Sun explode late, hold off Mystics behind 31 from Bentley.
MOHEGAN SUN: It was a game that was slipping away from the Connecticut Sun.
Up double-digits most of the game against the Washington Mystics, the Sun found themselves in a position that could have seen them drop an important in-conference game to their rivals from the south.
A LaToya Sanders jumper with 7:07 to play in the fourth quarter tied the score at 62 and clearly had all the momentum in a direction you hadn't seen coming most of the game.
Enter Alex Bentley. The second year pro out of Penn State calmly came down and drained a long three-pointer to put her team up for good in an eventual 86-72 win before 5663 fans in Uncasville.
"That's Alex being back to her aggressive self, "Sun head coach Ann Donavan said, "She had gone through a little dip for a while there but she's worked through it."
The three pointer ignited a 24-10 final seven minutes of action in which Bentley scored 11 of her career high 31-points.
On their next two chances down the floor, Shekinna Stricklen added a two point jumper and a three of her own and the Mystic, who had battled back from 15 down at one point, were done.
On the Stricklen (11 points, 3-5 on 3's) dagger from far out, it was first year player, Elizabeth Williams who kept the ball in play not once, but twice, giving her team critical extra possessions.
"I was just trying to do whatever I could to keep the ball alive in that situation," Williams said, "Any time you can get extra possessions, it can help your team win."
Connecticut used the long ball early and often in the first quarter to jump out to a 29-20 lead after one with four three's that helped them build a 16-3 lead with 6:30 left in the opening quarter.
The Mystics were led by a 15-point effort from Emma Meesseman on 7 of 12 shooting but no other Washington players scored in double digits.
Bentley, who had scored just 29 points in her last five games coming in on 12-41 shooting, was on fire early and stayed aggressive all night, scoring 10 first quarter points and helping the Sun keep a fast pace early.
If not for 11 first half points by Meesseman, the Sun may have run away sooner but after the rough first quarter, the Mystic settled down and played the Sun even.
Former UConn stars Stefanie Dolson (3 points, 3 rebounds) and Bria Hartley (nine points) were relatively quiet most of the night. Dolson played just under 14 minutes, Hartley just over 16.
The Sun improve to 11-9 while the Mystic fall to 12-8.
Connecticut is now just a game behind Washington and 2.5 games behind Eastern leader New York.
The two teams meet again on Sunday in Washington.
NOTES: It's just strange not to hear a crowd in Connecticut root loudly for Dolson and Hartley, it just is.
Another UConn alumni, Kelly Farris, is a crowd favorite and the both other UConn Alumni got very loud ovations when they were introduced but it's still weird.
This is the first win for the Sun over the Mystics this season, in their other meetings, Washington won by 73-68 and 89-82 finals.
It can't be understated how important an addition Williams has been to this team this season.
The former Duke standout gives the Sun a second great option inside when starter Kelsey Bone (10 points) goes to the bench.
Have to say, the 24-second clock got to me early. I like how it makes teams speed up the game. Every time I looked up, there was under 10-seconds left on the shot clock.
The Sun held the Mystics to a 41.7 shooting performance while connecting on 53.8 themselves, 56.3 from down town.
Was my first time experiencing quarters instead of half's and I have to say, it feels more like pro-basketball.
Looking forward to the college game adopting it.
Connecticut shot 73.3% from the field (11-of-15) in the first quarter, its best performance in any quarter this season. The 29 points in the first quarter tied the most this season in a quarter (6/30 vs Indiana) and the five threes (5-of-6) in the opening quarter tied the most in a quarter this season (6/14 vs Atlanta).Connecticut’s 46 first half points were the most they have scored in the opening half this season and tied the 46 second half points scored at Los Angeles on 6/21. The Sun had 15 assists and shot 60% (6-10) from the 3-point range in the first half, their best first half performances all season. The 18 first half field goals by the Sun tied a first half season best as they did it for the third time.