Updated: May 21, 2014 5:18PM
Sky coach Pokey Chatman doesn’t have a lot of familiar faces she can look to early in the season.
She does have Elena Delle Donne and Courtney Vandersloot, and they kept the Sky undefeated.
Delle Donne scored 21 points and Vandersloot had 18 and seven assists in the Sky’s 78-68 win Wednesday over the Connecticut Sun. Delle Donne and Vandersloot were the only starters who opened their playoff finale last year, and both allowed the Sky (3-0) to withstand a Connecticut rally that cut a 19-point halftime lead to six in the fourth quarter.
“It’s huge,” Chatman said. “[Vandersloot] is a vet now in her fourth year, Elena has to play like one. But I also give credit to all the newbies—new players having to adjust on the fly.”
One of those newbies, Jessica Breland had 14 points and 15 rebounds for her second double-double in three games. But other than Breland, the Sky were propelled by holding No. 1 overall pick Chiney Ogwumike to 18 points, the reigning rookie of the year Delle Donne and their starting point guard Vandersloot.
While the burdens on Delle Donne are obvious, Vandersloot will also be pressured more as the Sky open the season without Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince. It’ll be up to Vandersloot to control the offense, one that’s populated by numerous new players.
It’s early, but Vandersloot seems capable of doing what Chatman and the Sky need. She’s averaging 6.7 assists per game, and the Sky have won their last two games by a combined 24 points.
“Like [Chatman] said, I’m a vet now,” Vandersloot said. “We have so many new players – and a lot of looking to your point guard anyways – and now we have all these new players and so my responsibility just to be able to run this team is a lot more this year.”
Something also has clicked early for the Sky. After falling behind 30-14 to end the first quarter of their season opener, they’ve outscored opponents by 43 points, seemingly shrugging off the roster changes.
Chatman said that process started early in training camp.
“It was a matter of figuring things out, so we really utilized the training camp opportunities against people to figure things out so we didn’t have to figure it out on the fly,” Chatman said. “They have a little more comfort than you would think in that regard.”