WNBA: Sun finally get results in victory over Sparks
MOHEGAN — It was a “great win” according to Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault, and a “statement” win according to guard Erin Phillips.
Neither of those descriptions for the reasons you may expect.
Connecticut’s 82-71 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday at Mohegan Sun Arena was more of a win for the Sun themselves than it was a message to the rest of the league or those watching on national television.
“I think it was a statement to each other,” Phillips said. “Our first half was some of the greatest basketball we’ve played (this year) I think. If we can play like that for 20 minutes, there’s no end to what we can do.”
Said Thibault: “It’s a win against a team that has also been struggling, like us. “It’s talented, but trying to find a rhythm and trying to get its players back and healthy. It’s a great win, a confidence win.”
Whether or not it means Thibault’s tinkering with the lineup is over or not is another question. But the Sun’s starting five of Asjha Jones, Sandrine Gruda, Phillips, Lindsay Whalen and Amber Holt — in her first game back from an injury — produced 62 of the 82 points the Sun scored.
“We’ve been looking good at practice,” Jones said. “It hasn’t translated to the games yet, but it’s going to come. As long as we have confidence in each other, share the ball, and play good defense, we’re going to be a good team.”
Jones was the key ingredient to the Sun’s offense again. The forward produced 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting with four rebounds and five assists.
“She was in the right place, right spot, for people to find her particularly when the shot clock was running down,” Thibault said.
The coach could also say that for some other players such. Anete Jekabsone-Zogota hit two key jumpers in the first quarter that helped put Connecticut build a 17-10 lead. She played only 13 1/2 minutes, but finished with seven points as she is starting to learn her role, according to Phillips.
“To her credit, she’s been asking a lot of questions and just feeling around, and that’s what happens in this league because it’s so daunting,” Phillips said of the first-year WNBA player. “I was just happy to see her come out and shoot her shot. She’s got an amazing shot.”
Phillips added her own contribution in the second quarter when she completed a four-point play after being knocked to the floor with 5:19 left to play, the scored tied at 26.
That play by Phillips (11 points, five steals) started the Sun on a 23-10 run that pushed them to a 49-36 halftime lead. The late first-half surge also included a couple of late baskets by Holt, who finished with eight points in 25 minutes after missing six weeks with a broken right hand.
“I thought for her first game, she played terrific,” Thibault said. “She didn’t shoot a great percentage (3-of-10 from the floor), but she made big plays, hustle plays.”
Thibault was also happy with Holt’s defensive contribution as she took on Los Angeles’ DeLisha Milton-Jones without a lot of help. It allowed the Sun to work on denying the ball to Tina Thompson and Candace Parker.
Milton-Jones led the Sparks (4-8) with 19 points, but Thompson scored only 11 while Parker — last season’s MVP and Rookie of the Year — was held to just three points in nearly 21 minutes.
Parker was playing in just her fourth game back after maternity leave and is not 100 percent, according to coach Michael Cooper.