UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan was less than pleased with the officiating Tuesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.
"I don't think I've ever been this frustrated in all of my years in the WNBA have I been this frustrated or disgruntled with the officiating," Donovan said after the Sun's 82-66 loss to the Chicago Sky. "Never seen it so bad, so lopsided and so horrific from start to finish."
Chicago outscored Connecticut 28-14 from the line, taking 30 free-throw attempts to the Sun's 17. Donovan's frustrated overcame her early as she was whistled for a technical foul in the first quarter. With Connecticut down by 11 in the fourth quarter and unable to develop any momentum, Katie Douglas and Kelsey Bone were each whistled for technicals in a span of 63 seconds.
The Sun struggled to maintain control of the game or maintain a rhythm with the constant whistling, and they were not helped by the constant booing from the 5,343 irritated fans inside the arena.
"It is really hard," Donovan said of keeping her team focused. "As much as we keep reminding them as coaches you have to let it go - 'Let it go, let us worry about it' - it's hard, you know? It's hard when it's that bad."
But for the Sun, who led 41-36 at the half, there were far more pressing issues than officiating in this, their 13th loss in 16 games since a season-best six-game winning streak.
Connecticut had issues playing without rookie center Chiney Ogwumike, who missed the game due to a dental procedure. The Sun got 29 points combined from Alyssa Thomas and Kelsey Bone, but it was not enough to make up for everything Ogwumike brings to the game.
"We're trying to get used to not playing with Chiney, who on our last road trip had been playing such good basketball, such aggressive basketball," Donovan said. "And she's somebody that we really rely on now to kind of set a tone for us inside. I think it's a little bit harder for our guards when Chiney's not out there. Defensively, they're not as open. They can focus more on the perimeter and there are less free looks for them."
Everyone on Connecticut, especially the guards, had a difficult time of things in the third quarter, when Chicago outscored the Sun 22-10, led by an explosion from Epiphanny Prince.
Prince went off for 10 points out of the half, taking the life out of Connecticut along the way. The former Rutgers standout scored 20 points on the night, leading the Sky, who also benefitted with 17 points from Allie Quigley and 15 from Elena Delle Donne off the bench.
Not helping their own cause in the quarter, Connecticut made only 2 of 23 shots, which contributed to a total production of 32.9 percent (25 of 76) on the night.
"When you don't hit shots, from beginning through the third quarter, it wears on you, and it's harder and harder to stay focused defensively," Donovan said. "And I think it caught up with us in the third quarter. And it's not like we ever fixed it."
With only three games remaining – two against Washington and one with Atlanta – the Sun's hopes of making the playoffs seem to be gone. However, Donovan is pleased with the performance of her team, crediting them for the fight they have shown lately, especially on the road against teams vying for playoff spots.
"We've played good basketball," "I love the team I am coaching right now. We have figured out how to get that intensity back that we had on the six-game win streak. But we are playing experienced teams, so our inexperience is stepping up right now.
"If we have Chiney tonight, I really like our chances because of the basketball that we're playing right now. Unfortunately, we're behind the 8-ball. We all recognize that. Just like Chicago is playing for something, so are we. But we have to be at fuels strength to have a shot. And not being at full strength and then shooting the ball the way we did, you're not going to beat too many teams."