Wednesday night a hungry Tulsa Shock team, were looking for their first win in 9 games on the road against the Connecticut Sun.
Tulsa center Courtney Paris put the first points on the board with a layup, as the Shock got off to a quick 4-0 lead, while Connecticut missed their first three shots of the game.
Alex Bentley broke the Sun silence with a three-pointer, matched by teammate Camille Little to quickly put the Sun up by two.
The teams went back and forth on the board tying the game up four times in the first quarter alone. While the score stayed close, the Shock came out physical, no doubt playing as if they had something to prove.
This was most vividly demonstrated by guard Odyssey Sims, who possessed three of Tulsa's four three-point play attempts, after a few hard drives to the basket in the opening quarter.
Tulsa Head Coach Fred Williams explained, "She is about 90-95 percent, and it was nice to see her come out and get us in our offense and execute our offense. I look for her to penetrate and score, and she did that."
Tulsa's intensity combined with Connecticut missing opportunities on both ends, made it difficult for the Sun to keep up as they went into the second quarter down 29-23.
At the start of the third, Sun guard Chelsea Gray hit a layup, answered by Paris with one of her own. Tulsa scored twice to follow, as Connecticut took a full timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Bentley made a 17-foot jumper to spark the Sun on a 9-2 run, putting them in it by three at 37-34.
The momentum slightly shifted, as guard Kelly Faris hit a big three to keep it close. Shock guard Riquna Williams responded with a three, and soon after came Sims with another two points.
Neither team scored after another full timeout, as Tulsa went into the half on top 48-41.
Williams began the quarter with 2-2 from the line to put Tulsa up further at 50-41. However, that would be the last time Tulsa saw a lead that large in the game.
Bentley, who finished the game with 25 points, made a quick three shortly after, as Little scored back to back three-pointers, followed by two from Jasmine Thomas, and another by Bentley.
And just like that, the game was now tied at 54.
Sun center Kelsey Bone, who finished the night with a double-double, 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Shock guard Karima Christmas, who also finished with 15, split four shots to keep it tied, as Shekinna Stricklen, with her first points of the game, gave Connecticut their first lead since the first quarter at 60-58.
This was a scene all too familiar for the Shock, who have consistently lost their way in the third quarter of games this season.
"We struggled to finish, and it showed on our defense," Paris admitted. "We didn't make stops, they were knocking down shots, and they were doing what they wanted and we were not able to stop them defensively."
Indeed, the struggle was real.
Connecticut was no longer the "can't get right" team that showed up in the first half. The team that was down by 10 at one point were now leading by six, after layups by Gray and Bone.
"Coach Donovan was frustrated with ball screen defense." Said Bone, "We had a game plan that we were not executing. When we changed it to something different, our execution was still poor. We had to figure out as a group how to correct that, and we did that in the second half."
The Sun outscored the Shock 23-12 in the third, to give them the lead at 64-60 going into the fourth quarter.
It came down to free throws as Williams and Bentley were both perfect from the line with 31 seconds left in the game, as Faris was called for the tech on Sims, sending her to the line for her one and only point of the half, giving her 15 for the night.
Tulsa had the ball with plenty of time left on the clock, but Williams immediately turned it over, as she stepped out of bounds, and it was as if Tulsa gave up right then and there.
Although all of the Shock's starters finished the game in double figures, it was not enough to overcome the Sun, who captured their fourth straight victory at home.
"I thought we were scrappier and more intense defensively (In the second half)." Said Connecticut Head Coach Anne Donovan, "I am not saying we did not play hard in the first half, but we did get after it more in the second half. Tulsa struggles to shoot the ball and in the first half they shot 57 percent, so we talked about that at halftime.
"In the second half, we held them to 27 percent. You saw a different level intensity and accountability."
Both teams have their work cut out for them as they both have the New York Liberty up next.