And unfortunately for the Sun, it ended the same way.
Plenette Pierson’s three-point play and a second effort by Cheryl Ford in the final minute pushed the Shock through its toughest test this season, 75-72, extending the Shock’s unbeaten to start to 7-0.
Guard Deanna Nolan scored a team-high 18 points as all five Shock starters reached double-figures for the first time this season. The balanced scoring disguised what head coach Bill Laimbeer considered the Shock’s poorest showing to date. The Shock committed 21 turnovers, leading to 18 Connecticut points, and shot only 21-of-33 from the free throw line (63.6 percent).
“This is the first game where I was a little disappointed in how we came into the game,” Laimbeer said. “When the game started I thought we were ready to play, and we looked like we were running in mud. We weren’t running at all offensively or getting back on defense. The turnovers were just lackadaisical, non-concentration turnovers.”
The Sun took advantage early, especially guard Lindsay Whalen, who raced up the court to score eight of her 16 points in the first quarter. Whalen’s Achilles’ heel turned out to be at the foul line, where she was unable to complete a three-point play that would have tied the game at 73 with 14.1 seconds left.
Katie Douglas, who scored 16 for the Sun, missed a final game-tying 3-point attempt, and the game ended with a collision that put Ford and Swin Cash on the floor. It was a fitting conclusion. After coasting to double-digit leads for long stretches in their first six wins, the Shock faced their most physical and frenetic 40 minutes they have had to play all season. They trailed by five after one, trailed by two at halftime and led by five after three. In the fourth, they trailed by three with 2:52 to play and led by one with 14 seconds to go.
Neither Whalen nor Douglas scored in the third quarter, when Detroit pounded out its five-point lead thanks to Kara Braxton and Ford, who combined for 19 second-half points.
“When Kara went on a little spurt, there was definitely a concerted effort to get her the ball,” Laimbeer said. “Margot was out of the game at that time, and they didn’t have anyone that could match up size with her and she scored about seven points in a row, and that was a big boost for us and for her.”
Braxton scored eight of her season-high 14 points in the third quarter when Connecticut’s 7-2 Margo Dydek was on the bench with foul trouble. Her layup in the final minute of the third gave Detroit its biggest lead of the game, 56-49.
“I try to go up aggressive but it might not look aggressive against Margot,” Braxton said. “So I just do the same thing, it just happened that she was out.”
Ford had 14 points and 16 rebounds in her fourth consecutive double-double. Ford’s putback of her own miss with 19.4 seconds left gave Detroit a three-point lead. “It wasn’t falling as much as I wanted it to but I guess I was in the right spot at the right time, so to speak,” said Ford, who was 6-of-18 from the field. “Katie (Smith) got me the ball, and I missed and I got the ball back and I put it in. I’m just glad I got it back.”
Swin Cash also had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Smith had a season-high 10 assists.
“It could have been easy if we had played better,” Laimbeer said. “I told our players that’s hopefully as dumb as a game we’re going to play all year long, from lack of effort, or intensity, or just having it tonight. To turn the ball over 21 times and missing all those free throws we gave them every opportunity to win. Fortunately, we won.”