August 11, 2020 

The right pace, playing time for “Sun basketball” coming into focus

Connecticut played at their tempo, got their starters valuable rest

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PALMETTO, FL – AUGUST 10: Alyssa Thomas #25 of the Connecticut Sun handles the ball against the Atlanta Dream on August 10, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

“I don’t remember the last time I played 23 minutes,” said Alyssa Thomas after the Connecticut Sun (2-6) defeated the Atlanta Dream (2-6), 93-82. 

Thomas, who averaged 35 minutes per game coming into the game, was able to get some extra rest after the team built up a lead during the third quarter. 

Bria Holmes and Kaila Charles were the players to play more than 25 minutes, playing 27 and 28 minutes respectively. This was the first time this season that no Sun player played more than 30 minutes. 

The balanced minute distribution not only benefited the starters by giving them more rest but allowed for bench players to gain more game experience. Rookie Beatrice Mompremier played a career-high 17 minutes.    

“There’s still a lot of basketball to be played. So we need everybody, fresh legs. We need them to be comfortable out there so it was huge for them and for us it was huge for us to get a little bit of rest,” DeWanna Bonner said. 

If the team can remain fresh and rested for longer stretches, the players may not struggle with fatigue late in games as Connecticut did early in the season. 

The Sun were able to take control of the game in the second quarter by controlling the tempo. 

“Today was just about tempo and doing what we wanted to do,” Alyssa Thomas said.

The team was able to learn from its scrimmage with the Dream, Thomas explained, “When we scrimmaged them they were able to speed us up and we turned the ball over a lot against them. So, today was just about doing us, playing under control, and just finding the open play.”

Jasmine Thomas added that the team is settling into “Sun Basketball” saying, “Everybody kind of taking a second and not doing everything full speed. Earlier on, we were kind of just all over the place and now things look a little more intentional, they feel more intentional, we feel better about it.”

Alyssa Thomas set the pace for the team, scoring 11 of her 21 total points in the first quarter. While she played quickly, it was not fast enough to impact her efficiency as she made five of her six shots from the floor. She was facilitating, scoring and grabbing rebounds, without taking over the game. 

Head coach Curt Miller applauded Thomas’ decision making, saying, “AT played at the tempo that was really good tonight, took advantage of some matchup opportunities that we thought she could. But she also played really smart basketball, understood how they were defending some of our actions, and she countered it like a pro does and she made some very good reads and counters tonight, which really helped her to have a big night.” 

As Connecticut figures out the pace of play that works for them, it‘s becoming clear that the team plays better when controlling the tempo. When it’s not under the team’s control turnovers and rushed decisions plague the team and often is too much for the team to overcome. Miller has mentioned repeatedly that the team has a small margin of victory to play within and not playing at their pace has been enough to disrupt that. 

While the Sun have struggled to find their identity early in the season, the team has won two of their last three games, a pattern that will continue if the starters don’t need to continue to play 35 minutes a game and if they play at their tempo.  

The Sun return to the court to take on the Dallas Wings on Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. EST.

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been covering women’s basketball since February 2019 and currently covers both the Atlantic 10 and the WNBA.

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