Connecticut Sun look to keep momentum rolling against Washington Mystics: How to watch, what to know

UNCASVILLE — The Connecticut Sun couldn’t have asked for a much better performance in Tuesday’s home opener against the Indiana Fever.

In front of a sellout crowd with a record-breaking audience of 2.2 million watching on TV, the Sun earned a 92-71 victory over the Fever and rookie phenom Caitlin Clark. Alyssa Thomas logged the 12th triple-double of her career. DeWanna Bonner kicked off her 15th season with 20 points to become the No. 5 scorer in WNBA history. DiJonai Carrington and Tyasha Harris combined for 32 points making their first opening day starts.

But almost as soon as the final buzzer sounded, the veteran Sun squad was already back to business.

“We know how this stuff works,” eighth-year guard Rachal Banham said. “Even right after the game, DB was like ‘Hey you guys, that was awesome and enjoy it, but we’re on to the next.’ In this league, our games are so back-to-back, you really can’t be too high or too low. I think we’re a good group at just moving on and getting ready for the next one.”

Connecticut had an off day Wednesday, so the team got a single day of practice to prepare for its next matchup against the Washington Mystics at Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday (7:30 p.m., ION). Another fan-favorite rookie, former UConn star Aaliyah Edwards, will be in town after she was drafted No. 6 overall by the Mystics. Edwards had six points, two rebounds and a block in her WNBA debut against the New York Liberty on Tuesday.

Washington is something of an unknown in 2024 with superstar center Elena Delle Donne “taking a break” from basketball this season. But even on limited playing time as she returns from a labrum tear in her hip, Shakira Austin looked plenty comfortable filling Delle Donne’s shoes in the Mystics’ opener. The 6-foot-5 center shot 6-for-11 from the field for 13 points, adding five rebounds, five blocks, two assists and a steal in just 20 minutes against the Liberty.

“They play hard every game. I feel like that’s their identity. That’s what Washington does,” Bonner said. “(Austin) had an amazing first game, so we know she is going to come in and play hard and play well again, but it’s not just her. They all played hard and played well. That was a winnable game for them, so we know they’re going to come in and try to get a win on our home court.”

The Sun’s starting guards excelled against Clark and the Fever’s less-experienced rotation, but Washington’s only returning starters from 2023 are both in the back court. Seven-year veteran Ariel Atkins led the Mystics with 20 points against New York, and Brittany Sykes kicked off her eighth season with a near triple-double logging 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Atkins’ performance was powered by 4-for-7 shooting from 3-point range, and that efficiency likely won’t be replicable against the Sun’s elite perimeter defense. Clark, who was one of the best outside shooters in college basketball history, went 4-for-11 beyond the arc on Tuesday, and Carrington forced eight turnovers against the rookie as her primary guard. Sykes will be a bigger challenge to contain on the dribble, and tightening up defensive sets was a point of focus for Connecticut in their lone pregame practice.

“We just have to be really focused on some of our defensive scheming, because we missed some stuff so it’s just continuing to communicate through that and making sure when we go into the game we know what our schemes are,” Banham said. “Sometimes when you sub things can kind of get wonky, so just making sure we’re in the right rotations and flying around and at the end of the day making plays out of it.”

The other key for the Sun will be managing Washington’s post players. Austin is complemented by 6-5 veteran Stefanie Dolson, and the Mystics also have versatile bigs in Edwards and DiDi Richards, who can keep pace with Connecticut’s athleticism. Sun starter Brionna Jones played on a minutes restriction against the Fever as she returns from an Achilles rupture last June, and center Olivia Nelson-Ododa is also questionable to play Friday with an illness. Though Bonner gives Connecticut size at 6-4, she’s far more comfortable operating outside and in the midrange than as a true post.

“They’re a totally different team than last year,” Banham said. “They get downhill, they have athletic guards, they have shooters, too. They’re just a different team, but definitely still really athletic at getting in the paint, so we have to protect that for sure.”

How to watch Connecticut Sun vs. Washington Mystics

Site: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: 68-64 Connecticut; Aug. 22, 2023 in Washington, D.C.


Streaming: WNBA League Pass