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Sun keeps Clark in check and beats Indiana for season-opening win

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Indiana’s Caitlin Clark struggles to reach the basket during Tuesday night’s WNBA game in Uncasville.

UNCASVILLE, Conn., May 14, 2024 – Many came to see and cheer on Caitlin Clark, the No. 1 draft pick out of Iowa who helped spark interest in women’s basketball.

What they saw was a veteran Connecticut Sun team that used their defensive skills to limit Clark’s effectiveness in her professional debut, and the Sun’s veterans shined Tuesday night in a 92-71 win over the Indiana Fever in front of a sellout crowd in the Mohegan Sun Arena and a national television audience on ESPN2.

Connecticut’s DeWanna Bonner, starting her 14the season in the league, scoring 20 points as a team and hitting three from three-point range while moving into fifth place on the all-time scoring list in WNBA history.

Sun forward Alyssa Thomas picked up where she left off last year when she nearly won the league MVP award. Thomas had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists and recorded her ninth regular-season triple-double of her career.

Connecticut guards DiJonai Carrington and Ty Harris each made their first regular-season start and scored 16 points each. Carrington spent most of the game harassing Clark, who scored a team-high 20 points, but she shot 5 of 15 from the field and committed 10 turnovers — a new game record for Indiana.

The Fever committed 25 turnovers in the game, which the Sun converted into 29 points.

Two hours before tip-off, there were long lines of fans waiting to enter the arena. Many were dressed in black Iowa shirts or new Indiana jerseys.

Randy Gerstein and his son, Brisbon, drove two hours from Portsmouth, NH to watch the game. Basketball games, including the one with Clark, were a big deal for his family of four (three sons and a daughter) this winter.

“Basketball in general became a big thing for us last season. Watching the tournament with Caitlin and the different girls competing was something that really brought the family together and we had a really good time,” he said.

Rich Fazzi, an assistant men’s basketball coach at UMass-Boston, was aligned with his 6-year-old daughter Maggie. She brought a homemade sign for Caitlin.

“After watching Caitlin, she loved watching her play and shoot a bunch of threes,” Fazzi said. “I have two boys and they love watching her, so we have been hanging out a lot this year and they love it.”

Clark received a rousing cheer from the crowd when she was introduced, similar to what happens when former UConn players are introduced into the opposition. Typically, the cheering for the former UConn players diminishes as the game progresses.

For Clark, they haven’t diminished. But DiJonai Carrington and Sun’s defense limited her fans’ opportunities to cheer. Clark missed her first four shots from the floor and sat out half of the first quarter after committing two quick fouls.

Her first basket was a driving layup in front of the basket with 5:25 left in the first half. Her first three-point shot came with 29.9 seconds left in the second quarter.

Carrington stole the ball from Clark at midcourt with 1:56 left in the first half and drove to the basket for a layup and a 15-point lead, 46-31.

Clark had five points and five turnovers at halftime, but finished with 20 points, including four shots from three-point range.

“I thought it was physical,” Clark said. “It is clear that there is too much turnover. There are many things you can learn from. It’s the first. You can’t beat yourself too much on one game. I don’t think this is going to help this team. Just learn from it and move on.”

For Connecticut, Thomas continued the excellent play from a year ago with another all-around effort.

“I know some people think it was a fluke (last season) to put out these kinds of numbers, something that has never been seen before,” she said. “It was unheard of. But this is my game. That’s how I play every night. I think I flirted with triple doubles pretty much every game last season. A lot of credit goes to my teammates. They make it easy for me. They shot. I just put it where it should go.”

Bonner looked sharp and Jones (eight points, three rebounds) played well in limited minutes in her first game since tearing her Achilles last June.

“I am proud of our group. They came out with a lot of energy and did a great job on defense for most of the game and made things difficult for them,” Sun coach Stephanie White said. “Certainly, defense is and remains our identity. I thought they played incredibly well together and connected on both ends of the floor. And it was a big first win for us.”

Rachel Banham and Ty Harris provided three-point shooting that the Sun lacked a year ago. Banham sank 3 of 7 shots from long range to finish with 10 points, while Harris converted on 4 of 6 to finish with 16 points.

It was a one-point game midway through the first quarter as Harris sank a pair of three-point shots in a two-minute span and the Sun closed the quarter on a 9-4 run to take a six-point lead after one minute. quarter.

Carrington had 14 of her 16 points in the second quarter as the Sun opened a 12-point lead. The Fever cut the lead to six in the third quarter, but the Sun pulled away again and built the lead to 23 points.

The Sun shot 48.5% (32-66) from the field, while the Fever shot 48% (24-50) from the floor. Ten Clark turnovers set a new WNBA record for a debut game.

It was the first home opener sellout since 2003, when the Sun played their first game at Mohegan Sun Arena against the Los Angeles Sparks.

The Sun are back in action on Friday night when they host the Washington Mystics at 7:30 p.m

Connecticut 92, Indiana 71
In Uncasville, Conn.
Indiana (71)
Samuelson 1-2 2-2 5, Smith 5-12, 2-2 13, Boston 2-6 0-0 4, Clark 5-15 6-6 20, Wheeler 3-3 1-1 8, Wallace 2-3 0-2 5, Mitchell 2-4 4-6 8, Berger 2-3 0-0 4, Fagbenie 2-2 0-0 4. Total 24 50 15-19 71
Connecticut (92) Bonner 8-14 4-5 20, Thomas 4-8 5-8 13, Jones 2-4 4-6 8, Carrington 6-15 3-3 16, Harris 6-1 0-0 16, Nelson-Ododa 1- 2 0-0 2, Banham 3-7 1-1 10, Mitchell 1-4 2-2 4, Ndour-Fall 0-0 0-0 0, Jefferson 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 32-66 19- 25 92
Indiana (0-1) 13 26 18 14 — 71
Connecticut (1-0) 19 30 16 27 – 92
Three-point goals: Indiana 8-20 (Samuelson 1-3, Smith 1-4, Clark 4-11, Wheeler 1-1, Wallace 1-2, Mitchell 0-1); Connecticut 9-21 (Bonner 0-3, Carrington 1-3, Harris 4-6, Banham 3-7, Mitchell 0-1, Jefferson 1-1). Att. 8910 (sale)