The Sparks, missing two-time WNBA champion Kristi Toliver and two-time All-Star Chiney Ogwumike, again hung tough against the first-place Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun. Nneka Ogwumike was limited to 23 minutes after being whistled for three quick fouls in the first half. Ogwumike, Amanda Zahui B., and Brittney Sykes were called for four fouls each in the first three quarters.
The Sparks stifling defense and strong 3-point shooting defined the first quarter as they had early control of the game. Te’a Cooper, starting for Toliver, scored seven first-quarter points. Nia Coffey, who entered the game scoring 33 points in the past two contests, knocked down a long 3-pointer off the backboard from the top of the key to give the Sparks the 18-14 lead. Defensive Player of the Year Candidate Brittney Sykes recorded four steals in the first quarter and the Sparks led 21-16 after one.
The second quarter became physical, a continuation of Thursday’s contests. Nneka Ogwumike was whistled for three fouls in nine minutes and had to head to the bench for the remainder of the half. Sparks Nia Coffey (11) Erica Wheeler (9), and Te’a Cooper (7) kept the Sparks in the game, as the Sun shot just 41.9% from the field, but the Sun used a nine to four second quarter free throw differential to regain the lead. Connecticut led 40-37 at halftime.
Gritty and Physical.
That is the best way to describe the third quarter between the Sparks and Sun. There were 15 fouls called against the Sun and 16 called against the Sparks in the first three quarters. The Sparks shot just below 45% from the field, while the Sun shot just 21% from the threepoint line. Connecticut led 58-47 at the end of three quarters, but the Sparks continued grinding to keep the game within shooting range. Coffey scored in double-figures for the third straight time, while Wheeler scored in double-figures for the 18th time this season in just 26 total games.
As the fourth quarter commenced, the Sparks struggled with a shortened line up due to early foul trouble and injuries. Los Angeles had just 8 active players in this game. While the Sun expanded their lead to 20, the Sparks continued to put up a determined defensive front, despite being so short-handed. Sun center Brionna Jones led her team with 16 points and 15 rebounds while Jonquel Jones (14), Kaila Charles (12), and DeWanna Bonner (10) also had double-figure scoring outings.
The Sparks will continue their road trip at the Indiana Fever Coliseum to play against the Indiana Fever on the road on Tuesday, August 30. The Sparks are now tied with the New York Liberty for the eighth seed in the playoffs.