Parker, Ogwumike lead Sparks past Sun
LOS ANGELES (AP)
Candace Parker scored 28 points, Nneka Ogwumike had 20 points and 12 rebounds and the Los Angeles Sparks beat the Connecticut Sun 91-78 on Tuesday night.
Lindsey Harding added 18 points to help the Sparks (20-8) remain one game behind Minnesota for first place in the Western Conference. Parker also had seven assists.
The first matchup this season between reigning MVP Tina Charles and runner-up Parker didn't really materialize. Mistie Bass ended up with much of the defensive assignment on Parker, who was coming off a double-overtime game in which she played more than 46 minutes. Parker missed the Aug.6 meeting between the teams with a wrist injury.
''She's very unique,'' Charles said. ''There's not a lot of 6-(foot)-5 players can do the things that she can do. You can tell she works hard on her craft. I'd rather play alongside of her, like I did at the Olympics.''
Iziane Castro Marques scored a season-high 19 points and Charles had 18 points and nine rebounds as Connecticut (7-20) has lost five straight for the first time since 2009.
Connecticut cut an 18-point third quarter deficit to five on a 3-pointer by Castro Marques with 6:40 remaining. The Sparks called timeout and Parker began an 11-2 run with a tough baseline shot and ended it with free throws.
Parker scored 12 points in the first quarter, on 5-for-7 shooting that included a turnaround jumper, a three-point play off a runner in the lane and layup on a feed from Kristi Toliver. Parker highlighted the first half with a no-look pass to Ogwumike for a fast-break layup that gave Los Angeles a 49-35 lead at the break.
''She's got so many weapons,'' Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said of Parker. ''She's playing at such a high level. When I watch her on tape, I really have to double-check because she really looks like a guard out there on so many occasions. She's a very difficult match for our post players.''
Connecticut pulled within nine points three times late the third quarter and Parker responded each time with scoring drives to the basket and a trip to the free-throw line.
Harding came out aggressive and totaled her most points since a 22-point game on June 23. She also had four steals.
''I've been a little beat up and dealing with a lot of things,'' Harding said. ''I feel really good and I haven't felt this good in a while. I'm starting out in the point guard. I've got to be aggressive to be successful, and hopefully the team will follow that lead.''
The Sun went on a 14-4 run the second quarter with help from a quick seven points by Castro Marques, but Harding made a step-back jumper and a long jumper to push the lead back to double digits.
Bass had a season-high 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting to help give Connecticut 37 points off the bench.
''We haven't consistently gotten this kind of bench production,'' Donovan said. ''But when we do - when we can get Izzie that can give us help off the bench and Mistie Bass (scoring) - we had a little bit more depth tonight than we normally did.''
Connecticut committed seven turnovers in the opening 10 minutes.