Uncasville, CT — The last time Maya Moore played against the Connecticut Sun, she scored two points in the first half on 1-for-9 shooting. Moore started a little better this time around, but her team did not. The Minnesota Lynx trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half Friday night, en route to only their fifth loss on the season, 84-80.
The Lynx erased the deficit in the third while Moore was on the bench with her fourth personal foul, and battled in the final quarter. Connecticut cooled off after shooting over 60 percent in the first half (20-32), but was able to make enough plays down the stretch to close out the game, despite only making nine field goals after the break.
“We have to grind,” Sun coach Curt Miller said. “We don't out talent anyone. There’s a reason that four of those players (on the Lynx) are on the Olympic team. We aren't going to out-talent anyone in this league, but we have to out work and out tough.”
Minnesota had chances to take control of the game, including an offensive possession with less than 20 seconds left down by three. Whalen lost and ball in what would be the Lynx’s final meaningful possession.
“Obviously, they played really hard, (with their) second-chance points, their ball pressure, and all of the hustle plays,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “They just played really hard, and we did not having that same sense of urgency for whatever reason.”
Finishing close games was something the young Sun team struggled to do earlier in the season, but Connecticut showed signs of improvement out of the Olympic break to earn their ninth win.
Alyssa Thomas was a big reason why the Sun were able to come away victorious, making big shots in the fourth quarter. Thomas finished with a team-high 15 points and six rebounds, and was one of six Connecticut players in double figures.
“We can’t play through one or two people, and we are definitely better when we have that balance,” Miller said. “It’s hard to scout us, and is hard to key on one person.
“That’s our identity. We have to do it by committee, and I think they finally understand what I'm saying. We have really good players, but we don't have that elite superstar, and so the better balance we have the harder we are to beat.”
The loss for the Lynx comes after having won their previous six contests before the Olympic break. Moore finished with a quiet eight points, but it was Whalen and Sylvia Fowles who led the Lynx with 16 points a piece.
The Sun have now won three in a row dating back to before the break, and begin a stretch of four games in eight days. Alex Bentley was on-point once again against the Lynx, hitting clutch shots, including the game-clinching free throw. Bentley finished with 12 points, after pouring in 24 when these two teams last met in July.
Chiney Ogwumike played literally big throughout the entire game, battling with Fowles down low. Ogwumike held her own, scoring 11 points and grabbing ten rebounds.
“We have urgency for every game,” Ogwumike said. “Obviously, our record doesn't show how hard we play. (This was a) hard earned win. The first half we earned it. The third quarter they came back and gave us a big punch, but then we earned it down the stretch. We executed, and we made plays. This is ours.”