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Mercury too much for Sun

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published June 30. 2013 4:00AM
Jessica Hill/ AP Photo
Tina Charles is fouled by Phoenix rookie Brittney Griner during the first half of Saturday night's game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Charles had 25 points and 13 rebounds but the Sun lost to the Mercury 89-70.

Mohegan - A near sellout crowd really wanted to explode Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. But the Connecticut Sun players just wouldn't allow it.

And by the end, many of the 9,110 in attendance were either gone or golf-clapping at Brittney Griner's sixth foul.

It was meet the new loss, same as the old loss for the punchless Sun, who fell 89-70 to the Phoenix Mercury.

The Sun (2-7) have lost four straight. Unlike last Sunday's late rally against Atlanta, the Sun went quietly. That's the residual effect of 18-for-67 shooting (27 percent) against a team that usually feigns defense. The Mercury entered the game allowing 86.3 points per game.

"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."

This does not include Tina Charles, who, despite 3-for-18 shooting from the field, made a franchise record 19 free throws on a franchise record 24 attempts. Charles, who finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds, received a warm ovation when she left the game for good.

The Sun got to the line 43 times overall, which didn't go unnoticed.

"Connecticut was the first team that posted us up this year," Phoenix coach Corey Gaines said. "Bron Bron (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."

Griner finished with nine points.

"Tina is a great center, if not one of the best in the league," Griner said. "You've got to guard her going left, going right, the elbow shot, outside shot and the hook shot. She has a lot of weapons."

Diana Taurasi and DeWanna Bonner led the Mercury with 19 points apiece. This was Phoenix's third win in five nights on the road and fifth straight road win overall.

"We wanted to win the first one (of the trip) in San Antonio and we knew Washington (last Thursday) would be tough," Gaines said. "We threw the kitchen sink in there and pulled it out. This is one we told them would be a group effort. It was tough. Percentage wise, Connecticut was due for a win. But Diana showed them the whip."

Taurasi said, "This was such a grind, but you looked up and you're up double digits," Taurasi said. "It didin'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."

Gaines and the Mercury have won four straight.

"We never had a big player of Griner's caliber before," Gaines said, alluding to early season struggles incorporating her into the lineup. "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.'"

The Sun play Tuesday night at home against Tulsa. Game time has been moved from 8 p.m to 7 p.m.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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