Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bouncing back

Think Sun coach Mike Thibault was in a better mood Sunday? After calling his team's 97-82 loss to Atlanta the "most embarrassing moment" in his 40-year coaching career on Saturday, he walked into his post-game press conference at Mohegan Sun Arena, found he had no chair to sit at and jokingly did a squat behind the table.

He would have kept the joke going he said, if his knees could hold up.

It was easy for him to smile after Sunday's 80-65 victory over Washington, in which everything the Sun did wrong defensively against Atlanta they did right against the Mystics.

"This was a real good win. A real good win," he said. "We dug in most of the night and played good defense, we rebounded the ball better (44 to Washington's 43), we only gave up two fastbreak points the whole night and we got to the free throw line. Those are all plus signs in trying to build a winning team. I hope this is a sign that we’re resilient."

An important number: The Sun gave up 31 fastbreak points to Atlanta. As Thibault was correct in saying, the Sun allowed just two on Sunday. They buckled down when they needed to, and as Kara Lawson pointed out, simply got back into the halfcourt where they're far better on the defensive end. A case in point: Connecticut forced Washington into four shot clock violations, an unheard of number in most games.

"We’re pretty sound defensively when we get set," Lawson said. "If we don’t get set ... it’s hard. It’s hard to guard players in this league when they’re on the run and have momentum."

Check out the game story at NorwichBulletin.com, but for now, here's a notebook touching upon a few other odds and end that didn't make it into the print edition:

Sun Tan

As laid back as anyone in the Connecticut Sun’s locker room, Tan White talks with a soft drawl that mirrors her Southern roots.

That is to say, rushing is a play in football, not a way of life.

Her play on the court couldn’t be more different.

In quickly becoming a reliable sixth man, White brought everything the Sun needed in Sunday’s 80-65 victory over the Washington Mystics: Scoring, defense and most importantly, energy.

Whether it be her active hands on defense or her play in the open court, she’s becoming what Thibault called a “perfect fit” in the Sun’s system. When things are flat, White, a Tupelo, Miss., native, simply shakes up the bottle.

“She’s bringing such a high energy to the court right now,” Thibault said of White, who finished with a team-high 15 points, six rebounds and three steals Sunday. “She’s become a pretty good sixth man, and I think she’s relishing the role right now.

“We don’t need her to be our leading scorer,” he added, “but we need her to be a consistent scorer off the bench.”

White scored in double figures in two of the Sun’s three games and is now averaging 11. She’s also grabbing five rebounds per contest, and her continually active defense has been valuable.

Sunday, she combined with Anete Jekabsone-Zogota to limit Monique Currie, the league’s leading scorer through three games, to six points on 2-of-9 shooting. When she wasn’t guarding Currie, White helped hold Katie Smith — a Sun killer while with the Detroit Shock — to 10 points.

“When you’re just watching from the bench and you can see how the flow of the game is going, it’s our job off the bench to bring that missing piece,” White said. “And I think in the first half, we were kind of flat. And the second half, we came in, got some stops, pushed the ball up-tempo — our type of basketball — and great things happened.”

Thibault said White may have a had too much energy early on. But as the game wore on, instead of forcing the action, she waited for open shots, took them and most times (5-for-11, 4-of-5 from 3) made them.

Pretty simple stuff.

“Offensively, she’s just in attack mode,” Kara Lawson said. “Sometimes she gets in trouble and turns it over, but that’s OK because she does more good things. She’s a special player for us.”

A down day?

There were few times when Tina Charles touched the ball Sunday and didn’t get double-teamed. A player the Sun have leaned on for scoring throughout her short time at Mohegan, the rookie’s 10-point, eight-rebound effort against Washington may come off as almost pedestrian.

Kelsey Griffin doesn’t think so.

“I think to say that Tina didn’t have a good offensive night would kind of not be giving her enough credit,” her fellow rookie said. “Even though she maybe didn’t put the ball up, she was drawing double teams, she was drawing attention.

“That’s why I don’t look at stat sheets because things like that don’t show up. I think Tina did her thing (Sunday). It was just she did it with rebounding and taking people away from the basket to focus on her. It is huge — people stepped up and made open shots. (But) they were feeding off the double teams she was getting.”

For starters

Griffin was good, too, scoring 11 points with six rebounds in her first start of the season.

Thibault opted to plug Griffin in as the first power forward ahead of DeMya Walker largely because of matchups. Griffin’s speed was a better fit against the 6-foot-2 Crystal Langhorne (16 points) while Walker brought size off the bench to counter the pivot-minded, 6-foot-3 reserve, Chasity Melvin (two points).

“We get smaller when we come off the bench,” Thibault said, “and DeMya’s role when Asjha (Jones) and Sandrine (Gruda) get her it to come off the bench.”

Around the rim

Rookie Allison Hightower responded in a season-high 13 minutes, scoring seven points, including several pretty floaters. “(In my first two games), it was like, ‘Should I shoot it? No don’t shoot it,’” Hightower said. “Now, it’s like, if you’re open, shoot it. I’m not having to think about, ‘Should I shoot this shot?’ Just shoot it.” ... Thibault said he doubts Jones (Achilles’) will be ready to play Thursday against the Minnesota Lynx, though she’ll likely practice sometime this week. ... Balloting opened Sunday for the WNBA All-Star event featuring the U.S. national team and a group of WNBA All-Stars at Mohegan Sun Arena on July 10. Online voting begins Wednesday at WNBA.com.