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Sun loss has team looking towards future

The last place Connecticut Sun lost at home to the New York Liberty last night. As playoff dreams fade, the team talks about finishing strong.

USA TODAY Sports

Another home loss for Connecticut has the players in an unfamiliar position, playing for pride.

New York walked out of Mohegan Sun Arena Sunday night with a 74-66 win over the last place Sun, who have now lost four in a row.

This left the players talking about playing for pride and fielding questions about the off-season and how to improve for next year.

"We're all used to winning in this locker room," Kelsey Griffin said. "You look at our resumes - we don't have season's like this."

Now they are having a season like this.

Sitting in last place with a 7-19 record and four and a half games out of the final playoff spot with eight games to play. While not mathematically eliminated, they know at this point that every game is about pride.

"You approach every game whether there's post-season or not and you have an element of pride to your game," said Coach Anne Donovan. "I don't even entertain talk of postseason or not postseason - this is about pride."

Tina Charles added, "You go out there you want to play for your teammates' respect, for your coach's respect."

Injuries have plagued this team. Rene Montgomery and Tan White missed time early. Kara Lawson has been bothered by a bone bruise in her knee and missed another game Sunday. Allison Hightower and Kelly Faris are both out for the season. The team bench has almost as many players in street clothes as it has in uniform.

Despite the injuries Donovan said the effort has not been there at times this season, especially on the defensive end. That was the case again against the Liberty who shot 46 percent from the field and had an answer offensively for every bit of momentum Connecticut had.

"The last two games in this building we've been defensively non-existent," Donovan said.

"Offensively I understand, we're missing some weapons, but defensively I don't understand to be as lackluster as we were tonight."

Despite their position, the team says it is focused on playing out the season with pride. The best example to look at would be Griffin who posted 22 points and 10 rebounds in the loss. It wasn't just the numbers with Griffin however. Several times she hit the floor diving for loose balls and she kept more than a few offensive possessions alive with second and third efforts on tipped offensive rebounds.

"You see the fight all over Kelsey and it's hard to take her out of the game because she impacts every play on both ends," Donovan said.

"You can't take any game you're given for granted. There's a lot of players that want to be playing in this league that aren't and I feel very privileged to be in this league and I go out and try to play every game with that respect.," said Griffin.

Connecticut will look to snap their losing streak out west - their next game is in Los Angeles as they begin a three game west coast trip.

Donovan said she will expect a better defensive effort on this trip and said that she knows they are a better team than they've shown, but have no chance to win if they don't defend.

As for playing for pride? That remains to be seen. Most of these players were on last season's first place team and many come from powerful college and high school programs that aren't used to losing. Charles admitted that she has never been on a team that had no chance to play in the post-season.

This is where the Sun are now. 2013 games are now being used to try to improve for next season, people are playing for jobs, playing for more playing time, playing to improve their own individual games.

Most importantly playing for pride.