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Surging Sun look to remain hot against Wings

Sports Xchange - Saturday 12th August, 2017

There were two things the Connecticut Sun knew as they recovered from a 1-5 start to play well through the rest of the first half of the WNBA season.

One was that they were better than people thought in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season -- even without the injured Chiney Ogwumike.

The other was that if they survived the first half, the schedule after the break called for nine of the first 10 games to be at home at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

So far, so good.

The Sun came out of the All-Star break with a five-game homestand. They won the first four heading into Saturday night's game against the Dallas Wings. After Saturday, Curt Miller's team plays at Atlanta on Tuesday, then returns home for four more -- including a return trip by the Wings.

The question as they go into Saturday's game is how long floor leader Jasmine Thomas will be out with an ankle sprain? She missed Tuesday night's win over Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm and is officially listed as day-to-day. But seeing her in a boot Tuesday, one would think Saturday would be a quick return.

With Thomas out, Courtney Williams and Jonquel Jones took over in the fourth quarter to dispose of the clearly underachieving Storm.

The win, the seventh straight, eighth in the last nine home games and 16th in 20 overall improved the Sun's record to 16-9. They lead the Eastern Conference by a game over the Washington Mystics and are third in the playoff seeding.

The Wings (13-15) are seventh and coming off a tough 101-100 overtime home loss to the Phoenix Mercury. They are two games ahead of the Atlanta Dream, who sit ninth in the overall standings.

"This is a learning curve for our team and we'll just keep building it," coach Fred Williams said after the game ended with the Wings failing to get off a final shot despite having control of the ball.

Glory Johnson had 25 points and grabbed 15 rebounds but was guilty of seven turnovers. Rookie Alisha Gray matched her season high with 19 points and added four steals in the loss.

Courtney Williams scored 15 of her career-high 27 points and Jones controlled the boards in her fifth straight double-double in the Sun's win over the Storm. Jones posted 20 points and 14 rebounds.

The Sun, also without the injured Lynetta Kizer, ran off a 31-9 fourth quarter.

"Unbelievable. JJ (Jones) and Courtney came alive," Miller said after the game. "We were missing some shots we were capable of making but Courtney got going and then we just rode her and it's tiring chasing her around. She has boundless energy and then when you're chasing her around, screens, screens, and we really got going.

"JJ was a real factor, it may not say it on the stat sheet with, necessarily, blocks (she had three). But they got into the paint and she was disrupting finishes around the rim and altering shots all night long, even when she wasn't getting blocks. Then, it felt like she got every big defensive rebound when we needed one. So, those young kids really were gritty tonight. Rachel's (Banham) line might not be impressive, but we haven't played Rachel Banham 19 minutes and she more than held her own, pleased with her minutes also."

Banham hit her only basket of the game to put the Sun, who rallied from behind, the lead for good.

The Wings defeated the Storm 96-82 in Texas on June 25.

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