UNCASVILLE — The Connecticut Sun trailed Atlanta 11-0 just 1:48 into their WNBA preseason opener Tuesday and it didn't matter because this is the time when building momentum is more important than fretting about the moment.
So Sun coach Mike Thibault called a timeout, stewed some on the perimeter of his bench and then put his train back on its track before a bad start spawned bad muscle memories for this new team.
In a few months, Thibault and the league will know whether sweeping changes on the Sun will lead to a drastic change in their fortunes. But on this day, the organization learned that its new players and infusion of youth shows as much resolve as it holds promise.
UConn women's fans, it hasn't been long since you've heard something like this: Led by center Tina Charles, who scored a game-high 21 points, with nine rebounds and six blocks in 27 minutes, the Sun roared back to beat the Dream, 86-79, before 3,779 at the Mohegan Sun.
"Tina did a nice job," Thibault said. "That's a lot of production for 27 minutes. But what I'd caution everyone about is, that wasn't Erika De Souza and Sancho Lyttle out there [in Atlanta's post] today."
True, each WNBA team is still waiting for many of its stalwarts to report from their overseas teams. The Sun still do not have starters Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and Sandrine Gruda, and Asjha Jones is injured and has not practiced. Chamique Holdsclaw is also still not with the Dream.
But Angel McCoughtry, the 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick, was out there for Atlanta, livening it up, as usual, for 19 points (3 of 4 from three) in 22 minutes. Center Allison Bales played on some great Duke teams. And Charles didn't look phased at all.
"It was fun playing with new faces," said Charles, the consensus player of the year from the national champion Huskies. "And it was nice to be able to show the fans what to look forward to during the rest of the season. … I feel comfortable. My confidence is definitely there. I like Coach Thibault's philosophy for this team. Everything is going well."
The Sun had four players in double figures, none of whom ended the season with them in 2009.
Renee Montgomery, acquired from Minnesota for Lindsay Whalen in the trade that landed Charles, made her Sun debut with 12 points in 27 minutes.
"It felt nice to be out there, in a new uniform, with my new teammates," Montgomery said. "The whole situation here feels good. The only thing about today that didn't feel good was when my alarm clock went off (for the 11 a.m. start) this morning."
Rookie Kelsey Griffin, the first-team All-American from Nebraska, scored 11 in 16 minutes. And Allison Hightower, the second-round pick from LSU, added 10 in 12 minutes.
The Sun also received a vital contribution from veteran forward DeMya Walker, plucked from Sacramento's roster in the dispersal draft after the team folded. Walker brings scoring (nine), rebounding (five) and a physical touch to a team that has lacked those elements in one player for some time.
During one segment in the second quarter, Walker and McCoughtry got their arms entangled under the basket. Walker solved the problem by flinging McCoughtry away.
"I wouldn't consider myself an instigator," Walker said. "I wouldn't even call myself edgy. I consider myself a person who believes that if you bring it, I can bring it. Don't dish what you can't take. That's my motto. So if you don't dish it, you will be left alone. But if you, then you can expect to get it back. I protect my teammates - and myself."
The Sun continue the preseason Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena against the Polish National Team. Then they play New York at Madison Square Garden next Tuesday morning before opening the season May 15 against Chicago.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun