Sky Sets on Sun

The Sky have never won two straight games in Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena… until tonight. The first-place Sky earned their 14th win of the season, matching their 2012 total, as they took down the last-place Connecticut Sun (6-14) with a comfortable 77-61 win on the road, Chicago’s third straight win over the Sun.

Four Sky players finished in double-digit scoring, signifying a night of balance offensive contributions. Epiphanny Prince led all scorers with 23 points and Sylvia Fowles recorded her tenth double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 boards. Chicago out-rebounded the Sun 46-36, shot 44 percent from the field and went 7-for-15 from three-point range.

The Sky found success on the defensive end too, forcing the Sun to shoot 27 percent in the first half, 32 percent for the game and a dismal 1-for-14 three-point shooting. Chicago’s defense particularly limited the Sun’s offensive production from Tina Charles. The Connecticut All-Star missed 12 of her first 13 shot attempts and didn’t score her first points until the 1:10 mark of the second quarter.

It was a huge night for Epiphanny Prince who had 23 points, four boards and four assists. Prince came into tonight suffering something of a shooting slump, converting only 25 percent from the field during her last seven games. But tonight, the shots were finally dropping, including an off-balance heave to end the first half. Prince was fouled on the shots and hit the free throw to put the Sky up 42-27 going into the locker room.

The first quarter remained relatively close as the Sun showed spurts of energy and the Sky danced around four and six point leads. Then back to three-pointers from guard Epiphanny Prince sparked a 12-0 run for the Sky in the second quarter. The Sky went up by double-digits and then by 12 points after Fowles cleaned up from the product of Allie Quigley’s lightening-quick spin move that hung on the rim.

Courtney Vandersloot had a strong first half, scoring all 10 of her points, which included a put-back from a missed alley-oop attempt to Fowles. Vandersloot finished with six rebounds and two assists.

The Sky maintained a double-digit lead through the third quarter, though the Sun stayed within striking distance thanks to outside shooting from Kelsey Griffin, Allison Hightower and Charles. But the Sky were able to answer back when needed. At separate points in particular, when the Sun gained the least bit of momentum, Elena Delle Donne stepped up and knocked down three long NBA-range three-pointers to quiet them down.

Delle Donne performed well in her second game back from a brief hiatus due to a concussion injury. The guard/forward finished one rebound shy of a double-double (19 points, nine rebounds) and shot 6-for-11 from the field, including 3-for-4 from three-point range.

The fourth quarter opened with the Sky up 60-43 and shortly Chicago extended their lead to 20 points. Allison Hightower led the Sun with 13 points. Tina Charles finished with 10 rebounds and a season-low five points.

Sky and Sun meet again in a little more then a week on August 18 when the Sun come to Chicago for their final meeting of the season. A Sky win gives them a regular season sweep on the Sun. In 2012, Connecticut owned the series, winning three of their four matchups.

The Sky needed a solid win and a chance to get their shooting game back on track after losing two straight games for the second time this season. Another conference win was especially important with high stakes games against western conference leaders Minnesota and Los Angeles looming next week.

“This is a huge month for us,” Delle Donne told the Chicago Tribune on Thursday. “Obviously, we have to figure this out right now and get this ship moving the right way because we have a lot of games coming up.”

With a win tonight, Chicago stays ahead of Atlanta (11-6) in the eastern conference standings. The Sky (14-7) return home to face the red-hot Minnesota Lynx (17-4) in an intriguing matchup between the best teams of the two conferences. The game is scheduled to air on WNBA LiveAccess and local TV channel WCIU, The U on Sunday at 5:00 pm CST.