UNCASVILLE – Tina Charles had her customary double-double, but it was clearly Candace Parker’s night. Parker, the former All-American from Tennessee who missed 15 games last season with a knee injury, had a career night—33 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists, and five blocked shots—to lead the Los Angeles Sparks over the Connecticut Sun, 87-81, before 6,058 fans and a national television audience on ESPN2 at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Wednesday night.
Candace Parker lit up the Sun with 33 points and 16 boards to lead L.A. over the Sun.
The game was hyped as a battle between two of the WNBA’s best teams, and it certainly lived up to its advanced billing. Each team entered the contest with a 6-1 record, with the Sun—Connecticut’s only major league team—one-half game behind the 7-1 Chicago Sky in the WNBA Eastern Conference standings. The Sparks, meanwhile, came to the Nutmeg State in second place in the West—two games behind the defending champion Minnesota Lynx, the league’s sole remaining undefeated team.
Charles had 19 points and 13 rebounds to lead Connecticut. It was Charles’ 51st career double-double, extending her franchise record double-figure scoring streak to 20 games.
“She is a fantastic player and I have been playing against her ever since her freshman year at Connecticut,” said Parker of her rivalry with Charles. “I enjoy playing with her a hell of a lot more than playing against her.” Parker and Charles are Team USA teammates and will play together on the U.S. Olympic team during the Olympic Games in London in August.
Kara Lawson added 16 points and four assists for Connecticut, while Asjha Jones added 10 points and eight boards. Renee Montgomery and Tan White added 12 and 11 points respectively off the bench for the Sun. It was the seventh time in the last eight games that Montgomery contributed double-digits off the bench.
Nneka Ogwumike scored 18 for L.A., while Jantel Lavendar added 10 points off the Sparks’ bench. The second-year pro out of Ohio State also hauled down eight boards.
Thanks largely to Parker, who was 12-for-22 from the floor, and Ogwumike (7-for-7), Los Angeles shot 46 percent from the field (33-for-72) compared to Connecticut’s 33 percent (28-for-84).
While the final score may indicate a somewhat comfortable margin for the Sparks, it was actually a hotly contested game throughout, with 12 ties and 12 lead changes. In fact, Connecticut led 81-80 with 1:10 remaining in regulation when Charles looked to put the Sun up by three on a fast break. But Parker had other ideas, blocking the Sun’s superstar center’s shot cleanly. Ogwumike was fouled by Asjha Jones in transition and calmly dropped in two from the foul line to give the Sparks a one-point lead.
Unfortunately for Connecticut fans, it was the last lead change of the evening. The Sparks ended the game on a 7-0 run—all points coming from the charity stripe; five from Ogwumike and two from Parker—for the final six-point margin of victory for Los Angeles.
Connecticut led by three, 75-72, after a three-pointer by White with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter. But an 8-0 run by Los Angeles put the Sparks in the driver’s seat with 3:08 remaining.
“I don’t like losing any game, but, you know, [this was] a game where we had control,” said Connecticut head coach Mike Thibault. “We had the lead and it disappeared in a hurry. I thought when we got the five-point lead back in the middle of the fourth quarter we had a chance to stretch it out. Instead, we messed up a couple transitions. It was an opportunity to break [the game] open and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
The Sun now must prepare for the New York Liberty, who visit the Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday night. The Sun, who are 2-0 against New York this season, will try and protect their 5-0 record versus Eastern Conference foes. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.
—Colleen White contributed to this report