By Matthew Roberson
The Seattle Storm (10-16) swirled into Mohegan Sun Arena on Tuesday night for a squabble with the Eastern Conference-best Connecticut Sun (16-9). After building a 11-point lead entering the fourth quarter, the team struggled to score down the stretch on the way to an 84-71 loss.
Resiliency allowed Connecticut to pull ahead late in the game. The Sun, playing without All-Star Jasmine Thomas, was down 11 points at halftime and 11 after three quarters before ending the game with a 33-9 spurt. Jonquel Jones totaled 20 points and 14 rebounds, while her teammate Courtney Williams had a career-high 27 points. Breanna Stewart was the Storm’s leading scorer at 17. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, playing in Connecticut in front of her college coach Geno Auriemma, shone in the loss with 15 points and three treys.
Seattle kept the Sun from heating up early, staging a 10-2 lead in the game’s first five and a half minutes. Connecticut made just three of its first 12 field goals while Seattle drilled six of its initial 10 attempts. After Loyd deposited a corner three on Seattle’s last possession of the quarter, Alex Bentley answered with a three of her own, which fell through the net as the backboard illuminated red. The Storm gathered at the bench at the end of the first quarter with a modest 18-16 lead.
Defense set the tone for Seattle early. The team held Connecticut to 35 percent (7-for-20) from the field in the first ten minutes of the ballgame. Connecticut also gave the ball away thrice, while Seattle turned it over just once in the first quarter. Both teams combined to go 2-for-9 from beyond the arc in quarter number one. Head coach Jenny Boucek decided to go eight-deep in the opening quarter, utilizing three bench players.
Courtney Williams tied the game at 22 early in the second quarter with a pull-up jumper. Mosqueda-Lewis hooked home a shot in the low post to put her on the board and give Seattle a three-point lead (27-24) near the quarter’s midway point. Mosqueda-Lewis buried three’s on two following possessions to push the lead to nine (33-24). A Curt Miller timeout did nothing to slow her down, as Mosqueda-Lewis banged her third consecutive three after the stoppage. This gave the former UCONN Husky 11 points, and she would reach 13 before halftime, setting a new season high.
Storming into the locker room with a 42-31 lead, Seattle owned its first halftime lead since its July 28 throttling of the Dallas Wings. Crystal Langhorne’s layup to close the half also put her over 4,000 points for her career. Mosqueda-Lewis led all players with 13 points at the halfway mark, shooting 5-for-5 on field goals. Stewart finished the half with nine points, while Alysha Clark led the team with six boards on her way to 10 for the game. Jones scored 11 for Connecticut in the first and second quarters, and also snagged three offensive rebounds. Despite having Jones, the WNBA’s leading rebounder, on the court for 17 of the 20 minutes, Connecticut was outrebounded 20-16. The Sun also shot just 14-for-38 (36.8 percent) from the floor and 2-for-10 from deep, while Seattle went 18-for-36 (50 percent) and 4-for-9 (44.4 percent).
The home team scored the first six points of the second half to get within five points (42-37). Sue Bird halted the Connecticut run by popping a three from the left wing. She would have 14 points and season-high seven rebounds when it was all said and done. Stewart finished a lefty hook shot to give the team in green a 12-point advantage (51-39) at the third quarter’s 5:03 mark. That advantage would swell as high as 13 before the quarter came to a close, with Seattle in front 62-51.
A 7-0 run pulled Connecticut within four (62-58) before Bird silenced the crowd with a deep two. Connecticut claimed its first lead of the second half (65-64) on a Rachel Banham bucket with the clock showing 5:28. Alyssa Thomas later twirled her way to a basket to inch Connecticut ahead by five (69-64) and extend its fourth quarter run to 18-2. With three minutes to go, Seattle trailed 71-69. A minute later, the deficit stood at seven (76-69). With the score 78-71 in favor of Connecticut and less than a minute to play, Stewart flung a three that rimmed out, effectively ending the game.
Seattle finishes its road trip in the desert with a game at Phoenix on Saturday, August 12 at 7 p.m. MDT. The Storm’s next home game is Aug. 16 against Minnesota. Fans can secure the best seats in the house with Storm 360 Memberships, available now, starting at $180, available online or by calling (206) 217-WNBA (9622). Packages and group discounts are available at 206-217-WNBA (9622).