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Connecticut Sun spoil Aliyah Boston’s WNBA debut, stifle Indiana Fever

2023’s top draft pick Aliyah Boston was the big name on the court in the Indiana Fever’s season opener, but it was Alyssa Thomas and the Connecticut Sun who walked away with the hard-earned victory.

Connecticut Sun v Indiana Fever
Present vs. future: Alyssa Thomas (left) and Aliyah Boston do battle in the 2023 WNBA season opener.
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Connecticut Sun opened the 2023 WNBA season with a 70-61 road win over the Indiana Fever. It was a low-scoring, physical contest in which Connecticut rode significant advantages in rebounding and free throw shooting to victory.

Though an active offseason yielded significant roster turnover for the Sun — six of Connecticut’s 11 active players are in their first season with the team — it was a group of familiar faces that led them. Forward Alyssa Thomas wasted little time re-establishing herself as one of the WNBA’s most productive players, recording a massive stat line of 18 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocked shots, while DeWanna Bonner led the team in scoring with 19 points (7-of-13 shooting). Center Brionna Jones chipped in with 13 points and nine rebounds in 26 foul-plagued minutes.

The Sun may have a new head coach in Stephanie White (who, incidentally, was last seen coaching in the WNBA with the Fever in 2016), but their formula for success in their 2023 opener remained largely the same. As a team, Connecticut outrebounded Indiana 43-35 and attempted 32 free throws to the Fever’s 19. Both teams struggled mightily from the field, with the Fever’s effective field goal percentage of 37.9 percent only slightly better than the Sun’s mark of 34.8 percent, making those extra opportunities for Connecticut all the more crucial as the veteran Sun managed to hang on during a fourth-quarter Fever run.

The Sun and Fever are at vastly different points in their respective franchise trajectories, however, and for a Connecticut team built to win now, there’s plenty that needs to be cleaned up before it takes on the Washington Mystics on Sunday. The starting backcourt of Natisha Hiedeman and Tiffany Hayes combined to shoot 3-of-19 from the field, and the Sun as a team finished with more turnovers (16) than assists (15). They’ll need more from their bench, too, as a Rebecca Allen 3-pointer was their lone field goal from their reserves (1-of-11 shooting combined).

Mitchell, Boston bright spots for Fever

Conneticut Sun v Indiana Fever
Kelsey Mitchell’s shooting got the Fever back into the game after they got off to a sluggish start.
Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

For Indiana, meanwhile, this game had a special allure, as the Fever debuted 2023 No. 1 overall draft pick Aliyah Boston in front of a home crowd of over 7,000 fans. The highly-decorated center from South Carolina is widely expected to be the main building block for a franchise that has languished at the bottom of the WNBA standings for years, and though the learning curve for young bigs entering the league is typically steep, one can’t blame Fever faithful for being more than a little excited.

For most of Indiana’s 2023 opener, however, it was Kelsey Mitchell who kept the team afloat. After the Fever managed just 10 points in the first quarter, Mitchell took over, going on a personal 9-0 run to keep her team within striking distance at a juncture when a blowout was looking likely. 2022’s No. 6 leading scorer (18.4 points per game) finished the night with a game-high 20 points and four made 3-pointers.

After struggling with foul trouble in the first half, Boston got going, too, keying an Indiana run in the fourth quarter that nearly brought the Fever back from a double-digit deficit. Boston asserted herself in the paint and on the glass, finishing her first WNBA game with 15 points (6-of-10 shooting) and nine rebounds (four offensive) in 24 minutes of action.

Up next

The Sun will play their first home game of the season on Sunday when they host the Washington Mystics (1 p.m. ET; WNBA League Pass). The Fever, meanwhile will take to the road to play the New York Liberty (2 p.m. ET; Twitter).