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Recap: Sophie Cunningham opens second half of season with fireworks in Phoenix

Sophie Cunningham had her best game in a while and the Phoenix Mercury picked up their best win of the season.

Connecticut Sun v Phoenix Mercury
Sophie Cunningham
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Sophie Cunningham went 5-of-9 from three, and Moriah Jefferson and Brittney Griner made clutch shots in the final 4:18 for the Phoenix Mercury in a 72-66 victory over the Connecticut Sun Tuesday night at Footprint Center in Phoenix.

It was a great way for Phoenix (5-15) to start the second half of the season: beating the now 15-6 Sun.

Jefferson hit a short jumper at the buzzer of the shot clock to make it 70-62 with 2:40 remaining. The Sun turned the ball over a couple of times after that and Tiffany Hayes missed a three that would have cut it to five at 46 seconds remaining. Alyssa Thomas’ two free throws at 19 ticks cut it to six, but that was not enough to make Connecticut decide to foul.

Griner made a phenomenal deep two from the right corner that made it 68-61 with 4:18 to go. It wasn’t the dagger, but it was a huge shot. Diana Taurasi had just exited the game after taking a knee to the hamstring.

Back-to-back threes from Tyasha Harris and DiJonai Carrington followed by back-to-back DeWanna Bonner mid-range makes cut the Sun’s deficit to 63-61 at the 6:06 mark of the fourth. But Thomas was then called for a costly technical that gave the Mercury a point and momentum. Taurasi, who made the technical free throw, hit a mid-range fadeaway to push Phoenix’s lead to 66-61 with 5:11 remaining.

Three Cunningham treys defined the final 3:56 of the third. She made it 50-43 Mercury when she hit from the left corner off a beautiful feed from Taurasi. She followed that with a step-back from the right wing to make it 53-43. Finally, she closed the frame by hitting from the right wing again, this time with one second left, and making it 58-48.

Cunningham finished with 17 points, six rebounds and two steals. Griner added 12 points, five boards, five assists and two blocks while Taurasi was good for 15 points and four helpers.

Bonner paced the Sun with 19 points to go along with 10 rebounds and two steals. Thomas added 11 points, five boards, seven assists and two rejections in defeat.

After the Mercury opened the second half with a 3-point trip that included a technical free throw, Connecticut went on a 9-0 run to cut it to 46-43. Rebecca Allen made two layups, including one in transition off a beautiful pass from Thomas and then Bonner scored five straight points off two driving layups and a free throw.

A deep Cunningham three rolled around, out, off the backboard and in to make it 22-16 Mercury 2:06 into the second. A Jefferson three 31 seconds later gave Phoenix the six-point lead back, and a Sug Sutton floater followed to make it an eight-point lead. A Taurasi three would make it 30-21 Mercury and a Shey Peddy right-wing three would make it 37-25. Cunningham gave Phoenix its largest lead at 39-25 when she took it all the way down the court for a transition layup. Connecticut made it a back-and-forth affair over the remaining 2:02 of the second and trailed 43-34 at the break.

Thomas scored four quick points early, but a couple of Mercury threes (one from Cunningham and one from Taurasi) were mixed in to make it 6-4 Phoenix. Hayes would score the next six Connecticut points, but a Sutton three was mixed in and Phoenix led 11-10. The Mercury went on a 6-0 run, featuring an incredible play from Griner, to lead 17-10. Griner broke away from a double team and made a step-back fadeaway from the low block to make it 15-10. Phoenix would lead 19-15 after one.

The Mercury made five more threes than the Sun to overcome attempting 11 less and making seven less free throws.