Evening the Score
By Brad Friedman, WNBA.com
UNCASVILLE, Conn., Sept. 15 -- All night long, the Sun's veteran big three of Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Nykesha Sales, Katie Douglas, kept the score close. In the end, it was an unlikely hero who saved the day.
Small forward Brooke Wyckoff, a 3.1 point per game scorer this season, converted a three-pointer with 2.0 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. The Monarchs failed to score in the extra session, stymied by the Sun's aggressiveness on defense, allowing Connecticut to even the series 1-1 as The Finals head to Sacramento for Game 3 Sunday.
"It was a great basketball game, it had to be fun to sit in the stands and watch the game," said Sun coach Mike Thibault. "We had a lot of people step up and make some shots."
McWilliams-Franklin, Sales and Douglas helped pick up the slack for the absence of star point guard Lindsay Whalen, who, in addition to being bothered by a pre-existing knee injury, tripped in Game 1 attempting to get a loose ball and experienced swelling in her ankle. The trio accounted for more than three-fourths of Connecticut's points; McWilliams-Franklin totaled 24 points and 16 rebounds; Sales contributed 19 points and three three-pointers; and Douglas had 16 points.
"And then Katie and Kesh; I know you guys want to talk about some of their offense but I'm more impressed with some of the defensive plays we made -- tips, steals in the lane, rebounds in traffic."
On the last Sun offensive play of regulation, Thibault said Wyckoff was the second or third option, and he expected the defense would focus on Douglas. When McWilliams-Franklin was smothered defensively, she kicked it to the open Wykoff, who nailed the game-tying three-pointer.
"It was just a breakdown," said Sacramento coach John Whisenant. "There was no reason when the ball went into Taj -- where she could only make a two -- that somebody would leave their player wide open."
Thibault designed the play for Wykoff to be the farthest player from the basketball. Wykoff said she had a "sneaking suspicion" she'd be left open and called upon to take the shot because of the nature of the Monarchs' over-pursuing defense.
Even that premonition and seeing the play "develop in slow-motion" didn't exactly prepare her for the moment when she converted the three-pointer.
"First it was a feeling of relief," she said, "being back in the game and that I actually hit the shot and wasn't the dork that missed it at the end with the wide open shot."