Mercury 89, Sun 70
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP)
Phoenix coach Corey Gaines remembers the phone calls vividly from earlier this season when the Mercury were struggling to incorporate rookie Brittney Griner into the lineup.
''I got a call from (former Mercury and NBA coach) Paul Westhead and another from (former NBA coach) Flip Saunders and they both asked me, `What are you doing?''' Gaines said Saturday night after his team's 89-70 victory over the Connecticut Sun.
After losing their first three games, the Mercury (7-4) have won seven of their last eight. Phoenix has also won a franchise-record five straight on the road and completed a sweep of a three-game road trip for the first time in team history.
''They were right,'' Gaines said. ''We haven't changed one thing, except going back to how we use to play.''
After slowing down their pace in favor of the 6-foot-8 Griner, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's WNBA draft, the Mercury went back to playing the up-tempo style that was a trademark of two championship teams.
''We never had a big player of that caliber before,'' Gaines said. ''Everybody else took a back seat and we weren't running. After the third game, we had a team meeting and said, `forget all that and let's get back to run and gun, shoot the ball, jack it up.'''
Candice Dupree added 18 points and Griner had nine points before fouling out.
''This was such a grind, but you looked up and you're up double digits,'' Taurasi said. ''It didn't feel that way. The whole 40 minutes felt like we had to do a little more, but we looked up and we were up 12.''
Penny Taylor, who missed more than a year with a knee injury, returned for the Mercury and scored eight points.
Tina Charles had 25 points and 11 rebounds to lead Connecticut (2-7), which lost its fourth straight. Charles shot 3 for 18 from the floor, but made was 19 for 24 on free throws - franchise records for both makes and attempts.
''Connecticut was the first team that posted us up this year,'' Gaines said. ''(LeBron James) doesn't even get calls like Charles did. Has he ever shot 24 free throws in a game? And he goes to the hole hard. I told Brittney that this was a learning experience and to start throwing your body into people.''
Allison Hightower added 13 points for the Sun, who trailed by double digits most of the second half and finished 27 percent (18 for 67) from the field.
Connecticut scored the last eight points of the first half and trailed 38-32 at halftime.
Alexis Hornbuckle, who entered the game 0 for 5 from the field from 3-point range this season, made both 3s she attempted in the first half to help the Mercury open a 38-24 lead.
''We can't stop fighting and it felt like for stretches tonight we did,'' Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said. ''We looked defeated defensively. Their 44 points in the paint weren't Griner. They had a lot of dribble penetration and we didn't fight hard enough sometimes. I think we're playing hard, but I think we're discouraged. We've go to fight and be competitive until we get bodies back.''