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Late game performance helps Dream overcome early struggles

Guard+Brittney+Sykes+drives+toward+the+basket.+After+missing+the+last+five+games+with+a+right+foot+injury%2C+Sykes+made+an+impact+off+the+bench%2C+scoring+13+points%2C+grabbing+four+rebounds%2C+dishing+out+four+assists%2C+and+snagging+two+steals+en+route+to+her+being+named+the+Player+of+the+Game.
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Late game performance helps Dream overcome early struggles

Guard Brittney Sykes drives toward the basket. After missing the last five games with a right foot injury, Sykes made an impact off the bench, scoring 13 points, grabbing four rebounds, dishing out four assists, and snagging two steals en route to her being named the Player of the Game.

Guard Brittney Sykes drives toward the basket. After missing the last five games with a right foot injury, Sykes made an impact off the bench, scoring 13 points, grabbing four rebounds, dishing out four assists, and snagging two steals en route to her being named the Player of the Game.

Shelby Foster

Guard Brittney Sykes drives toward the basket. After missing the last five games with a right foot injury, Sykes made an impact off the bench, scoring 13 points, grabbing four rebounds, dishing out four assists, and snagging two steals en route to her being named the Player of the Game.

Shelby Foster

Shelby Foster

Guard Brittney Sykes drives toward the basket. After missing the last five games with a right foot injury, Sykes made an impact off the bench, scoring 13 points, grabbing four rebounds, dishing out four assists, and snagging two steals en route to her being named the Player of the Game.

Ben Barkley, Staff Writer

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The Atlanta Dream had lost three of their last four games coming into last night’s match up with the Connecticut Sun. Their offense has struggled, averaging only 73.8 points per game over the course of the season. However, despite a slow start, the Dream used an eight-minute, 24-0 run in the second half to power past the Sun 75-70.

Star forward Angel McCoughtry, who came into the game after having a career night against the New York Liberty, led the offense with 25 points and eight rebounds. Guard Brittney Sykes scored 13 points off the bench after missing the last five games with a right foot injury, and rookie forward Monique Billings owned the fourth quarter, scoring seven points in limited minutes.

Shelby Foster
Forward Angel McCoughtry spots up for a jump shot. McCoughtry followed up her career high 39 points and 14 rebounds against the New York Liberty on June 19 with 25 points and eight rebounds against the Connecticut Sun. McCoughtry also contributed seven from the charity stripe.

For the Sun, star forward Chiney Ogwumike scored 16 points, and forward Morgan Tuck scored 18. Rebounding was also strong for the Sun with Ogwumike grabbing six rebounds and center Jonquel Jones snagging 7.

“I thought we battled defensively the whole game, and we kept on fighting throughout the game,” head coach Nicki Collen said.

The Dream started off slow, commiting lazy turnovers and giving Connecticut extra possessions. Atlanta struggled to find offense with veteran forward Jessica Breland and center Elizabeth Williams throwing up two air balls to begin the contest. However, two and a half minutes into the game, McCoughtry penetrated and knocked down a mid-range jumper to put the home team on the board.

Atlanta continued to commit turnovers with their sloppy passes, causing the Sun to get easy points off turnovers. The Dream calmed down toward the end of the first quarter, and started to make shots, with McCoughtry being a huge impact on the offensive end with nine allowing the Dream to stay tied at 14 with the Sun at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the offense completely disappeared as the Dream shot 28 percent from the field while the Sun shot 41 percent. Free throws were also a downfall for the Dream as they shot 58 percent from the free throw line while Connecticut shot 67 percent from the charity stripe. The Sun outscored Atlanta 25-9 in the second quarter to take a 37-29 lead into the locker room.

“I just want everybody to be involved as much as possible, and we just got to keep improving,” McCoughtry said.

The beginning of the third quarter saw the sloppy offense return, and Atlanta let the Sun’s lead increase to 13 halfway through the quarter. However, the Dream’s league-leading defense started to play more aggressively. Breland and Williams rejected shots at the rim, while Sykes and the other guards interrupted the passing lanes.

Once the halfway mark passed, their already aggressive defense turned into instant offense, mainly with McCoughtry and Sykes. Billings, a rookie out of UCLA, came in toward the end of the third quarter and provided a spark off the bench, allowing the Dream to come within five points at the end of the third quarter. This small run allowed the Dream to cut the lead to within five points.

My mindset coming into the game was making sure that I add to the success of the team and I don’t take away.”

— Guard Brittney Sykes

The Dream kept their momentum at the beginning of the fourth quarter, mainly due to the play from Billings. However, the Dream returned to their first quarter habits, as they were forcing contested shots and turning the ball over. Luckily, as what has kept them in games all season long, the Dream’s defense was doing its job — stopping the Sun from getting easy baskets and causing steals to hold the Sun scoreless for the first seven minutes of the final quarter.

With just under three minutes left in the game, Connecticut finally scored but saw themselves fall behind by over 10 points.

The Sun battled back, outscoring the Dream 9-3 after the 24-0 run from Atlanta. However, free throws saved the day for the Dream, particularly McCoughtry, Clarendon, and Sykes, who made 19 of the Dream’s 27 free throws to allow the Dream to pick up a 75-70 victory.

The win puts the Dream’s record over .500, while the Sun have now lost four of their last five games after starting the season 6-0.

“My mindset coming into the game was making sure that I add to the success of the team and I don’t take away,” Sykes said.  

The Dream now start a three-game road trip, first playing against the 3-8 Chicago Sky on June 27, then the 5-6 Minnesota Lynx on June 29, and finally against the 1-11 Indiana Fever on July 1. The Dream return to McCamish Pavilion on July 6 to take on an offensive powerhouse in the form of the Seattle Storm.

To purchase tickets to see one of the WNBA’s top defenses battle an equally stout offense, go to dream.wnba.com or call 877-977-7729.

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