One losing streak ended, one still to end.
While "must-win" may have been overstating Friday night's contest with UConn legend Diana Taurasi making her season debut for the Phoenix Mercury, the Sun (10-6) got back to basics in a 79-64 victory that helped them avoid their first six-game losing streak in nearly three years.
Alyssa Thomas had 20 points and 10 rebounds while Shekinna Stricklen aggressively hunted her shot on the perimeter early and chipped in 11 points as all five starters finished in double figures for Connecticut. Stricklen finished 3 of 9 from 3-point range, but she had gone 3 for 15 from deep during the losing streak.
"We saw a collective effort tonight, great energy," Sun coach Curt Miller told The Hartford Courant after his team outrebounded Phoenix 45-26 and held the Mercury to 41.3 percent shooting. "You saw a team that played hard on the defensive end. We continue to have good third quarters defensively and we weathered, in stretches, another tough shooting night but we weathered that with our defense."
Center Jonquel Jones also showed signs of ending her slump with 13 points and 11 rebounds for her first double-double in six games and eighth overall. Jones, who will be one of the starters at the All-Star game in Las Vegas later this month, is averaging 15.1 points and a league-high 10.4 rebounds.
Indiana (6-11) is in the third game of a challenging four-game homestand against the league's best. The Fever have dropped the first two contests by a combined nine points after a 90-84 defeat to Los Angeles on Friday night.
Erica Wheeler and Shenise Johnson scored 11 points apiece, but Indiana was overwhelmed by a 21-3 third-quarter run by Los Angeles that resulted in a 66-38 deficit. The Fever played well in the fourth quarter to make the final score respectable, but the poor play in the first three and the 20 turnovers for the game aggravated coach Pokey Chatman.
"Sometimes it's about how those seven points were scored," she told the Indianapolis Star about burning two timeouts in that run. "If it's a ball reversal, a bad pass, and a pick six layup, it's one thing, if it's someone being aggressive - it's different things that I have to evaluate in that.
"The veteran players with the high minutes have to bring it because they can, and they should, and it's their responsibility. I include myself with that, it's us together."
Jones had 25 points and eight rebounds to power Connecticut to an 88-77 home win over Indiana on May 28. The Sun have won six straight over the Fever since an 81-79 road loss May 20, 2017.