Monday, June 30, 2008

Asjha Jones, Diana Taurasi named P.O.W.

Asjha Jones and Diana Taurasi were named the WNBA's Players of the Week on Monday. Jones, who leads the Sun in scoring, averaged 20.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in four games last week while Taurasi — being honored for the second straight week and third time this season — averaged 24.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists in three games last week, all Phoenix wins. She also netted 25 in an 87-80 win over the Sun on Sunday.

As for the Sun, they had their first full practice in exactly a week Monday, and willl try to avoid consecutive losses for the first time this season when they host Houston on Tuesday. It looks doubtful that Tina Thompson (fractured finger) will play, though check back here for a definitive update late tonight. The Sun have won the last six meetings with Houston and haven't lost at home to the Comets since 2004. The two teams had a great game at Mohegan last year, an 81-79 Connecticut win, where Asjha Jones scored the game-winning lay-up in the waning seconds to lift the Sun.

Other quick hits: Barbara Turner will play against the team that traded her this past offseason for the second time this year (the two teams met in the preseason) and the first time in a game that counts. She is expected to start after coming off the bench Sunday against Phoenix. Turner still remains in close contact with Thompson, whom she counts as a best friend, as well as John Lucas, the former NBA coach she trained with over the summer and who still lives in Houston. ... Tamecka Dixon also remains a question mark for tonight's game. The Houston guard hasn't played since june 16 with what has been called personal issues. Despite missing both her and Thompson, who played with the broken finger in a win over San Antonio, Houston has won its last four and six of its last seven after starting the season 1-7.

Update: Thompson looks doubtful for tonight. Houston coach Karleen Thompson called her "day-to-day" but if the Olympian doesn't play, it will mark the third game that she' missed.

"It's broken, and this is the first time I've broken a finger," Tina Thompson said. "It's pretty painful. There's a lot of swelling and that's what's causing the most pain and irritation, so when that subsides, I can put some protective stuff on it. But as this point, it's so big, I can't put anything on it."

She actually played nearly a full game with the injury after breaking it during the first quarter against San Antonio on June 24. She went on to score 16 points in 30 minutes that night.

"I was psycho right there," she said, laughing. "I think it was a combination of being a little (ticked) off, a little adrenaline and we wanted to win the game."

Tamecka Dixon, however, appears she will play. She missed time originally for personal reasons, but has sat out lately with what Karleen Thompson called a sore Achilles' tendon.

"We're looking at her to play (Tuesday)," the coach said. "She'll play probably. This is her first practice back, full practice actually. She just had a sore Achilles' . That thing is kind of irritating. One minute it feels good, and the next two minutes, it doesn't. It's an ugly thing. You just need to rest it."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sun-Mercury Game Thread

Final, Mercury 87-80: Diana Taurasi finished with 25 points and a kiss to the crowd after receiving a technical foul. But at least she could smile. The Sun went on a 10-0 run late in the third quarter to get within a point and again, cut it to three points midway through the fourth. But they never could break though, done in by a lack of rebounding (45-38 deficit) and defensive stops.

Tangela Smith finished with 21 points and Cappie Pondexter added 16 more before fouling out. Lindsay Whalen (14 points, all in the second half) tried to take over late, but Phoenix hit five of six throws in the final minute to stave off the comeback.

Not really sure why Taurasi received a technical. She may have said something sarcastic to the ref.

End of Half, 40-36 Mercury: Considering the Sun's poor start, the Sun are in a good spot. They outscored Phoenix, 20-13, in the second quarter and worked the ball inside and around the zone for good looks, though the 4-of-18 mark from 3 hurts. The Mercury have cooled too; they've hit one of their last five 3s and have committed nine turnovers. Still, they've been able to keep the Sun at arm's length thanks to Diana Taurasi (16 points).

At one point while Asjha Jones (a team-high nine points) was taking a foul shot, a fan called down to Taurasi, who was standing alone the opposite baseline, 'Yo, D, how you been?' Taurasi, without turning around, gave a thumbs up that drew a chuckle from the fans in the area.

One reason for concern: Lindsay Whalen has been largely invisible, scoring zero points on just two shots. We'll see if she starts being more aggressive from the start.

End of 1st quarter, 27-16 Mercury: The Sun look sluggish on defense and Phoenix isn't missing. The Mercury hit 5-of-7 from beihd the 3-point line and are shooting better than 50 percent from the floor. Connecticut is settling too much from the outside against the Phoenix zone and aren't hitting the boards. All and all, not a good start at all.

Sun-Mercury Starters, etc.

The Sun and Mercury tip off in about an hour here at Mohegan Sun Arena. As he did in the teams' first meeting, Mike Thibault has moved Ketia Swanier into the starting two-guard position to guard Cappie Pondexter, pushing Barbara Turner back to her reserve role after starting each of the last four games. Swanier played a shade under 18 minutes in the Sun's 102-81 loss to the Mercury back on June 18; Pondexter played 29 minutes, scoring 22 points.

Thibault likes Swanier's quickness when matching her up with Pondexter. The former UConn star played defensive stopper late in Friday's win over Atlanta, holding Betty Lennox to seven points (including a meaningless 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds to play) in the final eight minutes of the game after she scored 37 through the first 37, single-handedly keeping Atlanta in the game.

Here's the full lineups, with today's officials:

Connecticut Sun
G 13 Lindsay Whalen
G 11 Ketia Swanier
F 1 Amber Holt
F 15 Asjha Jones
C 00 Tamika Whitmore

Phoenix Mercury

G 3 Diana Taurasi
G 23 Cappie Pondexter
G 2 Kelly Miller
F 43 Le'Coe Willingham
C 50 Tangela Smith

Officials: (4) Sue Blauch, (15) Scott Twardoski, (28) Angelica Suffren

Some notes for today's game:

(1) Most of the buzz, as it is every time she returns, surrounds Diana Taurasi, though Phoenix has rarely been successful in her trips to Connecticut. The Sun are 6-1 all-time at home against Phoenix, the lone Mercury win coming on May 22, 2004 when Taurasi scored 26 points as a rookie. Taurasi is averaging 20.8 points in four games at Mohegan Sun Arena.

(2) After four years with the Sun, Le'Coe Willingham is having the best season of her career and first as a starter. She's averaging personal bests in points (9.3) and rebounds (6.3), and ranks third in the league in shooting percentage (55.8).

(3) Despite the obvious toll an overtime game like Friday's 109-101 win can take on a player, Tamika Raymond said Friday's near-collapse to the winless Dream may have been a good thing.

"We kind of have this cycle where we win two or three and then we take a little lull, Coach comes back, we go hard at practice and then we get that fire," Raymond said. "I think that was actually good thing for us, especially with a Phoenix, who has been up-and-down, and a Houston (the Sun's opponent on Tuesday), who is on their own little roll and coming back. So I think it was good for us to see that if we don't come and do the little things, if we're not there on every screen, if we're not pushing their guards, if we're not boxing out, if we're not getting rebounds, those little things, things we can really clean up on, we can lose games.

"And Friday night the worst team in the league almost came in and beat us at home because we had one of those things where we didn't want to do the little things."

Friday, June 27, 2008


Mike Thibault said the twice -- unprompted -- during his press conference following the Suns' 109-101 overtime victory over the Atlanta Dream Friday. (Now that I think about it, I may have started a previous post in a similar way. Either way, this one probably deserved it more).

Some notes, reaction and keys from tonight's victory, which helped the Sun improve to 12-4 and avoid consecutive losses for the first time this season:

(1) Asjha Jones (30 points, 10 rebounds) and Tamika Whitmore (28 points) both scored season highs. Jones also set a new career-high with 13 made field goals, which is tied for the most in franchise history, and Whitmore took a career-high 13 attempts at the free throw line.

The Dream couldn't trump the Sun, but individually, Betty Lennox can't be topped. Her career-high 44 points is tied for the third most in league history, the most this season and set a new record for most ever by a Sun opponent. The WNBA record for points scored is 47, held by Diana Taurasi. Detroit's Deanna Nolan also scored 44 earlier this season against Minnesota.

(2) The Dream fell to 0-14, setting a new WNBA record for most losses to start a season and tying the league record for longest losing streak, a dubious distinction held by the now-defunct Portland, which also lost 14 spanning the 2001 and 2002 seasons. Atlanta plays at Detroit on Sunday. There will be much more on them in Monday's WNBA Notes column.

(3) The Sun's 109 points were the most this season. The 35 free throws made (on 42 attempts, for an amazing 83.3 percentage) are a franchise best. Asjha Jones became just third player in Sun history to score 30 or more twice in a career, joining Shannon Johnson, who did it three times, and Nykesha Sales, who did it twice.

(4) Ketia Swanier played just 10 minutes, but her defense on Lennox late was one of the deciding factors in the Sun win. Entering with 2:54 to play in regulation, she held Lennox to one field goal and four points the rest of the way before the Dream guard hit a meaningless 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds to play.

A combination of Amber Holt (for the majority of the time) and Lindsay Whalen tried stopping Lennox for most of the game.

"She (Swanier) did a terrific job on (Lennox)," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "I thought Amber’s speed would keep up with her and have some length on her, but Betty gets her shoulders below the bigger players sometimes and gets a step on them. … I thought Ketia was a huge influence on the game down the stretch."

(5) Just as big was the play of Whitmore and Jones, who scored the Sun's first 14 points of the overtime period. Thibault said the plan was to put it down low and consecutive three-point plays by the bruising pair all but sealed the game with under two minutes to play in overtime.

Jones has led the Sun in scoring in nine of the team's last 10 games.

(6) Somewhat overlooked was Lindsay Whalen, who netted a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds, and joined Jones as the fifth tandem in team history to record double-doubles in the same game. It was Whalen's fifth double-double of her career.

Sun-Atlanta Game Thread

Final, Sun 109-101: Asjha Jones (30 points, 10 rebounds) and Tamika Whitmore (28 points) combined for 14 points in overtime, and the Sun overcame a career night by Betty Lennox to prevail, 109-101, and keep the Atlanta Dream winless. Lindsay Whalen added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Sun (12-4) while the Dream (0-14) became the first team in WNBA history to start a season with 14 straight losses.

Lennox netted a career-high 44 points.

End of regulation, 89-89: Jamie Carey missed a 3 with roughly two seconds to play, and the Sun and Dream are in overtime.

End of 3rd quarter, Sun, 66-62: Connecticut can't seem to shake Atlanta. The Sun dominated at times during the third quarter, building a 13-point lead with 5:44 to play, but the Dream have capitalized during their momentarily lapses, none more so in the closing seconds when Kristen Haynie was allowed to drive through the center of the lane for a lay-up as time expired.

Betty Lennox has 27 points but also 19 shots. Tamika Whitmore has 18 points, and Asjha Jones has 17. Jones has simply abused whoever has guarded her in the blocks. It's just the Sun's defense has sagged at times.

End of half, Sun 38-35: Not the best half for the Sun. They didn't hit the boards aggressively against a Dream team (ironic, I know) that has failed to rebound every opponent but one this season, and they left too many shooters open on the outside, most notably Betty Lennox (18 points, 7-of-14 shooting) and Ivory Latta (8 points, 2-of-4 shooting on 3s).

The Sun led by as many as 11 (30-19) with 6:55 to play, but committed five turnovers before the end of the quarter, including one on a bad pass right near the rim that allowed Lennox to score easily to make it, 37-35. Tamika Whitmore has 12 points to lead the Sun and Lindsay Whalen has nine. The Dream actually have more offensive rebounds than the Sun (5-4) and just as many total boards (17).

End of 1st quarter, Sun, 22-16: Betty Lennox has 10 points and the Dream have staved off Connecticut on the boards for most part, helping to keep them in range. Sun coach Mike Thibault was infuriated less than 90 seconds into the game when Lennox grabbed a rebound off her own miss in the lane for a lay-up, prompting him to call a timeout. The Sun responded by scoring eight of the games' next 10 points. Tamika Whitmore, who hasn't scored in double figures in four straight games, has seven points and has looked more aggressive looking for her shot.

Sun cut Hairston

The Sun cut second-year guard Kamesha Hairston Friday. The former first-round pick hadn't played this year after undergoing surgery to repair a torn right lateral meniscus during the preseason, and only returned to practice in recent weeks.

She averaged 1.9 points and 1.8 rebounds in 17 games as a rookie. The team informed her of the move earlier this afternoon.

"Kamesha was caught in a numbers game" Sun coach Mike Thibault said in a press release. "Unfortunately for her, once she got hurt, others players played well in game with her out and solidified their places in the rotation. With Erin Phillips coming back after the Olympic Break, Kamesha would have a tough time getting playing time."

If the Sun had waited until Phillips' arrival in August, they would have had to pay Hairston for the remainder of the season even though she was cut. No word just yet if there was an official deadline for such matters, but check tomorrow's Bulletin for more specifics. The move leaves the Sun with 12 rostered players, six of whom are guards.

No time to Dream

The Sun returned from Detroit this morning, where coaches and players met for a film session but chose to forgo a shoot-around. With Phoenix coming to Mohegan on Sunday, they will have one Saturday -- in place of a full practice. Outside of their first weekend back from the Olympic break when they play Indiana and Atlanta on consecutive nights and then Seattle two days later, this three-game-in-four-day stretch is the busiest set of games for Connecticut.

The Atlanta Dream, though, did partake in a shooting session late Friday morning. They haven't played since Sunday's 97-76 loss to Detroit, and arrived in Connecticut Thursday evening. Several of the AAU teams who are part of tonight's 11-and-under AAU championships opening ceremony were milling around, and Atlanta coach Marynell Meadors allowed many of them to come in for autographs with the players.

What they found was a loose team, laughing and taking half-court shots after the session was finished. Atlanta (0-13), in its first year as a franchise, is trying to avoid the longest losing streak to start a season in league history. It is currently tied with the 2002 Detroit Shock for the record.

"Our focus is Connecticut," Meadors said. "We're still very, very young and inexperienced and the players have not been in situations that we're putting them in right now. We're looking long-term and we're definitely going after a win so everybody will stop talking about it. But our enthusiasm and our spirit, I know you can tell on the court, this is how it is every day. We just haven't won. We've been close enough. We just haven't won."

Erika de Souza, the former Sun player who the Dream picked in this year's expansion draft, was on hand, wearing a cast on her right leg where she suffered a fracture earlier this season against Washington. She still has friends here; Sun director of basketball operations Bill Tennel greeted her with a hug when the team was wrapping up its shoot-around.

Here's the scout box, which ran in today's print edition but not online:

7 p.m. today
Mohegan Sun Arena, Mohegan

Records: Connecticut 11-4; Atlanta 0-13.
Last game: Connecticut lost to/beat Detroit, 70-61, on Thursday; Atlanta lost to Detroit, 97-76, on Sunday.
Next game: Connecticut hosts Phoenix; Atlanta plays at Detroit. Both games are Sunday.
Series: Connecticut won the only previous meeting between the two teams, 100-67, in the season opener. It marked the Dream's first game as a franchise.
Injuries: Connecticut—None reported. Atlanta—Erika de Souza (lower leg fracture, out).
Scouting report: Atlanta is trying to avoid the worst start in WNBA history. Its 0-13 mark matches that of the 2002 Detroit Shock. ... Some of the Dream's notable problems include: rebounding, as they've outrebounded just one opponent this season; consistency, as 10 different players have started at least one game; and defense. Opponents are shooting a league-high 45.4 percent against them. ... Tamika Whitmore, who has failed to score in double figures in four straight games, scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds last time against Atlanta. ... Entering Thursday's game, the Sun had held three of their last four foes to fewer than 70 points. ... Mohegan Sun Arena hosts the opening ceremonies of the girls 11 and under AAU National Championships prior to today's game. ... It's also Dads and Daughters Day at the arena. All dads and daughters that register on prior to this evening will have the opportunity to take a photo with Blaze, the Sun mascot, on center court following the game.

Update: Here's the USA Today preview for tonight's game.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Game Update: Shock avenge loss, drop Sun

Deanna Nolan led five Detroit players in double figures with 13 points, and the Shock thwarted the Connecticut Sun, 70-61, Thursday at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The two teams, both 11-4, are now tied atop the Eastern Conference standings.

Asjha Jones (14 points) was the only Sun player in double figures on a night the team shot 18-of-55 from the field.

Game Update: Sun trail Shock at half

Asjha Jones has 14 points and six rebounds, but the Connecticut Sun shot 8-for-28 from the field and missed 8-of-9 3-pointers en route to a 37-27 halftime deficit to the Detroit Shock Friday at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Plenette Pierson has eight points for Detroit, which is seeking to climb back into a tie with Connecticut for first place in the East after falling, 85-68, to the Sun Tuesday at Mohegan Sun Arena. Katie Smith scored seven points for the Shock, who are undefeated at home this season.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sun-Shock Game Thread

Final, Sun 85-68: Amber Holt finished with a career-high 19 points and eight rebounds, Asjha Jones scored 20 and the Sun ended a nine-game regular-season losing streak to the Detroit Shock with a 85-68 pounding at Mohegan Sun Arena. Kerri Gardin also set a career high for points (14), and the Sun (11-3) never let Detroit (10-4) get close despite only getting a combined nine points from Barbara Turner and Tamika Whitmore.

End of 3rd quarter, Sun 65-58: A total change of pace in the game. The Shock went to a 2-3 zone early, and the Sun fired away from the outside, getting 3s from Kerri Gardin, Lindsay Whalen and Amber Holt. The game also lost a lot of its flow after a double-foul was called on a rebound (just a strange call) and the officials felt they had to make up a few calls for the Sun late when they called four team fouls on them, as opposed to zero on the Shock.

Deanna Nolan is heating up. She scored the Shock's last nine points of the quarter before a Sheri Sam lay-up and free throw.

Halftime, Sun 40-33: Amber Holt grabbed a rebound and dropped in an uncontested lay-up with under a second to play to put the Sun up at the half. Holt (a team-high 10 points) hit two 3s midway through the quarter, and her confidence shot through the roof. She's being aggressive on the boards and even more so on the defensive end, where she's had the biggest hand in holding Deanna Nolan to six points.

The teams continue to be very physical, and the Sun have gone right at the Shock, something they wouldn't have dared to do in the past. As a result, they lead the rebounding battle, 23-15, and own the advantage in the paint, 20 to 12 points.

Asjha Jones has nine points, and Katie Smith leads Detroit with 10.

End of 1st quarter, Sun 22-16: Riding their reserves, the Sun finished the frame on a 14-0 run. The game's gotten incredibly physical, as expected, but players like Sandrine Gruda, Kerri Gardin and Tamika Raymond have really responded. Gruda, who is playing with a brace to protect a bruised right knee, scored on a tough and-one lay-up, and grabbed a couple offensive rebounds. The Shock had gone on a 9-0 run to take a 16-8 lead midway through the quarter.

Tonight's Starters

Barbara Turner is making her second straight start for the Sun, joining Lindsay Whalen in the backcourt. Elaine Powell (day-to-day with a sprained left foot) was replaced in the Shock's starting lineup by Sheri Sam.

Here is the full starting lineups, along with tonight's referees.

Connecticut Sun
13 G Lindsay Whalen
22 G Barbara Turner
1 F Amber Holt
15 F Asjha Jones
00 C Tamika Whitmore

Detroit Shock
14 G Deanna Nolan
55 G Sheri Sam
30 F Katie Smith
35 F Cheryl Ford
34 C Tasha Humphrey

Officials: (6) Bonita Spence, (18) Kurt Walker, (21) Byron Jarrett

Of note ... for Sun-Shock

The Sun and Detroit Shock meet in a first-place battle in the East tonight at 7 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena (MyTV9, NBA TV). Some interesting story lines floating around one of the league's best rivalries, and a link to to another preview of the game:

(1) Detroit has won the last eight regular-season meetings, the last five overall and nine of the last 10, including the playoffs. The Sun's last win came in Game 2 of the 2006 Eastern Conference finals, a series they lost.

When told of Detroit's dominance Monday following practice, Tamika Whitmore asked, 'Really?' Of course, this is a totally new group of Connecticut players that haven't been beaten time and time again by Detroit.

More than anything, the Sun's season has had a feeling of renewal since the start: a chance to put all past failures behind them and try to walk through a new window of opportunity. That said, there really wasn't a feeling that the Shock had the Sun's number for the last two years despite the lopsided win-loss total. Most games were close (Detroit took the last year's series with victories of five, three, three and four points, respectively), and someone like Lindsay Whalen (18.8 points per game against Detroit last season) has had success against the Shock's star guards.

(2) Sun guard Kamesha Hairston continues to practice with the team, but has yet to come off the inactive list since undergoing surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus.

"As I told her, her job is to beat somebody out," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "We’re 10-3 and I don't know who to take out of the lineup until she proves that she’s supposed to be playing ahead of somebody. That's on her to make the most out of her practice minutes. She’s going to play every day head to head in competition against teammates whose spot she would like to take."

(3) Whitmore told an anecdote back at the team luncheon prior to the season that included Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer. The story goes that Larry Bird came to speak to members of the Indiana Fever before their Eastern Conference finals match-up with the Shock last season. Bird told Whitmore if she's taking the ball out of bounds near the Shock bench -- where Laimbeer is notorious for straddling the line of interfering with the inbounds play and coaching -- she should tell Laimbeer he's a "punk."

Whitmore did, and laughed about it Monday, saying, "It was just a psychological thing to try to get him out of his coaching game. It’s just all in good fun."

"Actually, Bill and I get along real good," she said. "We joke off the court. When I see him, we always speak to each other."

Whitmore actually had breakfast with Detroit assistant Rick Mahorn a little less than two weeks ago in L.A. after the Shock had played the Sparks on a Wednesday night and the Sun were preparing for Lisa Leslie and company for a Friday night game.

"So I really have a lot of respect and admiration for those guys," Whitmore said. "They were able to achieve something that I’ve been trying to get now for nine years (in a championship). I have respect for them, they’re a good team, they play well together. But we’re also a good team and we may be all new, but we’re gelling pretty good."

Whitmore, as far as interviews go, was on her game Monday. Brought in to bring some toughness to the Sun's frontline over the offseason, she was asked what her definiton of toughness is.

"Well, my mom’s 6-7," she said, "so when I started playing ball and she started taking me down to the courts back home to play against the guys, I got dragged across the concrete on my side and I got glass stuck on my side. I didn’t cry or anything because she just picked the glass out and put me back out there. So if that’s any definition of toughness, that’s the one I go by.

"Basically, it’s just don’t back down from any challenge," she continued. "If you have a challenge, just meet it head on. You can’t show fear, and that’s just what I’m focused on. I’m not afraid of anything — snakes, nothing."

Whitmore added that she enjoys playing Detroit -- traditionally one of the most physical teams in the league under Laimbeer -- because "You know you’re going to get hit. You just have to be the one that hits first."

"You have a lot of great players on that team," Whitmore said. "They have a championship, they know what it feels like to get one. This team has ever had one. I don’t think anyone on this team has ever had one on the professional level. We’re hungry. We have a big appetite for success, and we’re going to do what we have to do to get it."

(4) Barbara Turner may see her second straight start tonight, as she will most likely be used in the "committee" to guard Detroit's Deanna Nolan, who last time dropped 36 points on the Sun. Thus far, Turner has played her best ball in perhaps her entire career -- UConn included -- as she's averaging 10.7 points and 3.5 rebounds.

"I’m happy with how things have gone so far, but I think I still have a long way to go," Turner said. "I still have a lot of things I need to get better at it. I’m going to continue to work hard. I’m never satisfied. When you start to become satisfied, that’s when you start to lose greatness."

Lindsay Whalen was asked of the Turner's evolution as a scorer this season, to which the always witty guard replied, "The evolution of Barbara Turner … That’s a good one, I like that.

"She’s playing great, and we’re happy for her," Whalen continued. "We need her to keep being aggressive and taking shots. She’s obviously been a great player for us."

Turner, too, was acquired back in March because of the tough demeanor she plays with. Last week in Seattle, she went face-to-face with Lauren Jackson after the Australian star tried staring down Kerri Gardin, in turn defusing the situation even though it looked heated.

"Toughness is being smart," Turner said. "Detroit’s a very tough team and they do play physical, but you can’t get caught up in that. You have to be able to execute your game plan and come out and play within your team. When you go outside of yourself and you’re tying to be tough and you’re trying to throw extra elbows and do stuff that doesn’t really help our team, it’s not good."

As far as the Sun's rotation, if Turner doesn't start at small forward, which would be Amber Holt to shooting guard, Jolene Anderson could slide back into the two-guard spot (though she's looked more comfortable coming off the bench) or Thibault could go back to Kerri Gardin, whose defense continues to be good this season but she's struggled shooting the ball (29.3 percent on the season).

When asked, Thibault reiterated Monday that he doesn't expect Evina Maltsi in Connecticut this summer. If she had come, she would have been a natural fit into the shooting guard spot, allowing both Anderson, Turner and Jamie Carey to come off the bench, which would have given the Sun incredible depth between the backcourt and small forward position.

Alas, that's not the case, though Ketia Swanier has proven capable of stepping in at times, and the Sun still have Erin Phillips arriving after the Olympic break. Predicting who may be cut to make room for her is pretty pointless at the moment. Between possible injuries and certain players perhaps moving up the depth chart (think Hairston), it's difficult what move would make the most sense for the Sun.

(5) The Sun and Shock play twice this week (again on Thursday in Auburn Hills, Mich.) and again on July 8, meaning their series concludes in the matter of 15 days. It's a quirky schedule, especially considering the Sun-New York Liberty series was decided within the first two weeks of the season.

"I really honestly haven’t though about Detroit until (Sunday)," Thibault said. "one of the things I’ve tried to do with this team — and I think I’ve followed my own lead — is don’t, look ahead. Now it’s here."

Of Detroit, Thibault feels they've only improved, especially because of the play of rookies Tasha Humphrey, who's established herself as the starting center and scored 28 points 10 days ago against Phoenix, and Alexis Hornbuckle, the hustle guard who leads the league in steals.

"No. 1, they’re getting healthier as they go," Thibault said. "Nolan and (Cheryl) Ford are getting healthier. Ford was not healthy for the majority of the playoffs (last year). She’s gotten better and better. She has back-to-back double-doubles now.

"Adding Hornbuckle and Humphrey has given them young talent that has fit in well with their team. It’s allowed them to sub different ways and play different match-ups. You bring a (Plenette) Pierson and (Kara) Braxton and a Hornbuckle off the bench, you’re pretty deep."

Here's the scout box for the game with projected starters. I took Kamesha Hairson out of the Injury report.

7 p.m., today
Mohegan Sun Arena, Mohegan

Records: Connecticut 10-3; Detroit 10-3.
Last game: Connecticut won at Sacramento, 72-56, on Friday; Detroit won at Atlanta, 97-76, on Sunday.
Next game: Connecticut plays at Detroit Thursday.
TV/Internet: MyTV9, NBA TV/
Series: Detroit leads the all-time series, 22-16, and has won nine of the last 10 meetings between the two teams, including the last five. Connecticut’s last win came in Game 2 of the 2006 Eastern Conference finals, a 77-68 victory at home.
Injuries: Connecticut—None reported. Detroit—Elaine Powell (sprained left foot, day-to-day).
Scouting report: Detroit traded forward LaToya Thomas to Minnesota on Sunday in exchange for guard second-year guard Eshaya Murphy. Shock coach Bill Laimbeer envisioned Thomas playing the small forward position after trading for her during the offseason, but the former No. 1 overall pick struggled in limited minutes. … Detroit guard Deanna Nolan averaged 20.3 points in four games against Connecticut last year, scoring a then franchise-best 36 in a 92-88 win on July 24. Lindsay Whalen scored a career-high 33 points that night. … Nolan broke the franchise scoring mark with 44 points in Friday’s 98-93 overtime win over Minnesota. She was named the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Week Monday … The Sun commit the fewest fouls of any team in the league (17.3 per game). The always-physical Shock, meanwhile, draw the most (23.8). ... When Lindsay Whalen, Tamika Whitmore and Asjha Jones all score in double figures, the Sun are 8-1. ... The Sun have made 97 3s through 13 games, putting them on pace to break the franchise record for 3s in a season with 195. Connecticut also set a new franchise record with 10 in the first half against Phoenix last week.

22 F Barbara Turner 10.7
15 F Asjha Jones 15.5
00 C Tamika Whitmore 13.8
13 G Lindsay Whalen 14.8
1 G Amber Holt 5.4

Connecticut reserves
33 Jolene Anderson 6.4
7 Sandrine Gruda 5.3
10 Jamie Carey 3.1

30 F Katie Smith 16.4
35 F Cheryl Ford 8.3
34 C Tasha Humphrey 8.1
14 G Deanna Nolan 15.5
5 G Elaine Powell 5.0

Detroit reserves
23 Plenette Pierson 11.6
45 Kara Braxton 7.5
22 Alexis Hornbuckle 6.8

Monday, June 23, 2008

Trading post

There was an unusual amount of trade activity in the WNBA Sunday. Seattle swapped a 2009 second round pick for Atlanta's Camille Little and Detroit shipped LaToya Thomas to Minnesota for Shay Murphy.

Seattle desperately needed more depth, and essentially replaced the little-used Florina Pascalau (zero points in nine minutes played on the season) with the 6-foot-2 Little. For more, check out the Seattle Times blog.

Detroit, meanwhile, had too many power forwards, and after trading for Thomas on the day of the expansion draft, coach Bill Laimbeer has used her sparingly.

"I thought LaToya could play the 3, but coming off of last year (when she had offseason knee surgery), she wasn’t in the best shape," Laimbeer told the Shock's Web site. "It was clear she had to play the power forward, and there’s no (playing) time at the power forward."

The Lynx, meanwhile, rank near the bottom in both 3-point shooting and rebounding. Though Thomas hasn't shown an ability to do much of both in limited time this season, the former No. 1 overall pick has potential to contribute in both areas. Plus, with Minnesota's latest slide (five straight losses), it could use a move to shake things up.

That said, neither trade is hugely significant, as few (if any) in-season deals have been in recent years.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Game Update: Sun close road trip on high note

Sun coach Mike Thibault inserted Barbara Turner into the starting lineup for the first time this season, and she responded with 12 points, helping to lead the Sun to a 72-56 win over the Sacramento Monarchs Friday. Connecticut closed its five-game, 13-day road trip with a 3-2 mark, and the Sun (10-3) became the first WNBA team to 10 wins.

Asjha Jones led the Sun with 14 points and Amber Holt added 10. Lindsay Whalen scored nine points, ending a streak of 16 straight games in double figures, one short of the franchise record.

The win, however, wasn't a pretty one. The Sun didn't rebound particularly well, despite winning the overall battle, 33-32. The Monarchs (5-6) grabbed 15 offensive boards, compared to five by Connecticut, and Rebekkah Brunson (19 points) finished with 10 rebounds. The Sun also committed 19 turnovers.To balance that, they hit 9-of-18 3s, and Jolene Anderson, after scoring 10 points off the bench against Phoenix, responded with nine more on 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point. The Connecticut defense also held Sacramento to 22-of-64 shooting, and no one besides Brunson scored in double figures.

Here's the full box score.

Friday, June 20, 2008


The Sun conclude their road trip tonight at the Sacramento Monarchs(10 p.m., ARCO Arena). Again, no TV tonight, but you can follow online at the team's Web site. Jolene Anderson "probably" will start, Sun coach Mike Thibault said, a game after Ketia Swanier replaced her for defensive purposes on Phoenix' Cappie Pondexter.

"She did alright," Thibault said of Swanier. "She did a pretty good job on Cappie Pondexter. That's why we did it. We probably won't have the same lineup (tonight). It was a one-night thing for a match-up."

Thibault, naturally, wasn't in the greatest of moods following the Sun's 21-point loss to Phoenix, saying he wasn't "happy about anything" from the loss. A game after their offensive rebounding staved off Seattle early, the Sun grabbed just five boards off their missed shots against the Mercury, a team that ranked second to last in rebound differential in the league entering the game.

"Offensive rebounding is strictly effort, that's all it is," Thibault said. "You have to have a will to do it. Some people have it, some people don't. You can't have it one night and not have it the next."

As for Sacramento, in many ways it's a far different team than the one the Sun saw in the third game of the season (an 87-64 victory) and in many ways, it isn't. It still emphasizes defense, looking to split the court and take away the weak side of the floor, and the offensive weapons -- namely Rebekkah Brunson, Nicole Powell and Kara Lawson -- remain the same. But the Monarchs (5-5) are certainly deeper, adding Chelsea Newton and Scholanda Robinson, who were injured the first time the teams met. The Monarchs are 2-2 at home this season.

"We played badly in the first quarter against them last time; I mean, really badly," Thibault said. "I don't think we can afford that kind of a start (tonight) on the road. I think we were farther along than they were at that time. They have some new players, we have a new player (in Sandrina Gruda). It's just different. Teams go through different stretches where they go up and down and they're on a pretty good up despite their loss to L.A. (last Saturday at home). They played pretty well for long stretches (that night)."

Following the game, the Sun will stay in Sacramento. Thibault said their flight won't touch down on the East coast until 11 p.m. on Saturday, completing the team's 13-day road trip. Asked if the travel was starting to wear on the team -- especially after it shot so poorly Wednesday in Phoenix and faded late -- Thibault said, "No, I don't think so."

"I think we just played bad basketball," he said. "I think if we can't be a consistent offensive rebounding team, we're going to have games like this and weeks like this, because right now defensively we don't generate enough turnovers by other teams. We need to get more possessions some way, so you either have to get them that way or you have to get extra possessions off the offensive boards. And we're doing neither right now. That's one of our biggest concerns. We're not good enough right now to outscore everybody."

Thibault went on to say "every night for us is a fight." Asked if there's a concern those nights will eventually wear his team down, the coach laughed -- but not because it was a ridiculous question.

"I worry about every thing," he said. "That would be one of them. We're not going to show up, put our sneakers on and overwhelm anybody. We have to have a great effort every night, be smart every night, and we gotta play to our strengths and try to hide some of our weaknesses. And (Wednesday) night, we didn't."

Here's the scout box for tonight's game:

10 p.m., today
ARCO Arena, Sacramento, Calif.

Records: Connecticut 9-3; Sacramento 5-5.
Last game: Connecticut lost at Phoenix, 102-81, on Wednesday; Sacramento lost to Los Angeles, 74-66, on Saturday.
Next game: Connecticut hosts Detroit Tuesday; Sacramento hosts Chicago Sunday.
Series: Sacramento leads the all-time series, 11-10, and is 5-4 against the Sun at home. Connecticut won the previous meeting between the two teams this season at Mohegan Sun Arena, 87-64, on May 24.
Injuries: Connecticut—Kamesha Hairston (recovering from surgery to repair torn meniscus, day-to-day). Sacramento—None reported.
Scouting report: Sun coach Mike Thibault said the Sun “probably won’t have the same starting lineup” tonight as they did against Phoenix, when rookie Ketia Swanier made her first career start in place of Jolene Anderson. “She did a pretty good on Cappie Pondexter,” Thibault said of Swanier. “That’s why we did it. It was a one-night thing for a match-up.” Asked if Anderson would return to her starting role, Thibault said “probably.” … Connecticut and Sacramento played what Thibault called “one of the best games all season” last year in ARCO Arena, an 82-78 overtime win by the Sun. “We’re facing a team that’s pretty experienced, good at home,” Thibault said. “They have one of the best homecourt advantages in the league. We’ve had some great games here.” … With 10 or more points tonight, Lindsay Whalen will tie a franchise record with her 17th consecutive game scoring in double figures, a mark set by Katie Douglas in 2006. Whalen notched 13 points Wednesday in Phoenix, hitting a season-high three 3-pointers … The Monarchs are going for their 200th win as a franchise. They own a career record of 123-59 at home, compared to 76-108 on the road. They are 2-2 at ARCO this season. … Chelsea Newton (3.0 points per game) and Scholanda Robinson, sidelined by injury the first time Sacramento and Connecticut met, have both played in the Monarchs’ last six games, averaging a combined 30.2 minutes. They’re both known more for their presence on the defensive end, as Newton — a starter all of last season — earned WNBA All-Defensive second team honors. Sacramento is 4-2 since they’ve returned.

1 Amber Holt 5.0
15 Asjha Jones 15.6
00 Tamika Whitmore 14.3
13 Lindsay Whalen 15.3
33 Jolene Anderson 6.2

Connecticut reserves
22 Barbara Turner 10.6
7 Sandrine Gruda 5.7
10 Jamie Carey 3.2

14 Nicole Powell 14.3
32 Rebekkah Brunson 11.1
34 A. Williams-Strong 6.6
20 Kara Lawson 10.6
21 Ticha Penicheiro 9.6

Sacramento reserves
15 Laura Harper 6.3
42 Crystal Kelly 5.6
5 Scholanda Robinson 4.3

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sun rise to meet Mercury

The Road Trip That Won't End continues for the Sun tonight when they take on the surprisingly last-place Phoenix Mercury (10 p.m.). No TV tonight, but you can catch it online at the Sun's Web site.

Here are some links previewing the game from Phoenix's angle. Despite boasting the league's top offense and its top two scorers in Cappie Pondexter (25.5 points per game) and UConn alum Diana Taurasi (23.5), Phoenix has several problems. It owns the worst scoring defense in the league, it is second to last in rebound differential and shooting woes have continued to hurt them. Taurasi and Pondexter, for one, shot a combined 6-for-37 in a loss to Detroit last Saturday.

Then again, defense and rebounding weren't Phoenix's strong suit last year either. But they had Penny Taylor -- and that, Sun coach Mike Thibault explained makes all the difference.

"Penny Taylor was their MVP last year," Thibault said. "Taurasi might be there most talented player, but Penny Taylor was their glue. They miss her, it’s that simple. It’s like if you took Asjha out of our team right now.

"Tangela’s Smith has missed a couple games with injuries, too," he continued, though she is expected to play tonight after missing two straight games. "So you’re talking about taking their two starting frontcourt players off the floor, it’s just a big loss for any team. It’s like watching the Celtics and you can pick whatever bench player you want to pick and you’re going to have them besides (Kevin) Garnett or somebody. It’s just different."

Phoenix, the league's quintessential run-and-gun team, also aren't shocking opponents' systems anymore. More and more teams (the Sun, Minnesota, L.A. being the best examples) have upped their tempo to the point that Phoenix may out-run you, but not as much as before.

"Usually we go to Phoenix, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, they wanna run, they wanna run,'" Sun forward Asjha Jones said. "But the teams we’ve played so far have been running teams also. We went out to L.A., and they had an up-tempo pace, more than they had in the past. So that’s been getting us ready for this one. Hopefully we’ll get out to a good start — finally."

A note on Jones: The 6-foot-2 forward has now scored in double figures in five consecutive games, and seems to be finding a better rhythm playing alongside Tamika Whitmore, who has also netted 10 or more in every game but one this season.

"I’m not satisfied," Jones said of her individual success. "I’m not satisfied at all. It’s still early. Even last game, there were a couple things that I wish I could have had back, shots I should have made. But as far as getting involved, definitely. People have looked for me and I’m trying to make to play. I’m looking to score first.

"On teams in the past, (Whitmore and I) were the only four (position), and now we’re both the four," she continued. "I don’t have a true center that I’m playing with. I’m with someone who’s like myself. So just the whole inside-outside game, usually I would go more outside, but now I have to do both, and she does, too. We’re figuring it out."

The two also connected for several passes in the Sun's win over Seattle, including a nice first-half feed from Whitmore at the top of key to Jones alone under the hoop.

Before I get to the scout box for tonight's game, there's something I have to comment on: I realize the WNBA is continually looking to validate itself on the national sporting landscape, but I find it ridiculous it made a Bob Ryan blog post it's lead story for more than a day ... and then had a reaction from president Donna Orender as one of its top stories after that.

Now, Ryan was glowing in his remarks after watching the L.A.-Detroit game last week, and for any WNBA supporter, I'm sure it made them feel good. But does the league's official Web site really need to scream, "Hey, look! We're relevant! Did you see what Bob Ryan said? You know, the guy from the Boston Globe. He was 'blown away' by us! Can you believe it! He likes us, he really, really likes us! Look right here!'


The league has a good product, and it's getting better every year. But let people realize it by watching it from themselves instead of straining to make a blog post (not even a column, mind you) the most important thing on the Web site. It looks like you're trying too hard.

Sorry, but I had to say it. On to the scout box ...

10 p.m., today
U.S. Airways Center, Phoenix

Records: Connecticut 9-2; Phoenix 2-6.
Last game: Connecticut beat Seattle, 74-67, on Monday; Phoenix lost to Detroit, 89-79, on Saturday.
Next game: Connecticut plays at Sacramento Friday; Phoenix hosts Chicago Friday.
Series: Connecticut leads the all-time series, 8-7, but is 2-6 in Phoenix. The Sun haven’t won at the Mercury since June 25, 2005.
Injuries: Connecticut—Kamesha Hairston (recovering from surgery to repair torn meniscus, day-to-day). Phoenix—Tangela Smith (right knee swelling, probable).
Scouting report: Phoenix starting center Tangela Smith missed her second straight game last Saturday against Detroit. She bruised her knee on June 6 in an 85-79 win over Los Angeles. … The Sun were part of the second highest scoring game in Phoenix history last season, a 111-109 double-overtime win by the Mercury. Penny Taylor, who won’t join Phoenix until after the Olympic break as she trains with the Australian national team, scored 30 points that night to become the fourth player in league history to score 25 or more points in four straight games. … Diana Taurasi is coming off a season-worst nine-point performance. The former UConn star ranks second in the league in scoring behind teammate Cappie Pondexter. … With 13 points Monday in Seattle, Sun guard Lindsay Whalen has scored in double figures in a career-best 15 straight games, two shy of the franchise record set by Katie Douglas in 2006. She also leads the Sun in rebounding (6.2 per game), assists (5.5, third in the league) and steals (1.4). … Phoenix coach Corey Gaines played under Sun coach Mike Thibault on the CBA’s Omaha Racers. … The Mercury, aiming to become the first team in league history to lead the league in scoring in three straight seasons, are tops in the WNBA in points scored (84.4 per game) — but also points allowed (88.1).

1 F Amber Holt 4.8
15 F Asjha Jones 15.4
00 C Tamika Whitmore 14.9
13 G Lindsay Whalen 15.5
33 G Jolene Anderson 5.8

Connecticut reserves

22 Barbara Turner 10.8
7 Sandrine Gruda 6.0
10 Jamie Carey 2.5

3 F Diana Taurasi 23.5
43 F Le’Coe Willingham 7.5
C Tangela Smith
2 G Kelly Miller 6.5
23 G Cappie Pondexter 25.5

Phoenix reserves
30 LaToya Pringle 5.3
33 Kelly Mazzante 4.4
54 Barbara Farris 3.9

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sun weather Storm

Apologies from the lack of posts from tonight's game (I was on desk in the office), but here are some observations from the Sun's 74-67 win over the Seattle Storm, their sixth victory in seven games and league-leading ninth overall.

(1) Rebounding: Connecticut (9-2) won the battle on the boards by a small margin (40-37) and by the end of the game, Seattle (7-6, three straight losses) nearly had as many offensive boards (12 to the Sun's 14). But Connecticut's rebounding kept them in the game early. Tamika Raymond grabbed three offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone, helping to stop the bleeding as Seattle built a nine-point lead by start of the second frame. Raymond finished with nine total boards for the game, a season-high six coming on the offensive end.

The bench as a whole came up big in that opening sequence. After Seattle went on an 11-0 to erase a 2-0 Sun lead, coach Mike Thibault benched his entire starting before the game was even five minutes old. The team of Jamie Carey, Barbara Turner, Kerri Gardin, Sandrine Gruda and Raymond never closed the gap entirely, but Gruda scored six straight points during on stretch and the Sun were able to restore some momentum by the end of the quarter. The starting five returned at the start of the second, where they made 22-10 a run and took a 37-36 lead at the half.

(2) Bench warms: For the game, the Sun's bench outscored Seattle razor thin platoon of reserves, 29-5. Barbara Turner, making her return to the team that cut prior to training camp last season, scored 13, nailing four 3-pointers, including a huge one with 1:14 to play in the fourth that put the Sun up, 66-65. Gruda added a career-high 10, making 5-of-7 from the field in 17 minutes.

Seattle hasn't had a strong bench all season, but coach Brian Agler was forced to start sixth man Tanisha Wright as Yolanda Griffith sat with left ankle and knee injuries sustained Friday in San Antonio. As a result, Seattle reserves played a total of 40:26 minutes. Sun bench players played nearly double that (75:46). As good as Seattle had been at home (6-0 this season, with a 10-game home win streak dating back to last season), it's difficult to win when you lean on your starters that heavily.

(3) Asjha Jones (15 points) continues to be an offensive force. Since scoring four points on five shots against Indiana (May 27), Jones has scored in double figures in six of seven games, taking 14 or more shots five times.

Lindsay Whalen, meanwhile, remains the Sun's most consistent scorer. With 13 points against Seattle, she's now scored in double figures in 15 straight games, two shy of the franchise record set by Katie Douglas in 2006. She also grabbed seven more rebounds Monday, adding to her team lead.

(4) Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie continue to grab attention, but Lauren Jackson still is playing at an MVP level. She scored 26 points (making 8-of-8 free throws) while grabbing seven rebounds. Sue Bird was the only other Storm player in double figures (13 points), but the offense became Jackson and little else as the game wore on.

(5) Quick-hitters: Tamika Whitmore struggled from the field (3-for-13), but still managed 13 points, six rebounds and four assists. ... The Sun limited their turnovers to 11, rebounding from a sloppy start with five in the first quarter. ... Defensively, the Sun limited Seattle to 36.4 percent shooting, but their defense continues to lack aggressiveness. Last in blocks and steals, they recorded one and four, respectively, and forced just 10 turnovers. In their defense, the Storm have one of the league's top point guards in Bird, but with rookies Amber Holt and Jolene Anderson on the wings, Connecticut's become more of a team looking to contain rather than disrupt. Players and coaches alike have talked of changing that, but it hasn't translated just yet.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Storm's a brewin'

The Sun are in Seattle, preparing for the third game of their five-game road trip, a 10 p.m. (ET) tip with the Storm (7-5).

Besides the supportive fan base Seattle has, the Storm also have some of the better media coverage in the WNBA. For more insight on the Storm, the Seattle Times' Jayda Evans has one of the league's best blogs, where she reported today that Storm center Yolanda Griffith will miss her second consecutive game tonight with a left knee and ankle injury. Tanisha Wright, who Barbara Turner called a "best friend" in a story about her today in the Seattle P-I, will start in Griffith's place.

Here is the Scout Box for tonight's game, which is on MyTV9.

10 p.m. (ET)
KeyArena, Seattle

Records: Connecticut 8-2; Seattle 7-5.
Last game: Connecticut lost at Los Angeles, 98-93, in overtime on Friday; Seattle lost at Houston, 68-60, on Saturday.
Next game: Connecticut plays at Phoenix Wednesday; Seattle hosts Indiana Friday.
TV/Internet: MyTV9/
Series: Connecticut leads the all-time series, 7-6, with all its losses coming in Seattle. The Sun swept last year’s season series, winning, 76-63, at Key Arena on July 11 and, 76-58, at Mohegan Sun Arena on July 20.
Injuries: Connecticut—Kamesha Hairston (recovering from lateral meniscus surgery, day-to-day). Seattle—Yolanda Griffith (left knee and ankle soreness, out).
Scouting report: Lindsay Whalen is riding a double-digit scoring streak of 14 games, three shy of the franchise record set by Katie Douglas during the 2006 season. Over her last six games, Whalen is averaging 16.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and five assists. So far this season, she is playing at an MVP-type level, but Sun coach Mike Thibault said, “It’s pretty early in the season to talk about that stuff,” adding, “but she is playing like she should. She’s one of the best players in the league, and she’s playing like it.” Tonight’s match-up with Sue Bird pits the league’s top two distributors against one another. ... Thibault said he’s gone to more two-point-guard sets of late, which has helped take pressure off of Whalen. Jamie Carey played 28 minutes Friday, and rookie Ketia Swanier has come on strong as of late, hitting a 3-pointer in each of her last three games despite limited action. More importantly, she’s played with more confidence. “Part of it is she’s had a bunch of good practices in a row,” Thibault said. “We’ve given her a lot of court time in practice to run one of the groups and play. She’s stayed and has done extra work with her shooting most days. Those two things have contributed I think.” ... End of the line: The Sun rank last in the league in steals (6.0 per game) and blocks (2.3). Seattle is the league’s worst 3-point shooting team (27 percent).

— Matt Stout

1 Amber Holt 5.1
15 Asjha Jones 15.4
00 Tamika Whitmore 15.4
13 Lindsay Whalen 15.8
33 Jolene Anderson 5.9

Connecticut (reserves)
22 Barbara Turner 10.6
7 Sandrine Gruda 5.4
10 Jamie Carey 2.8

15 Lauren Jackson 19.6
2 Swin Cash 12.5
30 Tanisha Wright 5.9
10 Sue Bird 11.5
22 Sheryl Swoopes 8.4

Seattle (reserves)
0 Shyra Ely 4.3
4 Katie Gearlds 2.3

Around the WNBA: McCarville, Leslie named Players of the Week

New York's Janel McCarville and Los Angeles' Lisa Leslie were named the Players of the Week for their respective conferences Monday. McCarville, winning her first such award, averaged 18.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists last week as the Liberty have won four of their last five. She also tied a career high with 25 points and set a new mark with seven assists in a win over Atlanta.

Leslie earned her league-record 15th Player of the Week honor of her career after averaging 17.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.0 blocks. The league leader in rebounding and blocks, she led the Sparks to wins over Detroit, Connecticut and Sacramento, putting forth her best effort of the year against the Sun with 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists

Leslie is averaging 17.2 points per game and 10.1 rebounds for the season and is one of two players (Candace Parker) to average a double-double in 2008. She is one of three players (Lauren Jackson, 12; Tamika Catchings, 11) to win more than 10 Player of the Week awards in a career.

Other candidates for this week's award were Connecticut’s Asjha Jones, Detroit’s Tasha Humphrey, Phoenix’s Cappie Pondexter, Sacramento’s Nicole Powell, San Antonio’s Ann Wauters and Seattle’s Lauren Jackson.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Husky Update (4th edition)

Every week, we’ll take a look around the league at UConn alums and how they’re performing in the WNBA.

Atlanta Dream:
(1) Ann Strother, G/F (UConn, 2006): 0.5 points, 0.5 rebounds
Low-down: Atlanta is still winless, but Strother scored her first points of the season in a season-high 14 minutes last Saturday at Chicago. But she still isn’t seeing significant time. Wednesday in the Dream’s 81-77 loss to New York, she played less than a minute.

Connecticut Sun:
(1) Asjha Jones, F (2002): 15.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 52.1 shooting percentage
Low-down: Jones has reasserted herself as a focal point of the Sun’s offense in recent weeks. Over her last four games, she’s averaged 19.8 points and 16 shot attempts, and she continued to be remarkably efficient this season. In turn, her touches have taken away from those of Lindsay Whalen (15.8 points) and Tamika Whitmore (15.4). Combined, the three are the highest scoring trio in the Eastern conference.

(2) Tamika Raymond, F (2002): 2.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 32.0 shooting percentage
Low-down: It was a small stretch in the first half, but Raymond looked more aggressive than ever this season last Sunday against Washington. She shot 3-for-3 from the field, stepped into a passing lane for a steal and, as she continues to be, was a solid in spelling Jones or Whitmore. The only criticism one can have is UConn’s all-time leader in field goal percentage is shooting well below her career average (55.3).

(3) Ketia Swanier, G (2008): 1.5 points, 0.8 assists, 5.2 minutes
Low-down: Swanier has come on strong of late, looking more aggressive and confident than ever. She’s hit 3s in three consecutive games and only has one turnover in 18 combined minutes. Swanier still isn’t seeing significant time, but she’s become much more reliable in running the Sun’s offense, especially as coach Mike Thibault continues to use a two point guard-set more often.

(4) Barbara Turner, G/F (2006): 10. points, 3.5 rebounds, 21 minutes
Low-down: Turner has scored in double figures in her last three games, including Tuesday in Minnesota when she scored a career high 18 points in sealing the Sun’s 75-66 win over Lynx. Turner continues to keep in touch with John Lucas, the former NBA coach she trained with during the offseason.

“I talked to him (Tuesday) after the game,” Turner said. “He gave me critiques on the first half, that I didn’t do what I did in the second half. He said that I kind of came out and played anxious instead of coming out, settling in and trying to make plays. He told me in all of the games that I’ve played when I try to go out and make plays and get things, that’s when I’m effective. He told me to calm down, take make deep breaths and just keep doing what I’m doing.”

Los Angeles Sparks:
(1) Jessica Moore, F/C (2005): 0.8 points, 0.9 rebounds, 8.5 minutes
Low-down: Jessica Moore’s line against Connecticut (eight minutes, zero points) was a familiar one. Moore’s only taken 14 shots on the season (making two), and she hasn’t scored in her last five games. That said, Moore has never been a huge scorer, even in 2006 when she started 33 games, averaging 4.3 points.

Minnesota Lynx:
(1) Charde Houston, F (2008): 9.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 19.8 minutes
Low-down: Houston’s offense has cooled of late, as she’s scored a combined 13 points in her last three games. But she’s still getting good minutes and she’s still rebounding. She scored just four points Saturday in New York, but played 27 minutes, grabbed eight rebounds and remained active. The Lynx, though, have hit a skid, losing four of five, dropping a 78-77 decision to the Liberty and an 82-78 game to Sacramento two days before.

New York Liberty:
(1) Ashley Battle, G/F (2005): 0.9 points, 8.7 minutes
Low-down: Battle continues to become an afterthought on the New York bench. She’s played a combined five minutes her last three games, scoring zero points, and is well below her career average of 5.2 points per game. All this, after she played her best season as a pro last summer, averaging 7.4 points in 22.3 minutes.

Phoenix Mercury:
(1) Willnett Crocket, F (2006): 1.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, 8.2 minutes
Low-down: Crockett too has seen her minutes shrink recently. As Le’Coe Willingham continues to play the best basketball of her career (7.5 points, a team-high 6.6 rebounds per game), Crockett has now played 14 minutes total in her last three games, scoring one point in that time.

(2) Diana Taurasi, G/F (2004): 23.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists
Low-down: As Phoenix continues to struggle, Taurasi’s offense has gone for naught. She scored 37 points on 13of-20 shooting — the highest scoring total in the WNBA this season and third-highest in franchise history — but the Mercury still fell to Seattle, 83-77. Taurasi then followed that with a season low nine points on 1-of-13 shooting in a loss to Detroit. Phoenix has now lost six of eight to start the season.

Seattle Storm:
(1) Sue Bird, G (2002): 11.5 points, 6.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds
Low-down: When the Storm and Sun clash Monday, Bird and Cash will be on the same floor as former UConn classmates Asjha Jones and Tamika Raymond for the first time since their days in Storrs. Bird, meanwhile, continues to struggle with her shooting efficiency (34 percent), but netted a season-high 21 points two games ago in a loss at San Antonio and still leads the league in assists. Bird also leads her team in minutes played (35.8).

(2) Swin Cash, F (2002): 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 40.8 shooting percentage
Low-down: Cash doesn’t score like Lauren Jackson or distribute like Bird, but she continues to be a key determinant in the Storm’s success. In her last six games, she’s scored 10 or fewer points five times; the Storm have lost four of those games. She was especially limited Saturday in Houston (0-for-4), but registered a season-high five blocks.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Will the Sun love L.A.?

If you can stay up long enough, you can catch the Sun's game with the Los Angeles Sparks tonight online. The Sun's 110-89 victory in L.A. last year was the first in a six-game winning streak for Connecticut that turned around its season. Look below for a link on today's story and check back here later today for more analysis and preview.

Here is an abbreviated Scout Box for tonight's game with the projected starters:

10:30 p.m. (ET)
Staples Center, Los Angeles

Records: Connecticut 8-1; Los Angeles 5-2.
Last game: Connecticut won at Minnesota, 75-66, on Tuesday; Los Angeles beat Detroit, 80-73, on Wedesday.
Next game: Connecticut plays at Seattle Monday; Los Angeles plays at Sacramento Saturday.
Series: Los Angeles leads the all-time series, 9-7, and are 6-3 at home against Connecticut. The Sun, however, won, 110-89, on July 7 of last year in L.A.

1 Amber Holt 5.4
15 Asjha Jones 15.0
00 Tamika Whitmore 15.1
13 Lindsay Whalen 15.3
33 Jolene Anderson 5.6

Connecticut (reserves)
22 Barbara Turner 10.6
7 Sandrine Gruda 5.0
10 Jamie Carey 2.9

Los Angeles
8 DeLisha Milton-Jones 19.9
3 Candace Parker 16.9
9 Lisa Leslie 17.0
4 Kiesha Brown 4.4
24 M. Ferdinand-Harris 9.4

Los Angeles (reserves)
33 Raffaella Masciadri 8.4
6 Shannon Bobbitt 6.0
1 Sidney Spencer 5.5

Report: Erin Phillips signs with Israeli team

Sun guard and Australian national team member Erin Phillips has signed a contract to play in Israel next winter, ABC News Australia reported on its Web site. It shouldn't have an effect on her availability with Connecticut.

Phillips helped lead the Adelaide Lightning to the WNBL title last season. She is expected to join the Sun in August following the Olympic break.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Some notes...

Here are some notes from the Sun's fifth straight win:

(1) After committing 13 first-half turnovers, they made just six in the final two quarters.

(2) Barbara Turner simply took over in the final moments, scoring nine straight points with under 2:26 to play, and single-handedly put Minnesota away after the combination of Lindsay Whalen and Tamika Whitmore (14 points apiece) brought Connecticut back from a nine-point halftime deficit.

(3) After coach Mike Thibault had questions about his team's ability to finish games strong, the Sun outscored the Lynx, 16-7, after they were tied at 59 with 5:08 to play.

(4) Despite their disappearance at times on the offensive boards, the Sun won the rebounding battle, 43-35. Tamika Whitmore had 12 alone, including a huge one on a Turner miss with about 1:10 to play and the Sun up eight points.

(5) Candice Wiggins (22 points) is pretty good. But with ESPN analysts Pam Ward and Carolyn Peck swooning over her the entire game, you probably got the idea.

(6) That's two season series the Sun have now won, including a more important one against New York. But with Minnesota 6-0 against everybody else in the league, it's a feather in the Sun's cap.

Game Update: Sun down Lynx, 75-66

Barbara Turner scored nine of her career high 18 points in the final 2:26, and the Sun defeated the Lynx for the second time in five days, 75-66, at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

Turner gave a shout out to John Lucas, the former NBA coach who she worked out with this offseason, following her post-game interview with Rebecca Lobo. The Sun are now 8-1, matching their start from the 2005 season for the best in franchise history through nine games. Candice Wiggins matched her career high with 22 points for Minnesota (6-2), which had its six-game home winning streak.

Game Update: BT putting it away

Barbara Turner has scored the Sun's last nine points, and her free throws with 24.9 seconds left appear to have put the Lynx away as the Sun lead 73-64. Turner has 18 points, a new career high.

Game Update: Turner extends Sun's lead

Barbara Turner hit a long 3-pointer and followed that up with a turn-around jumper in the lane, giving the Sun a 69-61 lead with 1:44 to play at the Target Center. It's their largest lead of the game as they've gone on a 10-2 run.

Game Update: Sun take lead

More specifically, the W's have taken the lead from the Lynx, 64-61, with 3:54 to play in the game. Lindsay Whalen and Tamika Whitmore have scored 13 of the Sun's last 16 points, with Jamie Carey providing a long 3 to break a 59-59 tie with 4:25 to play. A Whalen lay-up with 5:30 to play gave the Sun their first lead since 5:31 remained in the second quarter.

Candice Wiggins continues to scorch the Sun. She has six of her team's last 10 points (20 overall), and assisted on a Charde Houston bucket right before the media timeout.

Game Update: Speaking of which ...

Ketia Swanier hit a 3 with 36.6 seconds left, and the Sun trail the Lynx, 51-48, after three quarters. They've cut down on turnovers (kind of) with four in that period, but they're still not shooting well from 3 (3-for-13). Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins, meanwhile, continue to carry Minnesota. Augustus has just eight points but a career-high 10 assists while Wiggins has 14 points.

Don Zierden just told Rebecca Lobo he wants to turn it into a defensive game, meaning he wants to slow it down. If the Sun can continue to speed it up, they may make this quarter theirs.

An in-game observation ...

Ketia Swanier, by the way, has be on the floor for the Sun's run back into this game. She's always looked quick, but she just looks so much more confident in this game. It's 44-43, Lynx, with 2:53 to play in the third quarter. Asjha Jones has 18 points.

Game Update: Sun fighting back

Barbara Turner has sparked the Sun back into the game. She has seven points in the first 5:07 of the third quarter, and with a Tamika Whitmore lay-up (her first field goal), the Sun have sliced the Lynx's lead to 41-39 midway through the frame. Turner also drew a charge call on Noelle Quinn near the six-minute mark, that while questionable, kept the momentum on the Sun's side.

A halftime note...

The Sun have only trailed at the half once before this season, in their eventual 29-point pounding at the hands of the Indiana Fever. That makes them, 7-0, when up after two quarters.

Game Update: Lynx surge to 37-28 lead at half

The Sun missed their final 11 shots, and were outscored, 23-10, in the second quarter en route to a 37-28 halftime deficit. The Sun failed to hit a field goal for the final 7:21 of the second quarter, and the Lynx used a 13-0 run over the final part of the frame to take control.

The shooting percentage (9-for-29) and turnovers (13) are certainly hurting Connecticut, but more so is the rebounding. It leads Minnesota, 19-17, on the boards overall, but Connecticut has just one offensive rebound.

Candice Wiggins, meanwhile, leads Minnesota with nine points -- all of those coming in the second quarter -- while Seimone Augustus has six assists to help make up for her lack of scoring (six points).

Asjha Jones leads all scorers with 14, but 10 of those came in the first quarter.

Game Update: Sun holding on

Connecticut now has 11 turnovers, but still leads Minnesota, 26-25, midway through the second period. The Lynx aren't capitalizing on the Sun's mistakes, and they aren't shooting well, either.

Tamika Whitmore, by the way, has yet to hit a field goal.

Game Update: Sun lead Lynx after first

Asjha Jones added a jump shot with 2.1 seconds left, giving her 10 points and the Sun an 18-14 lead after the first. Connecticut, though, has committed seven turnovers.

Amber Holt is doing a great job defensively on Seimone Augusts (1-for-4, two points). Holt's denying her touches, and the shots Augustus has gotten haven't been great.

Game Update: Sun up early

The Sun lead the Lynx, 11-8, roughly five minutes into the first quarter. Asjha Jones has eight of the Sun's points, and Lindsay Whalen already has four rebounds and a couple of assists. But Connecticut also has six turnovers, continuing the problems from its last match-up with the Lynx.

Love that Don Zierden doesn't wear a tie with his suit. That even looks like a plain white t-shirt under his suit jacket. But hey, the man has his own style.

Sun-Lynx Part II

Greetings from ... Norwich. It's not quite Minneapolis, but check here throughout the game for updates on the Sun-Minnesota Lynx rematch. Here's a copy of the Scout Box previewing the game that runs in the print edition, but not online. Included are the probable starters.

7 p.m.
Target Center, Minneapolis

Records: Connecticut 7-1; Minnesota 6-1.
Last game: Connecticut beat Washington, 87-79; Minnesota beat San Antonio, 90-78. Both games were Sunday.
Next game: Connecticut plays at Los Angeles Friday; Minnesota hosts Sacramento Thursday.
TV/Radio/Internet: ESPN2/
Series: Connecticut leads all-time series, 9-8, after winning, 78-77, Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun have won six of the last seven meetings between the two teams.
Injuries: Connecticut‹Kamesha Hairston (recovering from lateral meniscus surgery, day-to-day). Minnesota‹Lindsey Harding (stress fracture in left patella, out).
Scouting report: The Sun can match their 8-1 start from the 2005 season with a win tonight. Connecticut finished 26-8 in both that season and in 2006, when it started 7-1. ... Minnesota is 3-0 at the Target Center this season and has won its last six games at home dating back to last August. The franchise record is seven straight, set in 2003. ... This is the last regular-season meeting between the two teams this season. ... The Sun committed 20 turnovers Friday against Minnesota, before committing a season-low 10 on Sunday. "It's a little bit of us losing concentration, it's a little bit of laziness and a little bit of (Minnesota)," Sun coach Mike Thibault said of the problems on Friday. ... Asjha Jones is 14 points from 2,000 in her career. Lindsay Whalen is four steals from 200 in her career. ... The Lynx's reserves have accounted for three of the top four single-game scoring totals by the team's bench in franchise history, including the club-record 46 points they scored against Detroit in the season opener. ... Rookie Jolene Anderson, in a 1-for-20 slump from 3-point, appeared to regain some rhythm Sunday as she shot 2-for-5 from 3 (six points) and dished out four assists. "I think she may have gotten complacent in the sense that it's really hard to be a good pro every day, and the veterans have tried to explain to her that you can't let up," Thibault said.

1 F Amber Holt 5.8
15 F Asjha Jones 14.5
00 C Tamika Whitmore 15.3
13 G Lindsay Whalen 15.5
33 G Jolene Anderson 6.3

Connecticut (reserves)

22 Barbara Turner 9.6
7 Sandrine Gruda 6.0
34 Tamika Raymond 3.0

33 F Seimone Augustus 19.9
3 F Nicole Ohlde 6.3
21 C Nicky Anosike 10.4
30 G Anna DeForge 8.7
45 G Noelle Quinn 5.6

Minnesota (reserves)
11 Candice Wiggins 15.4
20 Charde Houston 11.3
55 Vanessa Hayden 3.5

Monday, June 9, 2008

Around the WNBA: Katie Smith, Taurasi named Players of the Week

Here's the press release from the league. Asjha Jones (25 and 16 points her last two games) was up for consideration from the Sun.

NEW YORK – Katie Smith of the Detroit Shock and Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury were named the WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, June 2 through Sunday, June 8.

Katie Smith collects her fourth-career Player of the Week award after a week in which she reached the 30-point plateau twice and averaged 27.0 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game and 2.0 assists per game, while shooting 45.8 percent (27-59) from the field and 40.0 percent (12-30) from behind the arc. Powered by Smith’s consecutive 30-point outbursts, the Shock went 2-1 on the week.

Smith’s 33 points in the 77-67 Detroit win over Seattle on June 4 marked her best scoring output as a member of the Shock, tied the team high for 2008 (Deanna Nolan, May 23 at Atlanta) and ranked fifth in franchise history for a single game. With 2:10 remaining in the matchup, Seattle pulled within three points, until Smith countered with a 3-pointer to lengthen the lead and seal the victory.

On June 6 at Sacramento, the two-time Olympic gold medalist drained seven three pointers, one short of tying the WNBA single-game record (8, Taurasi, Aug. 10, 2006). Her seven threes on twelve attempts outscored the entire Monarchs team from long distance (2-13). Early in the contest, she tied the franchise record for points in a quarter (15, first quarter).

A six-time All-Star and two-time member of the All-WNBA First Team, Smith is averaging 16.8 points per game this season to go along with her 3.0 assists per game.

Taurasi receives the sixth Player of the Week award of her career – first in 2008 – on the heels of a week in which she averaged 29.0 points per game, 3.0 rebounds per game and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 46.3 percent (19-41) from the floor. The former No. 1 overall pick scored 29 points in back-to-back games against Washington and at Los Angeles.

Taurasi and the Mercury spoiled the Los Angeles Sparks’ home opener by rallying from an 18-point deficit to top the Sparks 85-79. The UConn product scored 13 of her 29 points in the final quarter, including a free throw, a layup and a jumper to pull the defending WNBA champions within two points with just over three minutes remaining. With the Mercury leading by two in the final two minutes, she sank a field goal and a three pointer to push the game out of reach and seal the squad’s second win of the week.

Phoenix also secured its first win of the season this week when Taurasi led the squad to a 98-93 victory over the visiting Washington Mystics. In addition to her 29 points, Taurasi handed out six assists to put the Mercury into the win column for the first time in 2008.

A three-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year, Taurasi is currently second in the league in scoring (23.7 ppg), trailing only Mercury teammate Cappie Pondexter (26.3 ppg). Her average to date is 4.5 points per game higher than her average in 2007 and 4.0 points per game above her career scoring rate.

Other candidates for WNBA Players of the Week were Atlanta’s Jennifer Lacy, Chicago’s Jia Perkins, Connecticut’s Asjha Jones, Houston’s Tina Thompson, Los Angeles’ Lisa Leslie, Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus, Sacramento’s Nicole Powell, Seattle’s Lauren Jackson and Washington’s Alana Beard.

A Wash out, almost

In analyzing their team's play, Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault and his staff often break down the season into quarters. With Sunday's 87-79 win over Washington, the Sun essentially completed that first segment: eight games, seven wins -- and still, there are concerns.

"We get a pretty good grade for a quarter," Thibault said following the game in which the Mystics (2-6) trailed by as many as 24 points but closed the deficit to eight. "I’d say we’re a B-plus. If you gauge it against expectations, we’d be an A. If you gauge against our expectations, we would be a B. So I’m splitting the difference.

"I’m happy with their effort, their camaraderie," he added. "I just want more consistency in finishing games."

Closing games has been a problem for the Sun this season, despite surging to the Eastern conference's best record thus far. New York twice have made late-game runs (once in the third in New York, again during the fourth in Connecticut), Minnesota went on a 16-1 fourth-quarter run before the Sun clawed back Friday, and again, Sunday, the Mystics' comeback was rather inconsequential but emphasized the Sun need what Tamika Whitmore called "that killer instinct."

"I think we all came in at halftime frustrated (Sunday, up 41-38)," Whitmore said. "And I just told them, ‘Look, we just have to channel that into basketball,’ in a few choice words, in a different way. But you have to channel that into basketball. You have to channel that into saying, ‘OK, if you’re not going to give me this call, next time I’m going up to finish the play regardless of what call you’re going to give me. I’m going to make you feel embarrassed because you didn’t make the right call.’

"It’s just the fact that you have to have a will to win," she added. "And once everybody finds that will, and you have that killer instinct, there’s no letting up."

Whitmore was asked that with so many young players on the Sun's roster if it will take time to find that drive to close teams out.

"I think it’s part of it, but I don’t think anybody has ever played a perfect game," she said. "I don’t think you look for anybody to play a perfect game. But everybody can have that killer instinct and that will to win. And that’s all you look for. I think it was a good showing for them (Sunday) so the next time they face (Washington), you can say, ‘This is what you have to do.'"

That said, the Sun looked very good in building their lead over the Mystics. They distributed the ball well, used their defense to create in transition and a game after getting just 14 points from their bench, the reserves accounted for 33 points (15 from Barbara Turner, who turned 24 on Sunday).

"I think we came out with a certain focus for our game plan and we continued to attack offensively," Turner said of building the lead. "Our veterans did a good job of taking the lead in the first quarter and everybody else just fed off of that."

Looking ahead, the Sun now start their longest road trip of the season with ive games in 11 days, all on the West Coast. The Sun leave today, play tomorrow at Minnesota (ESPN2) and then have Los Angeles, Seattle, Phoenix and Sacramento. The Sun return home to host Detroit Tuesday, June 24. Connecticut has historically been good on their West coast jaunts. In 2003, they snapped a three-game losing streak with back-to-back wins over Phoenix and Los Angeles; they were 3-1 on trips in 2005 and 2007, and last season, they became the first team in WNBA history to score more than 100 points in back-to-back games, at Phoenix (July 6) and Los Angeles (July 7).

The Sun are the only unbeaten team on the road this season, though they've only played two games (at New York, at Chicago).

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Game Update: Sun trounce Mystics, 87-79

The Sun scored the first 19 points of the third quarter, quickly putting away the Washington Mystics in an 87-79 win at Mohegan Sun Arena. Asjha Jones scored 16 points, Lindsay Whalen had 15 and Tamika Whitmore 13, and the Sun weathered a late surge and career night from Monique Currie (28 points) to cruise to the win. Alana Beard added a quiet 21 points for Washington, if there is such a thing.

Game Update: Sun lead Mystics, 41-38, at half

The Sun went on a 10-0 run early in the second quarter and held off Washington following a bizarre technical foul call to build a 41-38 halftime lead at Mohegan Sun Arena.

With Connecticut up 34-31, Sun coach Mike Thibault was assessed a technical foul after yelling an instruction onto the court that appeared to be directed at his players and not the officials. Tensions were already high when roughly 30 seconds earlier Thibault walked out onto the court to air his displeasure with a foul call on Amber Holt but was not officially warned.

Tamika Whitmore has eight points for the Sun and Tamika Raymond has provided a big boost off the bench with seven points and three rebounds. Monique Currie has carried the Mystics' offense by herself with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting.

Sun, Mystics starters

Here is the expected starters for today's Sun-Mystics game. No surprises, really.

Connecticut Sun:
G Lindsay Whalen
G Jolene Anderson
F Amber Holt
F Asjha Jones
C Tamika Whitmore

Washington Mystics:
G Crystal Smith
G Alana Beard
F Monique Currie
F Taj McWilliams-Franklin
C Nakia Sanford

Officials: Clarke Stevens, Kevin Sparrock, James Williams

Wash up

Here's the Scout Box for today's Sun-Washington Mystics game, set for 3 p.m. The game is being televised on MyTV9.

3 p.m., today
Mohegan Sun Arena, Mohegan

Records: Connecticut 6-1; Washington 2-5.
Last game: Connecticut beat Minnesota, 78-77; Washington lost at San Antonio, 63-52. Both games were Friday.
Next game: Connecticut plays at Minnesota Tuesday; Washington hosts Sacramento Wednesday.
TV/Internet: MyTV9, NBATV/
Series: The Sun lead the all-time series, 24-13, and are 15-4 against the Mystics at home. Washington took the season series, 3-1, last year, winning twice at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Injuries: Connecticut—Kamesha Hairston (recovering from surgery to repair torn meniscus, day-to-day). Washington—Nikki Blue (sprained ankle, out).
Scouting report: The Sun are 6-1 for the third time as a franchise. They started 2006 at 7-1 and 2005 at 8-1. … After starting the season 10-for-21 from the field and 6-for-12 from 3, Jolene Anderson has struggled shooting the ball recently. She’s 7-for-33 from the floor in her last four games (21.2 percent) — three of those as starts — and she is 1-for-20 from behind the arc. … Claimed off waivers on May 21, Crystal Smith started in her debut with the Mystics Friday, scoring 10 points in 30 minutes. The former Houston guard sat out the first two weeks with Washington because of a foot injury. … Former Sun player Taj McWilliams-Franklin ranks seventh in the league in rebounding (8.7 per game). While her Washington teammate Nakia Sanford is tied for eighth (8.0), the Mystics still rank third to last in the WNBA in rebounding (31.2). … Connecticut, meanwhile, ranks second (39.6) among teams and first in differential (plus-5.28). … After ranking last in the league in 3-point percentage, Washington sits at third this season (36.9 percent), and shot 11-of-16 from 3 against Phoenix on June 3. Alana Beard leads the team with 12 3s.

1 F Amber Holt 6.0
15 F Asjha Jones 14.3
00 C Tamika Whitmore 15.6
13 G Lindsay Whalen 15.6
33 G Jolene Anderson 6.3

Connecticut reserves
22 Barbara Turner 8.9
7 Sandrine Gruda 5.3
10 Jamie Carey 3.3

25 F Monique Currie 9.7
11 F Taj McWilliams-Franklin 13.1
43 C Nakia Sanford 9.0
15 G Crystal Smith 1.7
20 G Alana Beard 19.3

Washington reserves
9 Coco Miller 5.4
12 Laurie Koehn 4.2
1 Crystal Langhorne 3.3

Friday, June 6, 2008

Game Update: Jones, Sun edge Lynx, 78-77

Asjha Jones floated in a jump hook with 19.7 seconds left and the Connecticut Sun survived a late scare to hand the Minnesota Lynx their first loss, 78-77, at Mohegan Sun Arena. Jones finished with 25 points and Tamika Whitmore had 18, and the Sun (6-1) held on despite blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead.

Game Update: Sun lead Lynx, 43-35, at half

Asjha Jones has 16 points, Tamika Whitmore has 10 and seven rebounds, and the Sun used a 12-1 run midway through the second quarter to build a 43-35 halftime lead over the Minnesota Lynx.

In a very physical game, the Sun went to the line 13 times in the second quarter, making 11 free throws, and Jones (4-for-5 on foul shots) was the major recipient. She shot 6-of-9 from the field, and balanced looks inside with the occasional baseline jumper.

Seimone Augustus leads Minnesota with 11 points, but she went scoreless the final eight and half minutes of the half.

Sun-Lynx on tap

The Sun and Minnesota Lynx tip off in roughly 15 minutes here. Some quick notes from Mohegan Sun Arena:

(1) Jamie Carey will be wearing a fitted mask for tonight's game to protect her nose, a change from the past few days in practice when she wore a different, bulkier piece of head gear. Carey doesn't have a broken nose, but will be wearing the mask as a precautionary measure.

(2) Just sat down with former Sun player Kristen Rasmussen, who's enjoying the time with her new team in Minnesota. All the winning, of course, helps, but Rasmussen has become accustomed at settling in quickly to new teams. The Lynx are her eighth team in nine seasons.

"You just have to go in there with your head right now, saying everything will be fine," Rasmussen said. "It’s not that a team doesn’t want you, that they let you go; it’s that maybe you can fit into a system better on another team. So you have to have a more positive outlook on it because if you go into a place with a negative outlook, they’re not going want you there, you’re not going to want to be there and then it’s a no-win situation.

"But life is pretty good," she added, "so I can’t complain."

Rasmussen's husband, Jamie Tarr, is also on-hand for tonight's game.

(3) Starters for tonight:

Connecticut: G Lindsay Whalen, G Jolene Anderson, F Amber Holt, F Asjha Jones, F Tamika Whitmore.

Minnesota: G Anna DeForge, G Noelle Quinn, F Seimone Augustus, F Nicole Ohlde, C Nicky Anosike.

Officials: Byron Jarrett, Lamont Simpson, Kane Fitzgerald.

Check back here around 8 p.m. for a halftime update.

A Husky Update (3rd edition)

Every week, we’ll take a look around the league at UConn alums and how they’re performing in the WNBA.

Atlanta Dream:
(1) Ann Strother, G/F (UConn, 2006): 0.0 points, 0.5 rebounds
Low-down: Strother saw her first action since the season opener in the Dream’s 85-81 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday. She played four minutes, missing her only shot attempt.

Connecticut Sun:
(1) Asjha Jones, F (2002): 12.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 52.6 shooting percentage
Low-down: Jones continues to lead the Sun in rebounding, despite grabbing a season-low of four Sunday at Chicago, and she continues to get her touches. She’s taken 10 or more shots four times this season, netting double figures in each of those games. Last Friday against New York, she also hit her first 3 of the season.

(2) Tamika Raymond, F (2002): 2.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 25.0 shooting percentage
Low-down: Raymond will see her former team for the first time during the regular season tonight when the Lynx visit Mohegan Sun Arena. If it provides extra motivation, we’ll see: Raymond is coming off her least productive game of the season in Chicago, where she scored zero points and grabbed one rebound in a season-low 12 minutes.

(3) Ketia Swanier, G (2008): 0.0 points, 4.7 minutes
Low-down: Swanier hasn’t played in either of the Sun’s last two games, though she appears to becoming increasing comfortable in practice with the Sun. Lindsay Whalen has rested at times during five-on-five drills because of a sore Achilles’ tendon, giving Swanier a chance to run the offense more often.

(4) Barbara Turner, G/F (2006): 10.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 13 3s
Low-down: Turner has nearly doubled the amount of 3s she hit a season ago (seven), and lived up to her growing reputation as instant offense when she scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half to help spark Connecticut to its win at the Sky last weekend. Make sure to wish her a happy 24th birthday on Sunday.

Los Angeles Sparks:
(1) Jessica Moore, F/C (2005): 1.2 points, 0.8 rebounds, 10.6 minutes
Low-down: Moore played a season-high 23 minutes last Saturday at Washington, though she had little to show for it: She scored zero points, grabbed one rebound and committed three fouls. She returned to her normal range of nine minutes Tuesday — also failing to score — at Chicago.

Minnesota Lynx:
(1) Charde Houston, F (2008): 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 17.2 minutes
Low-down: Houston’s scored just two points Tuesday in Atlanta, but her free throws helped ice the game in the final minutes. That followed one of the best performances by a rookie not named Candace Parker this season: Houston recorded her first career double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds in last Saturday’s win over Phoenix. She makes her return to Connecticut tonight where she’s asked for 70 tickets for friends and family.

New York Liberty:
(1) Ashley Battle, G/F (2005): 1.6 points, 7.8 minutes
Low-down: Battle continues to be used sparingly off the New York bench. She played just five minutes last Friday at Connecticut and seven in Tuesday’s win over Seattle, scoring two points in each game. She’s seeing the least amount of time of anyone on the team, and she’s hit only one field goal this season.

Phoenix Mercury:
(1) Willnett Crocket, F (2006): 2.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 9.8 minutes
Low-down: The last two games haven’t gone well for Crockett. She played just four minutes last Saturday, going scoreless for the first time in a Mercury jersey, and she didn’t play in Phoenix’s first win of the season, a 98-93 victory against Washington on Tuesday. Crockett is not listed on the team’s injury report.

(2) Diana Taurasi, G/F (2004): 22.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists
Low-down: Taurasi came up big in the Mercury’s first win, scoring 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting. She also continues to get to the rim. Taurasi has shot 24-for-31 from the line this season (both second on the team ) and she knocked down 7-of-9 in the victory over the Mystics.

Seattle Storm:
(1) Sue Bird, G (2002): 11.3 points, 6.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds
Low-down: Bird’s scoring has dipped into her normal range in recent games, as she netted 10 and seven her past two games, but continues to distribute the ball well (four and eight assists, respectively). She, Deanna Nolan (6.0) and league leader Lindsay Whalen (6.7) are the only players in the league averaging six or more assists.

(2) Swin Cash, F (2002): 14.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 46.9 shooting percentage
Low-down: Cash’s importance to the Storm showed in recent games, both losses. She scored just seven and 10 points, respectively, and shot a combined 4-for-16 from the field as Seattle failed to break 70 points both times.