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Sun dominate Wings 85-67 as Alyssa Thomas records another near triple-double

Emily Adams, Hartford Courant on

Published in Basketball

Alyssa Thomas narrowly missed her second triple-double of the season yet again on Saturday, powering the Connecticut Sun to an 85-67 rout over the Dallas Wings at the College Park Center in Arlington, Texas.

Thomas finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in the win, also shooting 71.4% from the field, as the Sun improved their WNBA-best record to 12-1. She is already one of three WNBA players to record multiple triple-doubles in multiple seasons, but she could be the first to do so three years in a row if she logs a second in 2024. The Sun superstar has recorded a triple-double against nine of 12 teams in the league, but the Wings are one of the three franchises yet to allow Thomas her signature stat line.

After escaping with a two-point victory in their first meeting with Dallas (3-9), the Sun stepped on the gas immediately in the rematch. Connecticut opened on 10 unanswered points and led 27-17 after the first quarter, shooting 55.6% from the field and 66.7% from 3-point range. DiJonai Carrington dominated on both ends of the floor with a team-high eight points in the first quarter, and she held Wings superstar Arike Ogunbowale without a field goal attempt for nearly five minutes.

“Not that ‘Nai is not an offensive player — she is, and she’s very capable — but I always feel like she changes the game for us because of her defensive effort and energy,” Sun coach Stephanie White said. “It’s a lot to have to always guard the opponent’s best perimeter player … so I think for her, establishing herself with what she did on the defensive end (Saturday) was huge, and then that also allows us as a core group to be solid on the defensive end and get out in transition.

“She is so good at getting out in transition. She’s so good off the ball with her cutting and making herself available. She’s been instrumental in our start this year, and her consistency has been terrific.”

Ogunbowale went 2 for 9 from the field in the first half for eight points, and Dallas struggled as a team from 3-point range, shooting 1 for 11 before halftime. While Carrington cooled off in the second quarter for the Sun with just two points, Tyasha Harris stepped up for seven points after going scoreless in the first to help preserve Connecticut’s 10-point lead at the end of the half.

Connecticut was at its best in the third quarter, holding the Wings to a game-low 13 points while scoring 25. Four of the Sun’s five starters entered the fourth quarter with double-digit points, and Carrington led the first unit with 14 points in 24 minutes. She also led the effort holding Ogunbowale to a season-worst 11 points shooting 2 for 15 from the field with a single made 3-pointer.

 

All-Star center Brionna Jones juggled a difficult matchup in the front court against 6-foot-7 Wings center Teaira McCowan and 6-foot-5 Kalani Brown, but she had one of her most complete performances of the season with 12 points and eight rebounds. While McCowan finished with a team-high 16 points for Dallas, she shot just 6 for 12 from the field, and Connecticut dominated the rebounding margin 38-29.

“It didn’t help that they were in the bonus with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, but (looking at) their percentages, I think we did a great job defensively at holding them below a lot of their averages,” Thomas said. “They’re a team that gets a lot of rebounds, and we had emphasis on that too, so I think we did a great job just being locked in on the game plan.”

The Sun got valuable production from their reserves as they pulled away from the Wings, particularly from Rachel Banham. The veteran guard finished with a team-high 16 points and shot 5-for-8 including two 3-pointers, while Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Tiffany Mitchell combined for 10 points and six rebounds. For Dallas, UConn alum Lou Lopez-Senechal scored a career-high four points in five minutes off the bench.

“I feel like we’re starting to get there, but I think we’re still trying to find our rhythm at times just being in different groups and finding where we fit,” Banham said. “I think our staff and like the players that we’re with are really helping put us in the positions that we need to be. We’re putting Tiff in spots where she can drive, areas where I can get shots off or playing the two-man … We’re slowly figuring it out, but I think that we still have more to give.”

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