UNCASVILLE, Conn. – When Katie Douglas pulls up for a long, contested 3-pointer and buries it without even disrupting the net, that is as clear a sign as any that everything is going right for the Connecticut Sun.
When she does it on consecutive possessions, she is having a lot fun, and the Sun have certainly been having some fun over the last two weeks.
"Winning is extremely fun, and it’s contagious," Douglas said after scoring 18 points in Connecticut’s 89-67 beat down of the Indiana Fever Tuesday night. "And you can just feel the energy when you’re winning and when you’re winning convincingly, and it’s a lot of fun out there."
14 of Douglas’ points came in the third quarter, as Connecticut compiled 34 points en route to its second victory over the Fever during what is now a five-game winning streak since starting the season 2-6. Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Bone and Chiney Ogwumike, back after missing Sunday’s win over New York for her Stanford graduation, all scored in double figures.
Now 7-6 and boasting a winning record for the first time since 2012, the Sun boast the league’s longest winning streak, one game longer than the current streaks of the Atlanta Dream and Tulsa Shock. Connecticut’s win streak includes three wins by 10 or more points, and the last three wins have come without Allison Hightower, who is nursing a knee injury.
"It’s from every day from the beginning this year," Donovan said. "Even when we were…whatever we were because we had people who were willing to prepare, that stayed confident, were willing to practice hard, learn from mistakes, not give up on each other. So that’s made it fun this year, even when we weren’t winning."
The game was tight for the first two quarters. Connecticut was slow out of the gate, allowing Indiana to take an early lead. Renee Montgomery gave the Sun a little boost to start the third quarter, hitting a 3-pointer that gave the Sun a 17-16 lead.
Indiana took the lead back, but not for long, as Bone hit two big shots under the rim, giving Connecticut a 25-22 lead and forcing Fever coach Lin Dunn to call a timeout.
Everyone has had their moment during the winning streak, but none may have been more important from an individual standpoint than Bone’s. The second-year big has been a key contributor defensively but has struggled with the ball under the rim. On Monday night, she was strong going to the hoop, twisting and turning her way to 16 points.
"My first couple shots were short…but those were shots I needed to finish," Bone said. "To finally see it go to the basket and to continue to see (Alex Bentley) continue to call my number and go to me, it was really good to get off to that good start."
Connecticut’s spark was lit but Indiana kept them from running away with the game before the half. The Sun only led 33-29 at halftime, but the final seconds of the second quarter was the end of this game as a contest.
The second half was as far from a contest as could possibly be played in the WNBA. Connecticut won the third quarter 34-11 and outscored Indiana 56-38 for the half. The Sun were lights out shooting the ball, hitting 18 of 29 shots in the final 20 minutes while holding Indiana under 40 percent.
Once again, it was a team win from the Sun. Kayla Pedersen and Kelsey Griffin combined for nine rebounds off the bench. Montgomery finished with nine of the bench’s 18 points. Ten players played more than 12 minutes. Connecticut had a stranglehold of the game even before Indiana guard Shavonte Zellous was ejected in the third quarter for arguing with the officials.
"I think some of the most dangerous teams are not like teams with three great superstars," said Ogwumike, who finished with 18 points and four rebounds, "it’s teams where you have like maybe a whole bunch of people who work really hard and share the ball really well, and I think that’s what we do."
Connecticut does not play again until next Friday, when the Sun host Elena Delle Donne and the Chicago Sky. After winning five games in a row, four in six days, this break will be a big test for Connecticut, one that will be approached carefully. Donovan has given the team Wednesday and the weekend off, but the rest of the time will be spent making sure the league’s hottest team does not cool off.
When a team is playing like Connecticut, however, that momentum is hard to break. In Donovan’s first year in charge, there was no chemistry. No one was having fun and the locker room atmosphere after games mirrored that. Tuesday night, while her teammates laughed, yelled and cheered around her, Ogwumike, was all smiles while talking about the team’s success.
"When you’re winning, it certainly does lighten the mood," Ogwumike said. "But I think at the end of the day, we want to play good basketball, so we’ve not been talking about the win, we’ve been talking about like, let’s go out there and work hard and do our jobs. And today, I think that showed."