Uncasville, CT -- In a heartbreaking homecoming game for rookie Breanna Stewart, the Connecticut Sun defeated the Seattle Storm 77-76 on Friday. Though Stewart is averaging more than 16 points and almost 10 rebounds a game - and leads all WNBA rookies in points, rebounds, blocked shots and minutes played - the top pick in the WNBA went 0-for-6 in the first half.
The forward racked up 10 points in the second half, and finished with 12 rebounds. However, Connecticut was able to pull off a last second win, led by a 20-point performance by Stewart's former UConn teammate Morgan Tuck.
"We needed it (the win) big time," forward Alyssa Thomas, who put up the game winning shot, said. "It's not fun losing, and we've been working really hard, and we've been in games, but we haven't been able to close out. The win tonight gives us confidence. This will give us momentum while being on the road, and hopefully keep playing well."
Despite a scoreless first quarter for Stewart, a rejuvenated Sue Bird brought the Storm's thunder to the Mohegan Sun in the first quarter. The WNBA veteran in her 15th year went 4-for-6 from the field, and led all scorers with 9 points.
Guard Jewell Loyd and center Crystal Langhorne both added 5 points for Seattle, and the Storm shot an overall 38 percent. The Sun, with a 33 percent shot efficiency, kept the game within reach and stayed within two points, as Seattle held a 19-17 lead after the first ten minutes of play.
Connecticut opened the second quarter with resilience, holding Seattle to a scoreless three minutes before Bird ended the drought with a sharp three-pointer. The guard added 8 points, matching her season-high and leading all scorers with 17 points. Though Stewart wasn't able to connect from the field in the first half, the forward grabbed a game-high 7 rebounds.
During the Storm's 86-78 home loss to the New York Liberty on Sunday, Stewart recorded a game-high 17 rebounds - a franchise record for a rookie. Seattle increased its shooting efficiency to 40 percent, and Connecticut fell to 26 percent. The Storm closed with an 11-2 run, and took a 38-28 lead into the locker room.
"I think it's going okay," Stewart said on the progression of her professional career. "There are a lot of learning curves and having played for the most dominant school in the country helps a lot. Also, getting that chemistry with a new team and trying to jell as quickly as you can is crucial."
A 9-0 run allowed the Sun to get back in the game and pull within 5, before forward Alysha Clark and Bird responded with jumpers to take a 10 point lead midway through the third. Bird continued to lead all scorers with a season-high 22 points, and with 2:08 left in the quarter, Stewart connected on a basket for the first time in her return to Connecticut.
Tuck, the third overall pick, quickly responded with a three-pointer, and led the Sun with 13 points. Stewart grabbed her tenth rebound, marking the fifth time she's reached double-digit boards in nine games. Connecticut was able to cut what was once a 14-point down to 4, as Seattle took a 58-54 lead into the final quarter.
"To see each other when you're on the other side, you don't want that," Stewart said on playing against Tuck. "However, when she gets comfortable in her setting, she knows what she can do."
The Sun tied the game 60-60 early in the fourth, before another former UConn player, forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, hit a sharp three-pointer, and Bird drained two two free throws to regain the Storm's lead. With a minute left, Tuck, who finished with a team-high 20 points, hit a piercing three-pointer to tie the game 73-73, but Loyd responded with a trey of her own, putting the Seattle back on top.
However, two free throws and a put-back layup with 0.6 seconds remaining by Thomas, who finished with 15 points, gave the Sun a comeback 77-76 win over the Storm, marking Connecticut's first game of the season. Stewart finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Bird led all scorers with a season-high 24 points.
"I spoke about making it," Thomas said. "You don't get opportunities like that often, so you just have to make those. It's about finishing. The play definitely broke down, but we got a nice drive to the basket and had the opportunity to rebound."
The teams will play for a third and final time this season in Seattle on June 24.