BY MIKE PEDEN
WNBA fans and pundits considered the Minnesota Lynx the best three-quarter team in basketball last season, as their leads would usually only last to that point.
After the Lynx darkened the Connecticut Sun with a 90-67 win Saturday night at Target Center, the Lynx may be called the best third quarter team in the WNBA as they tied San Antonio for first place in the Western Conference.
Minnesota (7-3) outscored Connecticut (6-4) 23-6 in the third stanza as Connecticut made only two of 18 shots in the period. The Sun's shooting woes allowed the Lynx to blow open a 44-43 halftime lead and ride in cruise control for the rest of the game.
"Their defensive pressure in the second half was way better than the first and way better than ours," said Sun head coach Mike Thibault.
"When we play defense like that, it really sparked our offense," said Lynx rookie forward Maya Moore.
Proof was evident in field goal shooting, as Minnesota made 49 percent of their shots to Connecticut's 35 percent. Moore herself was electric, setting a new career high in scoring with 26 points on 9-of-14 from the floor, draining six of nine three-point attempts.
Even more impressive is who she compiled the stat line against, playing against several former UConn teammates for the first time since collegiate intra-squad practices. They include last year's first overall draft pick Tina Charles, Kalana Greene, and former Lynx guard Renee Montgomery.
"It forced me to focus because I know how talented they are," Moore said.
"Once you play with somebody so long, you know what shots are going to go in and what aren't. If you leave her open, they're going in," Montgomery said.
As Moore was tearing through her former college teammates, forward Rebekkah Brunson notched her seventh double-double of the season in her first game since being named Western Conference Player of the Month in June, getting 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Although Brunson's accolades attract growing national attention, with ESPN broadcaster Carolyn Peck campaigning to get Brunson in this year's All-Star Game on a televised game Tuesday, stats are still simply numbers for the Washington, D.C. native.
"I'm just going for some more wins. (If) we keep winning, I'm happy," Brunson joked with reporters.
Lynx guard Seimone Augustus added 20 points, hitting eight of her 15 shot attempts.
As Minnesota's chemistry and offensive production grow, so does the evidence suggesting their era of recent futility is shrinking.
"You can't double team anybody, and as soon as you give anybody an open look, it turns into points," said Sun forward Ashja Jones.
Montgomery led Connecticut in scoring with 14 points, with Jones adding 13 and reserve forward Kelsey Griffin chipping in 12.
Minnesota will get some regularity for the remainder of their schedule, as they no longer have any gaps of one week or more in between games. That also means fewer days of practice and less time to restore energy, but the transition is little concern for the Lynx.
"You don't have time to be tired, you just have to keep fighting," Moore said.
The youth demographic will get their chance to see Minnesota on Wednesday, when they host the Phoenix Mercury for their annual "Kiddie Day" promotion.
Click the player below to listen to WNBA President Laurel Richie's conversation with reporters prior to Saturday's game
Programs available for DVD purchase
Autism: The Wall That Knows No Limits - Award-winning documentary series providing insights on autism rarely seen in contemporary media. Produced by someone on the spectrum, this series is a wealth of information for anyone seeking to learn about autism.
$15 for one episode, $50 for the complete series (4 episodes)
What Are You? A Dialogue on Mixed Race - Originally a school assignment, this one-hour documentary explores a population that existed for many years but didn't get much focus until recently. This program examines how a small but growing segment of the population could shift racial and cultural identity. Screened at the 2009 Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival and will be screened at the inaugural Critical Mixed Race Studies conference at DePaul University. $15
From Vices to Verses: Featuring Voices Merging - From Vices to Verses: A New Era of Hip Hop and Action is a biannual conference held at the University of Minnesota. The goal is to promote the culture and history of hip-hop, which is often lost in the corporate mainstream representation. In this program, you'll see how the Voices Merging student group absorbed what they witnessed and how their experience will transform them as a group and as individuals. DVD copies come with 14 minutes of bonus footage not seen online or on TV. $15
Minnesota Machine: 2010 - Geared for Greatness - Join the professional women's football team in their historic 2nd season. Despite several injuries that depleted the roster, the Machine finished 2010 with a 6-3 record and their first division title in franchise history, edging the Iowa Thunder in the Midwest Division of the American Conference. This highlight reel includes clips from the 2010 season and their interview on the cable television show Rollin' and Tumblin' - $15
Silhouettes by RZI Couture - The inaugural breast cancer benefit fashion premiere took place in St. Paul and was met with a fabulous response. All the models were breast cancer survivors or relatives of someone affected by breast cancer and all the clothing was designed by Rosalyn Smaller, owner of RZI Couture and currently fighting breast cancer herself. The TV version features testimonials from the models and co-host Miss Georgia of KMOJ. $10 of every purchase will be donated to RZI Couture to help the breast cancer fight! $15