clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rookie Jones' performance power Sun past Sky

The Sun use the last game before the Olympic break as a sneak peak of what’s to come in the second half of the season with a win over the Sky, 94-89.

Chris Poss- Swish Appeal


For most of the WNBA, the Olympic break is an opportunity to rest and make necessary adjustments needed in hopes of making a late second half push.

But for 12 of the league's best, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to represent their nation on the world's largest stage.

For these women, there will be no rest.

And one of those lucky 12 is none other than Chicago Sky's workhorse, forward Elena Delle Donne.

This is Delle Donne's first trip to the Olympics, but there is no argument she is worthy of the nod.

She has put up consistent numbers all season. Most recently, in Chicago's dramatic 79-77 victory over the Phoenix Mercury, where she had 18 points and 9 rebounds.

Delle Donne is second in the league with points per game at 21.3, sitting just behind New York Liberty forward Tina Charles, who is averaging 21.4 points per game.

But before Delle Donne could rock the red, white, blue in Rio De Janeiro, her and the Chicago Sky played host to the Connecticut Sun Friday night.

Pregame Notes: The Sky (11-12) are coming into tonight's game on a three-game winning streak. Chicago has won four of their last five, and sit in fourth in the Eastern Conference. The Sun (7-16) are last in the conference, but are coming off a big road win Wednesday night against the Dallas Wings, 89-78.

Riding momentum and their youthful nature, the Sun opened the first quarter energized. Connecticut forward Chiney Ogwumike, tacked on the first points of the game off an assist by Camille Little.

Ogwumike has remained the Sun's constant for most of the season, and is coming off one of her biggest performances against Dallas where she put up 26 points, 15 rebounds, and seven blocks.

And she continued to showcase her versatility. Most noticeable, on a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-esque skyhook midway through the first quarter, to give the Sun a 10-7 lead.

However, Ogwumike's passion would put her in foul trouble early, forcing Sun Head Coach Curt Miller, to sideline her for most of the first half.

With Ogwumike on the bench and sloppy offensive mistakes from the Sun, the Sky capitalized going on a 12-2 run late in the first quarter.

At the helm of the attack was Delle Donne, who remained ruthless in her pursuit of dominance.

She found the basket from beyond the arc twice in the first quarter, with the second three-point shot coming within the final minutes to give the Sky a six-point lead, 20-14.

Teammate, forward Jessica Breland, hit her first points of the night on a jumper to close the first quarter up five, 22-17.

It would be a series of unfortunate events for the Sun in the early minutes of the second quarter as Ogwumike came off the bench, only to be sidelined for a second time as a result of picking up her third foul.

With Miller's main ingredient benched, Chicago got to work.

Breland put up her fourth point of the night off an assist by Allie Quigley to give the Sky their biggest lead of the game at nine, 26-17.

The widening gap would force Miller to call a timeout in hopes of shifting the momentum.

It worked.

Sun guard Alex Bentley and rookie Jonquel Jones shined bright, putting up 12 of the Sun's 21 points in the second quarter.

The two worked in unison to get Connecticut back on track. With Jones hitting back-to-back shots, followed by Bentley's two-point shot to bring the Sun within two, 28-30.

Both Bentley and Jones' efforts were made more effective with the help of teammate, guard Jasmine Thomas, who hit a three-point shot to give Connecticut the lead for the first time since the early minutes of the game, 34-32.

The first twenty minutes had three lead changes, with the Sky's biggest lead being nine and the Sun's being five.

Chicago opened the second half on a 9-2 run. Sky forward Tamera Young, hit a pair of jumpers, which was made worse by teammate guard Cappie Pondexter, who drained a three-pointer to increase Chicago's lead by seven, 47-40.

But the Sun remained vigilant to prove they were a much more improved team than the first time these two team faced off in the season opener, where the Sky gave them a 93-70 beatdown.

Bentley hit her second three-point shot, followed by back-to-back shots by Jones to tie things up at 58-58 with under two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

But like any successful team, it is all about the second chance points. The Sky demonstrated just that when Young hit a buzzer-beating shot on the putback to lift Chicago up by three going into the fourth quarter, 64-61.

Delle Donne and Ogwumike faced-off early in the fourth quarter for their respected teams.

The soon-to-be Olympian hit her 17th point of the night on a jump shot, but the momentum was short-lived as Ogwumike found the basket at the other end moments later to keep the Sun within one, 71-72.

However, the night belonged to the Sun's rookie, Jonquel Jones.

"[Jones] was big down the stretch," explained Miller "Ogwumike was in foul trouble the entire night, and so she had to play extended minutes, and her length really helped us at times."

Jones capitalized in Ogwumike's absence, playing a total 28 minutes off the bench. And ultimately being the difference maker, with her late fourth quarter jumper being the last push the Sun needed to get the win over the Sky, 94-89.

"There was a lot of talent out there," said Bentley, "We went up, they went up, everyone is going on runs...but it all depends on the end of the game; who's going to get those extra rebounds, who's going to get those extra put-backs...who's going to get those extra stops. We ended up being the ones on top tonight, and just credit to my teammates, credit [Jonquel Jones], a lot, for getting in there and doing her part."

Jones finished the night with 20 points,10 rebounds, and three blocks.

"I have teammates that really believe in what I can do," said Jones "and they let me know that every time we step on the court. I think I did a good job of doing that, and the flow of the game just allowed me to be successful."

For Connecticut (8-16), the win gives Miller's youthful squad the confidence needed for the second half of the season.

"With the youngest team in the league," said Miller "we really tried to hit the reset button at the seventeenth game. We're really excited about our future."

For Chicago (11-13), a break comes at a perfect time, so they can they can get healthy in hopes of making a strong playoff push.

"It's a month break for the league, but not the teams." said Sky Head Coach Pokey Chatman, "There's still work to do."

And for Delle Donne, well, she has a nation to represent.

Both teams will pick-up play on August 26.