Defense carries Washington past Connecticut
Washington learned something about themselves yesterday in a game in which their offense struggled to get going. That defense can take them a very long way, regardless of what kind of night they have offensively. They were exceptional defensively for the final 8 minutes of the game, forcing Connecticut into bad shots and possessions down the stretch. Tayler Hill came up big for Washington when no one could get anything going, her 18 points and 8 assists were big and several of her baskets were extremely timely. She led Washington’s charge to the charity stripe with 8 attempts, the team shot 26-of 29 from there for the game. Jonquel Jones was a handful for the Mystics, finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds, Washington was able to slow her enough in the fourth quarter. The Sun got a big game from Shekinna Stricklen before she fouled out, she tied her career high in makes from the three point line with six, finishing with 20 points. The Mystics scratched and clawed their way to a 78-76 win.
Elena Delle Donne fought off a bad shooting night to hit the go ahead shot with 44.8 seconds left in the game. She caught the ball on the right block, faked a turnaround, kept her pivot and finished through contact. She completed the and-1 opportunity to give the Mystics a 78-75 lead. She had 13 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks in this game. Washington got a stop on the ensuing position, but couldn’t score on their next offensive possession as Ivory Latta’s drive fell short and no foul was called. That gave the Sun the ball with 9.2 seconds left on the clock, Alex Bentley got Delle Donne to leave her feet on a pump fake behind the three point line. Once Elena left her feet, Bentley leaned in to draw the contact. She went to the line for her three shots, she missed the first and made the second. Now the score is 78-76 in favor of Washington, Bentley missed the third shot on purpose in the hope of one of her teammates getting the offensive rebound. Delle Donne came down with the board cleanly, pivoted away from traffic and started to dribble. The refs decided that she didn’t do any of those things and called a jump ball, Connecticut won the tap but couldn’t get a shot up on the rim.
The trend of starting slow this season showed it’s face today in their game against the Connecticut Sun. The visiting Sun got off to a 8-0 lead while holding Washington to 0-of-7 shooting from the floor. Former George Washington big Jonquel Jones led the way, scoring in a variety of ways. The Mystics again would rely on the “Goon Squad” to settle things down. The trio of Ivory Latta, Natasha Cloud, and Tianna Hawkins came in and helped Washington regain the lead midway through the second quarter. Elena Delle Donne struggled to find her shot or a rhythm on the offensive end, Connecticut had a solid plan in place starting with Jones as the primary defender and then sending help on post catches. Despite the slow start offensively, Delle Donne played her part on the glass, hauling down 7 as Washington won the rebounding battle in the first half 20 to 21. Washington’s starters were just 5-of-24 at the break, and 10-of -34 at the half. The Sun started off well, but Washington’s defense was solid as well, Connecticut shot just 35% from the floor in the half. Their prowess from the three point line played a role in them having a lead early on, having shot 55.6% from deep.
It was imperative for Washington to win the battle on the boards, these were two of the better rebounding teams in the league going at it. The team both pulled down 38 rebounds a piece, Connecticut pulled down one more offensive rebound than Washington (13-12). The bench scoring was close as well, Lynetta Kizer led the way for the Sun with 12 of their 16 bench points. The “Goon Squad” scored 19 of those points.