- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — The house came up a winner last night at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The host Connecticut Sun taught the visiting Washington Mystics a hard lesson in effort and rebounding as they pulled away for a 84-70 win before 4,135.

Only a few hundred feet and three doors away from the Mohegan Sun’s casino slot machines and blackjack tables, the WNBA’s first independently owned and operated franchise won for the third time in the last four games by outworking the Mystics (2-4). Connecticut (4-2) outscored the Mystics in the paint 44-20 and outrebounded Washington 23-1 on the offensive glass. Connecticut had 21 second-chance points.

“We played much harder in the first half than we did in the second half, and that translated into the problems I saw defensively,” Mystics coach Marianne Stanley said.

With star Chamique Holdsclaw out for the third game because of a hamstring injury, Coco Miller led the Mystics in scoring for the third straight game with 17 points, while Stacey Dales-Schuman added 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Tonya Washington came off the bench for a career-high 15 points, but it wasn’t enough as Washington lost for the fourth time in five games.

Connecticut’s Shannon Johnson led all scorers with 24 points, including 19 in the first half. Nykesha Sales had 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Washington led by as many as four points in the first half and trailed by four at halftime. But in the second half, Connecticut was able to exploit its advantage in the paint.

“We didn’t do a good job boxing out,” Miller said. “We needed to get a body on somebody. We’ve been inconsistent this season.”

Still, the Mystics had a chance. They trailed by 53-48 with 12:48 remaining after Tonya Washington sank a pair of foul shots after a Sun technical foul on Wendy Palmer.

But on Washington’s next two possessions, Sales came up with key offensive rebounds for Connecticut, resulting in baskets in the paint by Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Palmer for a 57-48.

Washington made another late surge, cutting the Suns’ lead to 68-60 with 5:56 remaining. But Sales sank a 15-foot jump shot and then swiped the ball on the inbounds and drove to the basket for another hoop and a 72-60 lead.

“We have to get the mentality that we won’t give up the easy stuff in the lane and not fall into the pattern of getting pounded inside,” Stanley said. “It’s a hard lesson to learn.”

Connecticut led 34-30 at halftime thanks to a controversial shot in the waning seconds.

Dales-Schuman’s shot went over the top of the backboard with four-tenths of a second to go. McWilliams-Franklin threw an inbounds pass about 75 feet that bounced off the backboard to Johnson in the lane, who cleanly threw up the shot. Stanley argued with game official June Courteau for nearly four minutes to no avail.

Connecticut led by as much as 20-14 thanks to an 11-2 run midway through the first half. But the Mystics slowed down the Sun and ripped off an 18-6 run of their own to seize a 32-28 lead with 4:32 left in the half.

Johnson had eight of her 19 points in the final 3:48 of the first half.

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