SAN ANTONIO (AP) Being such a young team has been a detriment at times for the Connecticut Sun, but their enthusiasm and energy provided a needed boost against the veteran San Antonio Stars.
Chiney Ogwumike had 24 points and 12 rebounds, the 12th double-double of her rookie season, and Connecticut fended off a late rally to beat San Antonio 89-79 on Friday night.
Rookie Alyssa Thomas and second-year Alex Bentley had 18 points each and Renee Montgomery added 11 for the Sun, who snapped a four-game skid.
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”When you look at our ages, we tell ourselves, `Hey, we need to go out there and be young, feel young,”’ Ogwumike said. ”We make mistakes because we’re young, but, at the same time, we need to play like young kids with all that energy. So I think we used that to our advantage and we tried to be productive when we’re running and attacking the boards. Being young can hurt us, but it definitely helped us tonight.”
Connecticut (11-17) pulled within a game of New York (11-15) for the fourth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference with just over two weeks remaining in the season.
Kayla McBride scored 27 points, Danielle Adams had 15 points and Danielle Robinson 10 for San Antonio, which has lost six of eight.
The Stars (13-15) remain a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Sparks (12-15) for third place in the Western Conference.
After trailing by as many as 20 points in the second half, 3-pointers by Becky Hammon and Adams pulled San Antonio within 78-69 with 2:46 remaining.
McBride completed a three-point play to pull the Stars within 79-74 with 1:45 remaining, but Thomas and Montgomery helped seal the victory for the Sun.
”Our backs are against the wall,” Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said. ”We’re trying to get into the postseason. I was pleased at how we came out in the first quarter. It just showed the sense of urgency that we sometimes lack this season.”
The Sun outscored the Stars 40-26 in the paint and shot 54 percent from the field. They went 5 for 12 on 3-pointers, making all of them in the first half on nine attempts.
”They were hitting shots early,” McBride said. ”I don’t think it had anything to do with matchups. They came out with a greater intensity, and they just wanted the game more.”
Thomas opened the game 4-for-5 shooting, including a 3-pointer that sparked a 19-2 run bridging the first and second quarters.
Kelsey Griffin’s 3-pointer gave the Sun a 27-12 lead with 8:28 remaining in the first half.
”I thought we had a good game plan,” Donovan said. ”We knew how they were going to defend ball screens. I think we attacked that pretty well, made them a little more uncomfortable. Our offense off of that was pretty good in the early part of it, they had to change up how they were changing ball screens and that gave us a nice head start in the first quarter.”
After Robinson hit a 19-foot jumper on the wing with 2 minutes left in the first quarter, the Stars did not score again until Kayla Alexander pushed her way in for a layup with 7:28 remaining in the first half. Following a missed 3-pointer by Montgomery, Shenise Johnson made a 16-foot jumper to cut Connecticut’s lead to 27-16 with 7 minutes left in the first half.
The Sun would go on another run, though, outscoring the Stars 16-6 with Ogwumike and Montgomery combining to score all but two points in the run.
”I sensed that Connecticut was very attacking in nature and taking shots, and I thought we were going to deal with that,” San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said. ”I felt that there would be a period that we would grab hold, but didn’t grab hold until late in the game. By then, we were playing catch up.”