Tina Charles had career highs of 26 points and a team-record 19 rebounds and the Connecticut Sun rallied from a 16-point deficit for a 78-75 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks before a crowd of 8,852 Friday for their first road win of the year.
"We got a road win, and I'm just so excited," Charles said. "Coach just demanded more of us at halftime. We changed the way we were playing the pick-and-roll, and we just had to get in the passing lanes."
Sandrine Gruda scored 12 points for the Sun (7-3), who moved one game behind first-place Atlanta in the Eastern Conference. Tina Thompson had 24 points and Marie Ferdinand-Harris scored 16 for the Sparks (3-8), who played without Candace Parker for the first time this season. Parker, who sat on the bench in street clothes, is out for the season after dislocating her left shoulder Sunday against Minnesota.
"Without Candace Parker, we felt like they had a size disadvantage and that we could go inside," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "If they played Tina Charles straight up, we would score. If they doubled her, we would have some other players open. When they started doubling, Sandrine Gruda hit some shots, and Asjha Jones hit some foul-line shots. Tina was just a monster tonight and it was a great effort."
Los Angeles had a 57-41 lead when Connecticut used a 20-0 run to move ahead 61-57 with 45.6 seconds left in the third quarter. Charles and Gruda scored eight points apiece during the surge, as the Sparks failed to score for more than six minutes.
"We played a bigger lineup, pounded the boards more and changed the way we were defending the pick-and-roll," Thibault said of the Sun's second-half adjustments. "We started scoring on the other end because we got the ball inside the whole time. We finally made a run and just made it tougher for them to get easy looks. It was a great comeback win, and we needed a road win badly."
Thompson's two free throws with 3:37 to play gave the Sparks a 73-72 lead before a follow shot by Charles (13-for-15) put the Sun ahead 74-73 with 3:20 left. Los Angeles then failed to score on its next three possessions.
After Gruda made a jumper with 54 seconds to play, Ferdinand-Harris appeared to make a three-pointer that would have tied it at 76-76 with 1.5 seconds left. But the officials ruled the shot to be a two-pointer after video review.
Thompson made a free throw in the first quarter to become the second player in WNBA history with 6,000 career points. Lisa Leslie is the leader with 6,263.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun