unlike every coach who ever played her in New York, Hughes didn't keep her in the game long enough for her to start turning interesting shades of red. She and Mistie Bass were going at it hard in the paint, though Bass was getting the better of that battle. Danielle Adams moved well and stretched the defense- one of her threes was so long and so clean that we thought she'd been taking lessons from Tina Thompson on the sly. She does like to throw her weight round when she can. I think San Antonio was expecting more out of her today, though.

I don't think there's a player more unheralded in this league than Jia Perkins. She gets it done on both ends of the floor. She's deadly from the outside and not afraid to get into the lane. Chicago really blew that one, didn't they? I suspect she spent most of the night in a state of disbelief at the officials, because I saw at least four moments where she could have demanded a foul, or demanded not to be called for a foul, and have had had a case. No respect, I tell ya. Shenise Johnson seems to savor that offensive role she's called upon for. She's good on defense, too. She had a small cheering section several rows up from the San Antonio bench that gave her a lot of applause when she was first introduced. Danielle Robinson almost stole the show with a steal that turned into a fast break no-look reverse lay-up. She's quick and she's fst and she's amazing to watch. (Scary thought: imagine her running the Phoenix offense. Talk about quick ain't fair. Thye could probably outscore NBA teams.) She's got a good command of her team for a guard who's so young. That my be the silver lining for the Stars- she was already a mature player, but having to take more of the leadership with Hammon out will do wonders for her. Jayne Appel got involved in the paint, collecting rebounds and being big, but I kept getting a strong sense of useless from her. The Sun's post players were not afraid to attack her, and they got results from it. DeLisha Milton-Jones had some pretty baskets early, moving with a grace that belied her years (which I know is a ridiculous statement to make about a woman in her thirties, but really, if you put her and Christon together and told a stranger one of them graduated in 1996 and the other in 2004, I don't think the stranger would get the answer right). She got into it late with Mistie Bass, and Bass was not amused. DMJ is the mistress of inducing guilt in others from officials. No one is better at looking innocent and being so bad.

Good Lord, it's coming down in buckets out here. I can barely see out the front window even when the wipers go by. I hope it clears up before we hit the Whitestone...

Kara Lawson, welcome back, because your team needed everything you had to offer today! Her shot was back, and so was her leadership. The Sun actually looked combobulated when she was on the floor, as opposed to the confusion I've seen from them without her. Sydney Carter gave good minutes at the point, hitting a couple of pretty jumpers along the way. Kelly Faris hit one jumper but looked pretty awful on the other two, and her defense was not as sharp as it had been in previous games. Kayla Pedersen was unmemorable, except for the foul she committed on Jayne Appel (I abhor Tree-on-Tree violence). Mistie Bass brought a lot of game off the bench- not only was she her usual bruising self, she was getting stuff done on offense. Like Charles, she saw her opportunity to attack in the paint and took it. I don't know what DMJ said to her, but from the way she answered, it might have been something about her mother. She was fired up.

Oh, Izi. We love your spunk, but your shot selection could use a little work. I don't even know what that lay-up attempt was, other than an utter debacle. With Carter coming on strong, Lawson's return, and the potential of Montgomery and White on the horizon, I can't imagine Donovan keeping her around any logner than she has to. She's entirely too streaky a shooter, and unlike the other streaky shooters currently in the Sun's employ, she doesn't bring anything on the defensive end unles she feels like it. Allison Hightower put in excellent work today on both ends of the floor. She did a thing that I thought was impossible- she out-quicked Danielle Robinson on a shot attempt. Yes, someone managed to out-quick Danielle Robinson. But that's because Allison Hightower is that awesome, and I would buy her jersey if the Sun promoted her at all. Kalana Greene was pretty much a non-factor, except that if the Sun had lost the game she would probably have been the goat (in her defense, I don't know what they were thinking passing to her; if I had the ball for the Sun, she would have been about my sixth choice of players on the floor to shoot the ball). She did have one spectacular athletic board in the first half that got the crowd going. Kelsey Griffin boxed out well, but with Bass being the hot hand, Donovan didn't play her that much; I'd have to look at a more detailed box score to see the split, but I think it was dead even. Tina Charles attacked the paint the way pretty much every WNBA observer has been waiting for her to do this season. She looked like she was back to her old self. It was quite refreshing.

The back and forth in this game was fierce, and the crowd was loving it. (Except for the officials, but Connecticut fans don't particularly like officials in any case.) By the fourth quarter, they were positively roaring, and the place was rocking. It's been a couple of years since I've heard that crowd that impassioned during a game. I loved it.

The officials were not great. A lot of three-second calls on both sides went uncalled. A lot more holding and grabbing was missed than I would have expected. It was even-handed enough that I don't think that was how the game was decided. And of course, the Sun fans were riding them on everything up to and including Shameka Christon's jab-step on her jumper (did the pivot foot move? No? then stop trying to call it a travel).

This was the celebration of Blaze's birthday, so the Pioneer from Sacred Heart, Boola from Yale, and the legendary Supercow joined the big orange fuzzball in timeout festivities. I think they were hoping the tug-of-war would be a bit more competitive, because it usually is. We skipped halftime.

I think there was a pregame presentation of some sort, because the season ticket holders were wandering around with programs that had Tina Charles on the front, and there was some mention of her starting a foundation during the halftime break. (Um. The mention was during the halftime break, not the actual starting of the foundation; I don't think Tina Charles is that good at multi-tasking.)

Got back late due to the need for food, and because Norwalk is under construction again, but it was worth it.

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