Sky falls to Sun as Tina Charles leads rally with 24 points
ASSOCIATED PRESS September 9, 2012 11:20PM
Updated: September 9, 2012 11:22PM
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The Connecticut Sun needed to mix things up Sunday to get a needed home win.
Tina Charles scored 24 points to rally first-place Connecticut to an 82-77 victory over the Chicago Sky on Sunday. Renee Montgomery had 12 points, Tan White added 11 and Kelsey Griffin 10 for Sun (21-8), who trailed by 14 late in the second quarter.
Charles shot 11 for 15 from the field to help Connecticut win for the sixth time in its last nine games. The Sun snapped a two-game skid at home and improved to 10-5 at Mohegan Sun Arena, one year after going 15-2 here.
“This was one of those ones we just had to keep scrambling,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “We tried to do some different things to take away some of the advantages they had early in the game. ... Their players played terrific but I thought down the stretch defensively we did a terrific job especially playing small.”
The Sun used a four-guard lineup at times, something they worked on during the Olympic break when Charles and power forward Asjha Jones were in London playing for the United States.
“It’s not something we get a chance to practice every day,” Thibault said. “We actually did it by mistake during the Olympic break because we didn’t have any posts here. We’re making up plays on the run with Danielle (McCray) as the power forward because she’s not used to doing that. I thought she did a terrific job not only helping us to spread the court but doing a good job on Swin Cash down the stretch.”
Cash had 21 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Sky (11-17), Courtney Vandersloot scored 15 points and Epiphanny Prince added 14. Chicago, playing without Olympic center Sylvia Fowles (calf strain), dropped a half-game behind New York for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with six games remaining. The Liberty beat Los Angeles 73-71.
“We just have to go into every game like we just have to win, it is what is,” Cash said. “It is going to be a fight to the end and it is tough to swallow games like this because we were right there, so close, but we have to work through it, nobody else is going to come bail us out.”
Charles’ jumper with 8:07 remaining tied the score at 60-all, and Montgomery and McCray hit 3-pointers 42 seconds apart to put the Sun up six 2 minutes later. Connecticut didn’t trail again.
Prince had a jumper and Cash made a layup to pull the Sky to 75-72 with just under 1 minute to go, but that was as close as they got.
“We didn’t do the things that we did in the first quarter,” Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said, “and you have to sustain things against the best team in the East.”
Kara Lawson, who tied a career high with nine assists, and McCray made two free throws each 6 seconds apart to put the Sun up seven. After Vandersloot hit a 3 — her first points since late in the second quarter — Kalana Greene made two free throws and McCray added 1 of 2 to seal the Sun’s win.
“We still have a lot to play for,” Lawson said. “Just because we have clinched a playoff spot doesn’t mean that we can relax. The whole goal of this is to be playing as well as you can be playing entering the postseason. That’s what we need to do, and we’re getting contributions from a lot of different people. Even tonight, we went with a four-guard lineup down the stretch in those crucial minutes.”
Vandersloot made a 3 and added two free throws to give Chicago a 44-30 lead — its biggest advantage of the game — with 2:06 to go in the second quarter.
The Sun then scored the next 11 points to pull within three with 8:44 to go in the third quarter. Hightower made a jumper, White had a 3 and Lawson hit two free throws as the Sun scored the final seven points of the first half to make it 44-37 at the break. Charles added a turnaround jumper in the opening minute of the third quarter and Griffin’s layup capped the spurt.
The Sky scored scored 6 of the next 7 point to go up 50-42 on Cash’s free throws with about 6 minutes to go in the third.
Charles scored six points and Montgomery had a three to cap a 9-0 run that gave the Sun a 53-52 lead with less than 2 minutes left in the period.
The Sky didn’t trail for long. Shay Murphy scored on back-to-back layups, and Sonja Petrovic had a putback to give Chicago a 58-55 lead heading to the fourth.
White’s 3 in the opening minute of the final period tied the score, and Murphy made two free throws with just under 9 minutes to go for Chicago’s final lead.