Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Update: Sun rout Shock in home finale

Renee Montgomery scored 22 points, Asjha Jones added 18 and the Connecticut Sun, already eliminated from playoff contention, went out on a high note at home Tuesday with a 90-62 victory over the Tulsa Shock in this season's Mohegan Sun Arena finale.

Tina Charles (10 points, 10 rebounds) added to her WNBA record total with her 21st double-double, and Sandrine Gruda chipped in 13 points for the Sun (16-16), who matched their season win total from a year ago.

The Sun have two more regular-season games remaining, Friday at Chicago and Sunday at New York.

Update: Sun lead Tulsa at break

Renee Montgomery has 11 points, Asjha Jones has nine and the Sun lead the last-place Tulsa Shock, 41-34, at halftime here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun led by as many as 16 before the Shock cut it to four points with under a minute to play in the second quarter. But a Jones three-point play stopped the bleeding just before the half. The Sun are shooting 47.2 percent from the floor while Tulsa is shooting 31.6 percent.

A wasted week? Hardly

As a head coach, this is a new experience for Mike Thibault.

The Connecticut Sun, eliminated from playoff contention with Sunday's 79-66 loss to the Indiana Fever, begin the first of three games tonight that many would consider meaningless. In Thibault's eight-year tenure, Connecticut's only been in this position once before -- last year -- but it only had to endure one game that didn't have any relevance toward a playoff spot.

But three games? Never before, including during his years as Omaha's head coach in the CBA, has Thibault found himself in this position.

But he has been through it in the past, as an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls in the early 1980s.

"Our first two years in Chicago, when we rebuilt the team" we were in this situation, Thibault said Monday night. "We went thorugh this process. The first year was just OK and the second year was better. We had a long way to go and we got better and we just worked through it. We knew both of those years we weren’t goign to be in the playoffs a little while before the playoffs, especially the first year.

"The third year we added (Michael) Jordan and got better and made the playoffs late in the season. In my fourth year, Jordan missed 60 perent of the season or more with an injury (broken bone in his foot) and we still got in. We lost to Boston in the playoffs when Jordan had a big game (a playoff-record 63 points in Game 2 of the series).

"We knew it was going to be a process to get better. I’ve watched other teams go through it on our league and you hope it’s not ever you. But the reality is if you want to build an organization up the right way, patience is the hardest virtue. For everybody."

Thibault said the preparation didn't change for tonight's game with Tulsa (7:30 p.m., CSN). The team still had practice, still did the regular amount of opponent prep.

"That’s their job," Thibault said of the players. "Most of them are going to be here next year. ... We’re going to use this week to keep getting better. There’s going to be carry over from this year to next, hopefully in a positive way."

And there were encouraging signs, too, he said.

"Two players remarked that even though we lost (Sunday), there was kind of a turning point in figuring a few things out," Thibault said. "It was just a sense that they had about the team. It was just an unsolicited opinion. They felt we got beat down the stretch on experience by a great player (Indiana's Tamika Catchings, who scored 26 points). We have a ways to go to reach that level but we’re heading in the right direction."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hightower will 'probably' miss rest of season

Rookie guard Allison Hightower, who’s missed the last two games with an unspecified illness, is “probably” going to miss the rest of the season, Sun coach Mike Thibault said Monday.

Hightower approached team trainer Jeremy Norman before the weekend about not feeling well. She was on the bench but did not dress for each of the last two games.

“I really cant say right now” what it is, Thibault said. “There are some tests being run. We really don’t know, and I’m not at liberty to talk about it” due to the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

“She just hasn’t felt well,” he added.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Update: Fever end Sun's playoff hopes; Charles set two records

Tina Charles set new WNBA records for rebounds and double-doubles in the season, but the Connecticut Sun couldn't avoid elimination from playoff contention, falling, 79-66, to the Indiana Fever on Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Charles finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, her 20th double-double of the season, breaking a tie with Utah's Natalie Williams. She now has 368 rebounds, which eclipsed Cheryl Ford's mark from 2006 of 363.

The Sun's (15-16) loss combined with the Washington Mystics' 80-71 victory over Seattle mathematically eliminated the Sun from reaching the playoffs.

Update: Sun trail at half; Mystics win

Renee Montgomery has eight points and six assists, and the Sun were able to trim a 12-point deficit to five by halftime, 42-37, against the Indiana Fever.

Tamika Catchings has 13 points for Indiana.

Meanwhile, the Washington Mystics beat the Seattle Storm, 80-71, to improve to 19-12. The Sun need to win today to avoid elimination from playoff contention. Indiana, New York and Atlanta have already clinched spots in the East. Connecticut currently trails the Mystics by 3 1/2 games.

Keep an eye on the District

Greetings from Mohegan Sun Arena. The tip for the Sun-Fever is abot 30 minutes away, but follow the Washington Mystics-Seattle Storm game here.

A Mystics win and Sun loss eliminates the Sun from playoff contention. Lauren Jackson, who sat with back spasms Friday at Connecticut, started and played eight minutes of the first quarter in Washington.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Update: Sun thump Storm but gain no ground

Asjha Jones scored 19 points, Tina Charles had 14 with five rebounds and the Connecticut Sun throttled the shorthanded Seattle Storm, 88-68, on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Sun (15-15) didn't gain any significant ground toward a playoff spot, however. Fourth-plce Washington, up three games on Connecticut for the East's final postseason berth, rallied past Minnesota, 61-58, to hold their lead in the standings, now with four games to play.

Seattle (25-5) played without MVP candidate Lauren Jackson, who sat with back spasms. With the Western conference's top seed already locked up, Storm coach Brian Agler also chose to play his starters sparingly.

Tan White added 15 points for the Sun, who host Indiana on Sunday.

Dont mind me ...

Funny moment during a timeout in the game.

The Sun staff was in section 14 here at Mohegan Sun Arena to award a prize pack to a fan. But with the spotlight hovering over the section, fans may have noticed a girl pulling a green hood over her head as she ducked behind the seat.

It was none other than Caroline Doty, the UConn junior who dominated headlines around the state yesterday and this morning after the school announced she'd miss the upcoming season with a torn ACL.

Of all places in the arena, right?

Doty was sitting with fellow Huskies Tiffany Hayes and Heather Buck, as well as Sun draft pick Danielle McCray.

Scoreboard watching

Follow the Washington-Minnesota game here.

Minnesota was up, 40-29, at halftime, but Washington cut it tow, 52-50, by the end of the third quarter.

Update: Washington rallied past Minnesota for a 61-58 victory. Given the Sun hold on to their 30-point lead (75-45 with 8:36 left) here against Seattle, they'll finish tonight still trailing the Mystics by three games with four to play.

Update: Sun up big on Storm at half

Asjha Jones has 15 points, Tina Charles has 10 with four rebounds, and the Sun built a 52-33 halftime lead over shorthanded Seattle here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Storm are without MVP candidate Lauren Jackson, who's sitting because of back spasms. None of Seattle's starters playing more than nine minutes.

The Sun, meanwhile, have taken advantage. They shot 60 percent in the first half, outrebounded the Storm, 21-12, and went on a 10-2 over the first and second quarters.

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota checked into the game with 7:29 left in the second quarter for her first action since June 27. She has been out after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on July 8. She hit a 3-pointer with 4:01 remaining until the half.

In other news, rookie Allison Hightower didn’t feel well before the game, a Sun spokesperson said, and didn’t dress. She is expected to be reevaluated following the game.

Sun draft pick Danielle McCray, who is sitting out this season as she rehabs from ACL surgery, is in attendance.

Former UConn teammates feel for Doty

Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery knew since late July that UConn junior Caroline Doty had injured her knee.

But neither they nor Doty knew how severe the injury was until doctors confirmed the guard had torn the ACL in her left knee, the third ACL injury of her young career. UConn said Thursday she will miss the entire 2010-11 season.

On Friday, Charles and Montgomery's hearts went out to Doty, who is expected to attend tonight's Connecticut Sun-Seattle Storm game here at Mohegan Sun Arena. Neither of the Sun players had spoken to Doty in depth since UConn confirmed her injury Thursday, though she sent out a mass text to the "UConn family," Charles said, to let everyone know about the situation.

"I feel sorry for her just because of the process to get back," Montgomery said. "You see how hard someone works to get back in the beginning and everything they go through just to get back to where they were. And now having to do everything all over ... it’s just a sad situation."

Montgomery said Doty suffered the injury "just working out," and that she had suffered a 75 percent tear of the ligament. Charles said that Doty didn't initially think she had torn it because "it didn’t feel like it felt the same way it had the second time."

Doty first suffered an ACL tear while playing varsity soccer as a senior in high school. She then tore the ligament in the opposite knee 17 games into her freshman season on Jan. 17, 2009.

"That’s the thing, too, usually when somebody’s torn it once, they know what the feeling is," Montgomery said. "She did tear it 75 percent so it’s not all the way. But that’s just rough, especially because if you didn’t think it was (torn) and then you go to the doctor and they’re like, ‘Yeah, it is,’ it’s like, ‘Oh my goodness.’"

Both Charles and Montgomery, however, feel Doty has the kind of mindset to make a full recovery -- again.

"If she has the same mindset that she had the year before last, then I think she’ll be fine," Charles said. "(Her focus back then was) just get back on the court. Right at that time, she was just peaking from that, you know, freshman mindset that you don’t want to step on anybody’s toes. I think around that time that she tore it against Syracuse, it was kind of hard for her.

"She’ll be fine. She has that kind of mindset that you need just to be at UConn anyway. She has that kind of mentality, that determination to get back on the court for her teammates."

Charles added that she thinks Doty will be a "great vocal leader" for UConn this season, just as she was after her second injury.

"It’s easy to be selfish when something like that happens," Montgomery said. "You feel sorry for yourself and pout around all the time and bring everyone else down around you. But she was our No. 1 fan, cheering during the games. I think she really took a selfless approach.

Jackson to not start

Lauren Jackson is not among the Seattle Storm's starters for tonight's game against Connecticut, a break for the Sun as they try to stay mathematically eligible for a playoff berth.

Jackson could be seen trying to stretch her back during pre-game exercises. The Storm have already clinched the top seed in the West, so they have nothing left to gain from a victory tonight.

Former Sun forward Le'Coe Willingham will start in Jackson's place.

The rest of the starters remain the same from previous games. Renee Montgomery, Kara Lawson, Kelsey Griffin, Asjha Jones and Tina Charles will start for the Sun. Sue Bird, Tanisha Wright, Swin Cash and Camille Little make up the rest of Seattle's first five.

The Sun trail fourth-place Washington by three games with five to play for the East's final playoff spot. Washington hosts Minnesota tonight, starting at 7 p.m.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jekabsone-Zogota may play against Storm

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, who is recovering from July 8 arthroscopic knee surgery, participated in a full practice with the Connecticut Sun for the first time Thursday, and may see her first game action since June 27 on Friday against the Seattle Storm.

But Jekabsone-Zogota admits she is still far from 100 percent, and said it "depends on how the game goes" if she plays, adding if the score is tight, she may not come off the bench.

"Right now I need to be mentally stronger," the guard/forward said. "It’s really hard for me to understand that maybe nothing will happen and push myself more. But when I come to the court to practice, I’m really slow and thinking about my knee. When I’m at home, I’m like, ‘OK, I’m ready, let’s go,’ and I work hard.

"It is hard. When you don’t have injury, some things you don’t understand. But when it happens to you, you understand how hard it is to come back."

Asked if the Sun had to use her, in case of fouls for example, Jekabsone-Zogota said, "Then of course, I would play." But she said she needs more time practicing before she feels fully confident in her ability to contribute.

"Even you can go do the same speed," Jekabsone-Zogota said to a reporter. "In defense, I was really, really bad. I just need more practice with the team, just to use the leg."

The Sun (14-15) are three games behind fourth-place Washington for the final playoff spot in the East with five games to play. They were 9-4 before Jekabsone-Zogota, their best perimeter scorer, injured her knee at the New York Liberty and are 5-11 since.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Update: Sun keep playoff hopes alive, Charles breaks record

Tina Charles finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds, breaking the WNBA's rookie single-season record for double-doubles, and the Connecticut Sun kept their playoff hopes alive Sunday with a 76-67 victory over the Washington Mystics, the team their chasing in the Eastern Conference standings.

Charles broke a tie with Candace Parker (2008) and Yolanda Griffith (1999) with her 18th double-double, and now is one shy of the overall league record of 19, held by Natalie Williams (Utah, 2000). Charles also had eight blocks, the second most in a single game in franchise history, to help the Sun snap a four-game losing streak.

Asjha Jones added 17 points for Connecticut (14-14), which plays the Mystics (16-12) on Tuesday in Washington in another crucial game. The Sun trail the Mystics by two games with six to play for the final playoff spot in the East.

Hey Ray

Celtics guard and former UConn star Ray Allen is in attendance for today's Sun-Mystics game. He sat down in section 12 with two others roughly midway through the third quarter.

Allen participated in the Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Game last night, also held her at Mohegan Sun Arena. Allen walked behind the Sun's bench and playfully tapped coach Mike Thibault's son, Eric -- an assistant to the Sun staff -- on the head as he walked by before taking his seat.

Update: Sun trail at half, 37-34

Tina Charles has seven points and four rebounds in a balanced scoring effort by the Sun, but they hit just 7-of-13 free throws and trail Washington, 37-34, at the half here at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Crystal Langhorne has 10 points for the Mystics, who led by as many as nine before the Sun tied it, 32-32, with 1:04 to play in the second quarter.

'Hey, Anete, they wanna know if you're playing'

Greetings everyone. Just arrived at Mohegan Sun Arena and tip-off between the Sun and Mystics is about an hour away.

The Sun and coach Mike Thibault have had a busy pre-game thus far. The team posed for its annual picture and then posed for a photo with its Legends ticket-holders, those who've had season tickets each season the Sun have been in Connecticut. Thibault then held a half-hour 'chalk talk' with fans inside Mohegan Sun Arena, fielding questions largely about about why the team has struggled to a 13-14 record that has it on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

At one point, a fan asked if Anete Jekabsone-Zogota -- who was shooting on the court throughout nearly the entire Q & A session -- would play. Jekabsone-Zogota has been out since June 27 and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery more than four weeks ago.

A smiling Thibault, who was talking into a microphone piped in through the arena speakers, turned to Jekabsone-Zogota and said, "Hey, Anete, they wanna know if you're playing." Jekabsone-Zogota smiled and shook her head, indicating neither yes or no.

"Even she doesn't know," Thibault quipped.

Jekabsone-Zogota is exepcted to dress for the second straight game, but it remains to be seen if Thibault uses her. She's not in the projected starting lineup, where she played in each of her 14 games she's appeared in.

As for today, a loss could all but end the Sun's playoff hopes. They're three games back of Washington and New York for a playoff spot, and a loss to the Mystics (with another game looming with them Tuesday) would drop the Sun four games back with six to play and no longer holding the season-series tiebreaker; they currently lead it 2-1.

Though in that situation, it's mathematically possible to rally to a postseason berth, it'd likely take a six-game winning streak to close the season -- or close to it -- and a late slide by either of the current playoff teams to make it happen.

That's not to say the Sun haven't responded in a similar situation before. Sun media relations manager Bill Tavares reminisced about the 2003 season, when the Sun needed to close out the regular-season with two straight wins before playing Indiana in a do-or-die, one-game playoff for a postseason berth. They beat Charlotte and Washington on back-to-back nights and then topped Indiana at Conseco Fieldhouse to qualify for the playoffs. Once there, they swept Charlotte in the first round before Detroit swept them out of the Eastern Conference finals.

As for what else to watch out for today: Tina Charles needs one more double-double to set the all-time WNBA rookie season record; she's currently tied with Candace Parker (2008) and Yolanda Griffith (1999) with 17. With seven games to play, she has a great chance to surpass Natalie Williams (2000) for the overall WNBA season record of 19.

Please note, however, that Washington is the only team in the WNBA this season besides Seattle to hold Charles without a double-double. Of the league's other nine teams, Charles has recorded at least one against them; Seattle 'held' her to 23 points and seven rebounds on Thursday.

In the Sun's three games with Washington this season, Charles has done the following:
* May 23: 10 points, eight rebounds
* May 30: 13 points, nine rebounds
* July 27: 15 points, nine rebounds

So she's been close. Stay tuned.

Also, the Sun are wearing pink uniforms today for its Pack the Place Pink promotion to promote breast cancer awareness.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Charles WNBA's Rookie of the Month, again

Sun center Tina Charles was named the Rookie of the Month for games played in July on Tuesday, marking the third consecutive month she's earned the honor.

Charles averaged a double-double for the month, leading all rookies in points (14.2 per game) and rebounds (10.6), and ranking second overall in boards. Charles also averaged a rookie- and team-best 1.6 blocks per game. A career-high 27-point, 20-rebound and four-block performance against Atlanta was the highlight.

The Sun play at Minnesota tonight (8 p.m., CSN-NE).