Friday, July 30, 2010

Jones hits 3,000

With 16 points Friday against the Atlanta Dream, Asjha Jones reached 3,000 points in her WNBA career. As a member of the Sun, she scored 2,502, putting her fifth all-time in franchise history. She is 76 points shy of Katie Douglas for fourth place. Nykesha Sales is the franchise's all-time leading scorer at 3,955.

Update; Dream cream Sun, 94-62

The Atlanta Dream orchestrated a 25-0 run over the second and third quarters, and led by as many as 39 points at Mohegan Sun Arena to decimate the Sun, 94-62, their worst loss of the season.

Update (10:20 p.m.): The loss was also the worst in franchise hsitory. The 32-point setback eclipsed the Sun's 29-point loss to Indiana in May 2008. The 86 points the Sun gave up through three quarters also set a franchise mark. The Dream had tied the previous record of 81 points in a victory over the Sun on May 21 at Philips Arena.

McCoughtry scored 20 points, and Iziane Castro Marques, held scoreless less than two weeks ago here, added 17 for Atlanta (17-9).

They weren’t even the worst of Connecticut’s (13-11) problems. The Sun committed a season-high 23 turnovers, were outshot, 88-68, and never even made it a game in the second half. Atlanta scored the final 13 points of the second quarter and the first 12 of the third.

Asjha Jones led the Sun with 16 points, 12 coming in the first half.

Update: Dream up big on Sun at half

Angel McCoughtry has 13 points and Atlanta finished the second half with 13 unanswered points to take a 53-36 halftime lead over the Sun here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun trailed, 26-17, after the first quarter, but got to within four points, 40-36, behind Asjha Jones (12 points). But the Dream thrived in the open floor, and McCoughtry made the most of 16 shot attempts. At one point in the second quarter, she lost her dribble and fell to the seat of her pants, where she banked in a 12-footer from the right side over Jones and Kelsey Griffin.

Kelly Miller hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.

Another key stat: Atlanta has 11 second-chance points. The Sun have zero.

Jekabsone-Zogota still working way back

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota was walking down the hallway outside the Connecticut locker room Friday night, decked out in a blue Sun T-shirt and her official game shorts when DeMya Walker stopped her.

"Oooh, are those game shorts?" Walker said, excited about the prospect that Jekabsone-Zogota was suiting up to play.

Jekabsone-Zogota laughed and shook her head. No, she wasn't preparing to play tonight. In fact, it may be a little longer than she expected until she does return.

Just over three weeks removed from arthoscopic surgery on her right knee, Jekabsone-Zogota still doesn't feel healthy enough to endure full basketball activities. Coach Mike Thibault said last week that she could possibly return to practice soon, but Jekabsone-Zogota said she may "need more time," perhaps past the two-to-four-week timetable doctors initially gave her following her July 8 surgery.

"I feel good -- when I don’t have to do something on the court," Jekabsone-Zogota deadpanned. "When I start to do some defense stuff or running or more basketball stuff, it still bothers my knee. Maybe I need more time. I’m still not ready to go and play. ... I wish I could really start (playing) faster and be with the team faster on the court."

Jekabsone-Zogota has looked good during her workouts with team trainer Jeremy Norman and strength coach Jodi Hopkins during practices and before games. But while her knee feels less sore, she's still not confident in it.

This is the first time Jekabsone-Zogota has gone through rehab for a major injury. In the days following her surgery, she felt she could return within the original timetable, perhaps even faster. But Friday, she said, "I will not make any more (goals). I’ll see how my leg is feeling."

"Maybe it takes longer to (come back) because I don’t know how it is and I’m more mentally scared now," she said. "Maybe it still needs to heal more, a week, maybe longer. But I talked to Coach (Thibault) this morning and he said, ‘Take your time. When you feel ready, then you’ll be back.’

"It’s not because I’m scared, I’m not going to go practice. My knee just isn’t ready."

Jekabsone-Zogota injured her knee at New York on June 27 and later underwent surgery at Backus Hospital in Norwich. Including that loss to the Liberty in which she played just five minutes, the Sun are 4-6 without her, and have missed her ball-handling, passing and ability to spread defenses with her shooting. The Latvian guard was shooting 35.4 percent from 3 and averaging 9.3 points per game when she was injured.

Jekabsone-Zogota still has a sense of humor about her injury, though. Asked about her biggest limitation during her rehab, she laughed and said, "I can’t be so fast.

"I’m too slow now," she added.

This and that on Sun-Dream

Tonight's game between the Connecticut Sun and Atlanta Dream is the fourth and final meeting between the two teams and second in less than two weeks. The Dream hold a 2-1 edge in the season series, making this a key game for the Sun who are chasing Atlanta in the standings and can't afford to not have as many as tiebreakers as possible for playoff positioning.

To Sun coach Mike Thibalt, this already is a playoff game.

"These are like playoff games," he said of the Sun's final 11 games. "The two teams know each other. It’s a little bit a test of wills, a little bit of who executes better, a little bit of who plays smarter. It’s all those things. You gotta win some of those areas. I told our players before the Washington game, it’s who can play at the high level the longest in the game. A test of wills.

"These are all playoff games, in our conference," he re-emphasized. "Can you stay out of foul trouble? Can you not turn it over in crucial situations. That’s going to determine most games."

Here's some tidbits on the teams' previous meetings thus far:

Friday, May 21: Atlanta, 97, Sun 82
Highlights: These are lowlights from the Sun's perspective. Playing without Asjha Jones and Sandrine Gruda in their second game of the season -- and first on the road -- the Sun allowed Atlanta to run wild in transition, namely Angel McCoughtry (32 points) and Iziane Castro Marques (18 points).

Thibault earned a technical in this one, and the Sun scored just nine points in the second quarter, the beginning of the end in the rout.

Wednesday, July 7: Atlanta, 108-103 (OT)
Highlights: In the Sun's final game before the All-Star break, Atlanta handed them their third straight loss again behind McCoughtry and Castro Marques (32 points apiece).

Despite the loss, the Sun took a step forward out of their midseason slump, shutting down Atlanta's transition game late but not having enough for a red-hot McCoughtry in overtime in Atlanta.

Saturday, July 17: Sun 96, Atlanta 80
Highlights: The Sun held Castro Marques scoreless and though McCoughtry got her points (27), she needed 26 shots to do it at Mohegan Sun Arena. Tina Charles did her usual thing (22 points, 14 rebounds) and Kara Lawson netted 18 points.

Sancho Lyttle was playing her second game since coming back from a concussion and poured in 12 points and 11 rebounds for Atlanta.

Sun to recognize Sales

Former Sun star Nykesha Sales will be honored by the team on Aug. 15 during Connecticut's game against the Indiana Fever at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Sales, who last played with the Sun during the 2007 season, is the team's all-time leader in points scored (3,955) and games played (278), having played in 248 straight from June 10, 1999 and July 6, 2006. The seven-time All-Star was part of the Sun teams that twice reached the WNBA Finals in 2004 and 2005 and the Eastern Conference finals from 2003-2006.

Sales took a hiatus from the WNBA shortly before the 2008 season, but has not officially retired and is still competing overseas.

"We are glad to have the chance to honor Nykesha for her contribution to the Connecticut Sun," Sun GM Chris Sienko said in a press release. "It has been a long time comingm, but we are grateful that Nykesha will allow us to say thnak you for everything she did for our fracnhise. We hope fans will come out and do just that."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Update: Sun right ship, top Mystics

Asjha Jones scored a season-high 23 points and Renee Montgomery added 17 to help the Connecticut Sun hold off the Washington Mystics, 88-78, on Tuesday and snap a two-game skid at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Tina Charles added 15 points and nine rebounds, and Kara Lawson scored 11 for the Sun, who after starting 8-1 at home had dropped their previous two here last week.

Crystal Langhorne netted a team-high 23 points for the Mystics (13-9). The fourth-place Sun (13-10) moved within a half-game of Washington in the Eastern Conference standings.

Update: Sun up on Mystics at half

Asjha Jones has 11 points and the Sun used an 11-0 run early in the second quarter to create a 43-31 hafltime cushion over Washington here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Renee Montgomery has nine points, sinking three of her team's seven 3-pointers, and the Sun shot 45.7 percent, hitting many of the open shots they missed Saturday against Los Angeles. They also led 19-16 after the first quarter, the first time in eight games they've led after the opening frame.

Crystal Langhorne has 14 points for Washington, which leads the Sun by 1 1/2 games in the Eastern Conference standings.

Griffin playing with brace

Kelsey Griffin isn't sure how it happened or what exactly she did to her shoulder. But the rookie forward, who's second among first-year players in rebounding (4.8 per game), doesn't plan on missing time because of it.

Griffin will play tonight with a brace on her left shoulder after injuring it Saturday against Los Angeles. She was forced to leave the game with roughly a minute left in the first half when her shoulder apparently popped out and back into the socket -- or at least that's what probably happened.

"I was dribbling baseline. I really don’t know exactly what happened," she said. "I just know it didn’t feel right. If it did pop out, it did pop back in. I remember turning the ball over, and then I remember it not feeling great and then feeling more sore."

This isn't the first time Griffin's injured the shoulder. She also hurt it working out while in college. She played with a brace then, too.

"I was just doing incline dumbbell bench press and I just had too much weight on it," she said. "So this is nothing new."

Since Anete Jekabsone-Zogota's knee injury, Griffin's been counted on for more, topping 20 minutes in five games after playing that much just twice in the month before Jekabsone-Zogota went down. Griffin's averaging 5.4 points, and brings toughness and an unmatched motor to the Sun's starting lineup. Case in point: She took a charge Saturday AFTER she hurt her shoulder.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Update: Sparks bury Sun with 3-point barrage

The Los Angeles Sparks hit a franchise-record 15 3-pointers to hand the Connecticut Sun their second loss at home in as many games, 89-80, at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday.

The 3-point total also marked the most Connecticut (12-10) has ever given up and accounted for half of the Sparks' (7-16) field goals. The league record is 16 3-pointers, last accomplished by Phoenix this season.

Tan White scored 13 points, and Renee Montomgery netted 14 to lead five players in double figures for the Sun.

Lawson in starting lineup

Greetings from Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun and Sparks square off in under an hour here, but as for pre-game news, Kara Lawson, who was questionable with a knee injury, is in the Sun's starting lineup.

But be aware: Lawson felt good enough to go before Tuesday's game against New York, but left in the first half and never returned. She'll play point guard, with Renee Montgomery and Allison Hightower backing her up off the bench.

Tan White, Kelsey Griffin, Asjha Jones and Tina Charles, as usual, will also be starting for the Sun. For the Sparks, Ticha Penicheiro, Noelle Quinn, Marie Ferdinand-Harris, DeLisha Milton-Jones and Tina Thompson are starting, playing their 13th game since Candace Parker was sidelined for the season with a shoulder injury.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Lawson may sit out Saturday against Sparks

An ongoing knee injury may sideline Lawson for Saturday's game against the Los Angeles Sparks (7 p.m., CSN), four days after she was forced to sit out the second half of an 82-74 overtime loss to New York.

Described by Lawson as a “wear and tear” issue, the injury kept the veteran guard from practice Friday. She said she’ll see how she feels in today’s pre-game shootaround before determining if she can play. If she’s healthy enough, she’ll start, Sun coach Mike Thibault said.

Lawson’s already played through a dislocated shoulder this season.

“You know if you can go or you can’t go,” Lawson said, adding her knee has improved every day since Tuesday’s game. “... I wish I had a concrete answer for you, but that’s the way my knee is. You can’t predict anything.”

If Lawson doesn’t play, she’ll join Anete Jekabsone-Zogota (arthroscopic knee surgery) on the inactive list for the Sun, who’ll be left with nine available players. Rookie Allison Hightower, never a point guard in her career, has played the position often in practice this week with good results, Thibault said.

“That’s the beauty of the game: You’re always thrown something that you weren’t expecting,” Lawson said. “You just have to look at the optimistic side of it ... and not, ‘Oh (shoot), we don’t have Nettie, we don’t have this.’ Look at it as an opportunity to get someone some experience."

Lawson said she'd rather be cautious with three games awaiting the Sun in less than a week.

"We have a lot of games in a short period of time so you want to be able to play, but you want to be able to play 12 more games ... not be all your eggs into (today’s) game and then you’re out for a couple games after that," she said. "It’s gotten better every day, so that’s a good sign."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Update: Charles, Sun top Dream

Tina Charles recorded her 15th double-double with 22 points and 14 rebounds, and the Sun pulled away from the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Dream to score a 96-80 victory at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday.

Kara Lawson added 18 points and Asjha Jones had 15 for Connecticut (12-8), which used a 16-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to beat Atlanta (14-8) for the first time in three meetings this season.

Angel McCoughtry scored 27 points before fouling out for the Dream, who have lost three straight. Atlanta sorely missed the presence of Iziane Castro Marques, who didn't score amid foul trouble. Marques and McCoughtry each scored 32 points the last time against the Sun, a 108-103 Dream victory in overtime.

The Sun now trail Atlanta by just a game in the East standings.

Update: Sun trail at half

Tina Charles had 11 points and eight rebounds, but missed lay-ups and ill-time turnovers have the Sun trailing Atlanta, 41-39, at the half here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Angel McCoughtry and Erika de Souza each have 10 points for the East-leading Dream, who have lost two straight and three of their last four. Atlanta is outrebounding Connecticut, 29-23, and led the Sun by as many as 10 points thanks to 30.3 percent shooting by Connecticut.

Iziane Castro Marques, who scored 32 points the last time against the Sun, has zero points and three fouls, including a flagrant foul on Tan White early in the first quarter.

Lyttle to start for Dream

Hello all. The Sun-Atlanta Dream game here at Mohegan Sun Arena is a little over 30 minutes away, and the Dream have already lost something. In traveling from Indiana, where they lost to the Fever 89-70 on Friday, the team's luggage was misplaced, apparently leaving them with nothing but their uniforms.

They will, however, have All-Star forward Sancho Lyttle in the starting lineup tonight. Lyttle, who missed two games and the 'Stars at the Sun' All-Star event after sustaining a concussion, will return to the starting lineup alongside Erika de Souza, Angel McCoughtry, Iziane Castro Marques, and Shalee Lehning. She returned to game action last night, but didn't start, scoring 10 points in 20 minutes off the bench.

The Sun, meanwhile, are starting Kara Lawson, Tan White, Kelsey Griffin, Asjha Jones and Tina Charles. They featured a similar first five (Allison Hightower instead of Griffin) for their 108-103 overtime loss at Atlanta in their final game before last weekend's All-Star break.

Check back for updates at halftime.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fowles named MVP

Sylvia Fowles was named the MVP of the "Stars at the Sun" All-Star game after collecting game-highs of 23 points and eight rebounds for the U.S. national team in its 99-72 victory.

Update: Team USA rolls by WNBA All-Stars

Sylvia Fowles scored 23 points, Maya Moore had 12 and the U.S. national team systemically pulled away from the WNBA All-Stars, 99-72, in the "Stars at the Sun" event at Mohegan Sun Arena.

As serious an All-Star game as the league has had, Team USA rarely came out of character, pushing the ball, crowding ballhandlers around the paint and attacking the game not like an exhibiton but preparation for bigger things ahead.

Candice Dupree and Swin Cash each scored 13 points for the U.S. Katie Douglas had 15 for the WNBA All-Stars, sharing the backcourt for most of the second half with her former Sun teammate, Lindsay Whalen.

Update: U.S. national team up at half

Sylvia Fowles had 10 points, Diana Taurasi scored 9 and the U.S. national team gradually built its lead to 49-28 over the WNBA All-Stars by halftime of the "Stars at the Sun" event here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Maya Moore drew some of the heaviest applause during pre-game introductions and her entrance into the game late in the first quarter generated a noticeable buzz in the arena. But she missed both shots she took and has zero points.

Michelle Snow had eight points for the WNBA All-Stars.

Piror to the game, Sun guard Renee Montgomery won the skills competition, finishing a timed obstacle course that includes passing stations, a 3-point shot and a dribbling component in 25 seconds. Former Sun star and Indiana Fever guard Katie Douglas won the 3-point contest, registering 24 points (of a possible 30) in the first round and 23 in the finals.

All-Star starting lineups

Greetings from Mohegan Sun Arena where the WNBA's "Stars at the Sun" All-Star event kicks off in roughly two and a half hours. Fans are starting to mill outside the arena and the court is awash with WNBA All-Star logos, lights and equipment for the pre-game skills competition. Check back throughout the day for updates.

For now, here are your starters for the U.S. national team and WNBA All-Star squad. (And though it was possible, no, coach Geno Auriemma didn't go with an all-UConn starting five):

Team USA: G Sue Bird, G Cappie Pondexter, F Diana Taurasi, F Tamika Catchings, C Sylvia Fowles.

WNBA: G Lindsey Harding, G Katie Douglas, F Monique Currie, F Crystal Langhorne, C Michelle Snow.

The WNBA team is being coached by Seattle coach Brian Agler. His superstar forward Lauren Jackson is with the team but she won't play after suffering a concussion last Saturday against Los Angeles.

Jackson was hit in the face by Sparks forward DeLisha Milton-Jones while attempting to grab a rebound. No foul was called, but Jackson was bleeding from her nose and had to be substituted out.

Jackson shot around Friday during open practice, the first time she's done that since last Saturday.

"It's an exhibition, she won't play," Agler said Friday. "Once you start, you're about five days out. If she can on the court today, she has no symptoms, we move forward, you're about five days (from competing in a game)."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Whalen an All-Star; other "Stars" notes

Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen, who the Connecticut Sun traded to Minnesota during the offseason, will return to Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday as a replacement player in the "Stars at the Sun" All-Star event featuring the U.S. national team.

Whalen, who spent the first six seasons of her WNBA career with the Sun, will fill the spot on the WNBA squad vacated by San Antonio's Becky Hammon, who suffered a quad injury in Thursday night’s game at Minnesota.

Whalen is averaging 10.8 points and 5.0 assists this season.

The league also announced the participants for the 3-point competition and skills challenge, scheduled to run before the All-Star Game (3:30 p.m., ESPN) on Saturday.

Competitors in the 3-point contest include: Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Swin Cash (Seattle Storm), Katie Douglas (Indiana Fever), Monique Currie (Washington Mystics), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), and Whalen.

Competitors in the skills challenge include: Lindsey Harding (Washington Mystics), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Cappie Pondexter (New York Liberty), Iziane Castro Marques (Atlanta Dream) Renee Montgomery (Connecticut Sun), and Whalen.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Charles named Rookie of the Month again

Sun center Tina Charles was was named the WNBA's Rookie of the Month for June, it was announced Wednesday, marking the second time she's earned the honor this season.

Charles averaged a double-double for the month, leading the league in rebounds (14.0 per game) and pacing rookies and the Sun in points (15.5 points). Charles also averaged a rookie- and team-best 1.5 blocks. A career-high 23-rebound, 19-point performance in a win over the Phoenix Mercury highlighted her month, and in 10 games played, Charles led the Sun to a 7-3 record for the month.

The first overall pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft presented by adidas, Charles is averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds per game and has already broken the franchise mark for double-doubles in a season with 13.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Jekabsone-Zogota to undergo knee surgery

Connecticut Sun guard/forward Anete Jekabsone-Zogota is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery on her right knee Thursday, and could miss up to four weeks, coach Mike Thibault said Monday.

Jekabsone-Zogota injured her knee on June 27 at New York and has missed the last two games. She was originally diagnosed with a bone bruise following an MRI, but her knee hasn’t improved like the team hoped despite therapy.

“The (idea) is that there’s some loose floating particles, something in there that’s inhibiting her,” Thibault said, adding lateral movements are still causing Jekabsone-Zogota pain at times. “They can’t find it on the MRI, but the symptoms are too much that there’s something catching in the joint.”

Dr. Ammar Anbari will perform the procedure. Thibault said the recovery time ranges from two to four weeks “depending on what they find.”

Jekabsone-Zogota has started in all 14 games she’s played in this season, averaging 9.3 points and 2.1 assists. She is fourth on the team in 3-pointers made (23).

“It’s a big impact,” Thibault said of losing Jekabsone-Zogota. “She’s one of our best shooters, one of our best passers. She was playing great when she got hurt.”

The Sun (10-6) play at the San Antonio Silver Stars on Tuesday (8 p.m., ESPN2).

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Raymond on Jones, Takera, etc.

Here's a little more from an interview with Tamika Raymond about Asjha Jones and her new shoe line, "Takera." Raymond was Jones' roommate at UConn, a former teammate of hers with the Connecticut Sun and a former assistant coach at the college level:

On Jones starting her own shoe line: She’ll be 30 (years old) Aug. 1. We’ll all be 30 … so of course a lot’s changed. But it’s funny. When people would, ‘Ask Asjha, what do you wanna do?’ She’d say, ‘Start my own shoe line.’ For most people, it’s because they’re in high fashion or this and that. But for Asjha, she can never find shoes that were big enough for her, that were wide enough for her, that were comfortable and that were stylish. Asjha, she’s very bright. I’m probably the only one who’ll say it, she’s the smartest of the bunch. Coach (Geno Auriemma) will tell you that. But she likes shoes and she has a lot of them.

But it’s more about the practicality and a way to invest her money into something she really enjoys and something she wants to give to other people. For her whole life, she’s had to get shoes at lower-end places or if she went overseas, if she went to a Nordstrom’s and they had her size, she’d get a whole bunch of them. And now she wants to make it more accessible to taller girls, women, so they feel more comfortable and have stylish shoes. I totally understand it, and I think it’s great. The shoes are hot, so I’m excited for her.

On there being a need in the shoe market, from her own experience: This is a huge need. … Sometimes the more stylish shoe only goes up to a size 10, which none of us can fit in. Asjha’s the one who’s going to plan and do things right. I think the people she tapped to develop the shoe and the different things she likes and she doesn’t like about the prototypes she has coming out, I think she’s done her homework really well.

But is it a need? It’s a huge need. In our league, and of course, me being a coach (a former assistant at Ohio State and Kansas), having kids going to drafts and kids going to events for All-American stuff, we have 6-3, 6-4, 6-5, 6-6, 6-7, 6-8 and 6-9 girls that have to wear men’s shoes or have to wear shoes that are too small. I think it’s great (what Jones is doing).

How much has Asjha been thinking past basketball and is this a sign of it?: I don’t know exactly how much she’s thinking past basketball. But Asjha’s an extremely bright person. She can run a company and have me talk but she’s be behind the scenes doing all the As, Bs, Cs and Ds of it all.

It’s so funny. I think everybody’s going to be like, ‘Asjha Jones with a shoe line?’ But I think it’s practical for her, I think it’s something that touches home with her. Being almost the tallest person in her family, by far the tallest woman in her family, she’s had problems finding shoes that match her clothes, that match her purses and that are fashionable. So I think people will love it, I think people will buy into it because everybody knows that Asjha doesn’t play around with much.

I think it’s a great move for Asjha. I don’t know if she’s looking past basketball but it’s something she’s been thinking about for a long time. I think it’s more so, she had time. She’s had a little time off this year, it’s the first time she didn’t go overseas and she had to cater to her (Achilles’ tendon) injury, her rehab (following surgery in February). I think it was a little downtime for Asjha not to be thinking about basketball and give her time to think about something that interests. I think this is the perfect time to do it considering how much time she spent in the United States this year.