Sun Rout Dream, Clinch Playoff Berth
By JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr., Associated Press Writer

Sun 98, Dream 72 (F)
Check out highlights of Connecticut's playoff-clinching victory over Atlanta.
Connecticut 98, Atlanta 72

ATLANTA, Aug. 29 (AP) - Coach Mike Thibault wondered how his Eastern Conference-leading Connecticut Sun would maintain focus against the struggling Atlanta Dream.

After watching his team in the first half Friday night, he felt a little more at ease.

"We just didn't want to lose any momentum of our winning streak,'' Thibault said. "But we picked off where we left off. We're recharged now and ready to finish this season.''

Tamika Whitmore scored 27 points and Asjha Jones added 24 to lead the Sun to a 98-72 victory over the Dream.

Connecticut (18-10), which clinched a playoff spot, has won five straight games to match its longest winning streak of the season. The Sun remained perfect in three meetings against the Dream (3-25) this season, beating them by an average of 22 points.

After a monthlong Olympic break, Connecticut won for the second time in two nights. They beat Indiana 84-58 on Thursday.

"It's all about building up toward the playoffs,'' Jones said. "That's means our season is not close to being over with. So, each game for us is sort of a preparation for the postseason.''

Dream coach Marynell Meadors pointed out how frontcourt players Jones and Whitmore outplayed hers.

"We got too far down,'' she said. "Our post defense wasn't very good in the first half.''

Kerri Gardin hit a 3-pointer then followed that up with a layup after a steal to give the Sun a 44-26 lead in the second quarter. Connecticut took a 21-point lead on a 3 by Amber Holt.

A three-point play by Lindsay Whalen pushed the Sun ahead 77-47 with 3:25 left in the third. Atlanta, which lost its sixth consecutive game, shot 36 percent and was 1-of-8 from beyond the arc during the quarter.

"We just keep playing our game,'' said Whitmore, who was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc and had six rebounds. "We study every team we play, but it was all about us and what we did.''

Jones, who averaged 18.3 points and shot 56.6 percent from the field over the last four games, was 8-of-9 from the free throw line. Gardin had 13 points and Holt scored 11, while Whalen had eight assists.

"I think Asjha understands the level we need to be playing,'' said Thibault, an assistant coach on the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team. "She's stepped it up along with Whitmore. They're both playing very well from the inside and perimeter.''

Betty Lennox led the Dream with 19 points, while reserve Katie Feenstra added 13. Erika DeSouza had 11 points for Atlanta, which has dropped eight of its last nine games.

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