August 14, 2020 

After struggling to close out games, the Connecticut Sun find a formula to win

The Sun stayed energized and looked to their bench against Dallas

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Alyssa Thomas #25 of the Connecticut Sun handles the ball against the Dallas Wings on August 6, 2020, at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Connecticut Sun entered halftime looking sluggish, down 34-25 and DeWanna Bonner had just two points. However, Alyssa Thomas knew something needed to change. 

After the game Bonner said, “[Alyssa Thomas] came to me at halftime and she said ‘Come on’ and I just said ‘I got you.’ So I kind of just piggybacked off her energy.”

Thomas, who has earned the nickname “The Engine” over the years, knew that if the team was to pull off the comeback they needed Bonner to shine.  

“I think she only had two points in the first half. And like I said, we need her, so, for me, it was just reaching out to her, having her do what she do and know that we’re behind her and we’re gonna grind this up,” Thomas said. 

Thomas’ simple message worked, Bonner came out in the second half with energy and scored 16 points in the second half. Driving to the basket also earned her trips to the free-throw line where she knocked down all three attempts. 

Bonner’s energy helped the team close the gap and take their first lead in the fourth quarter, something the team struggled to do early in the season. Connecticut lost its first five games by an average of eight points. 

Down the stretch, the Sun were able to make baskets and defensive stops to pull out a 70-66 win over the Dallas Wings. 

The Sun got its first win on Aug. 6, and have won three of their last four games. Bonner said, “Maybe five or six days ago we wouldn’t have this result. We kind of would have just lay down and quit a little bit but tonight we show a lot of fight, showed a lot of heart.”

While head coach Curt Miller was glad to get the win, he acknowledged the team still has work to do. 

“We’re a work in progress. We’re still gonna have some bumpy segments, bumpy games in front of us. But you can see it building, I told you it would. And other people are going to go on losing streaks. There’s teams that are now on four and five-game losing streaks that started out playing better basketball than we did,” Miller said. 

He went on to say, “Again, in this bubble, one or two wins can all of a sudden catapult you into three or four wins in a week, one or two losses, if you don’t get yourself back up and running, it can turn into four or five losses in a row. You’re gonna see that all year in the bubble. Already now, we’re in a tie for ninth right. We’re probably gonna be half a game out of the playoffs, just like that. That’s how fast things turn around.”

However, the team looks different than it did when the season started. Natisha Hiedeman is back into shape after testing positive for COVID-19, though she was asymptomatic. Theresa Plaisance is off the injury report and back into game shape after offseason back surgery. Briann January is back with the team after testing positive for COVID-19, experiencing symptoms, and returning to the team less than two weeks ago. 

Jasmine Thomas knows that the team has time to improve. 

“I feel like when you’ve been around the league for a while, you know that no matter how you start, you can always kind of get yourself in a position to be in a playoff race. We’re just staying focused on each game. Now people are getting a little comfortable. We’re finally in full swing now with Briann back. So, we’re just focusing on ourselves,” Thomas said. 

One key to the win against Dallas that Bonner and Miller noted was the bench. 

“A lot of pride on that comeback, but we don’t do that without our bench. Beatrice, big four minutes for us. Bria Holmes gave us big minutes, Kaila Charles was in foul trouble. Again, the presence of Bri January, our bench which won’t show up necessarily on a stat sheet, really helped us get to the finish line tonight,” Miller said. 

Bonner echoed his message saying, “Bria [Holmes] coming off the bench hit threes. And you know, Beatrice getting rebounds, our bench was huge, and that’s the reason why we won the game.”  

The Sun took a significant step forward finally closing out a close game and they did that with Bonner stepping up, the bench stepping up, and having the full team available. However, a large test looms as Connecticut plays two of the title favorites, the Chicago Sky and the Seattle Storm, this weekend. 

“We’ll find out just how much we’ve grown and how efficient we can be against two really talented teams coming up,” Miller said. 

 The Sun return to the court against the Sky on Friday at 7 p.m. EST.  

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently writes about the Atlantic 10 conference, the WNBA and the WBL.

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