MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Minnesota Lynx rookie Maya Moore said some of her favorite times on the basketball court occured while playing next to Tina Charles at the University of Connecticut.
With Charles — and two other former UConn teammates — on the other side of the court on Saturday, Moore had one of her best moments in the WNBA.
Moore scored a season-high 26 points, and Seimone Augustus added 20 as Minnesota beat the Connecticut Sun 90-67 on Saturday night.
Playing against Charles, Renee Montgomery, and Kalana Greene was just the motivation Moore needed to break through for her biggest game at the pro level.
“I think it forced me to focus even more because I know how talented they are, how competitive and how good they can be,” Moore said. “This was a game where I just wanted to make sure I was mentally prepared. I felt good in warmups and practice leading up to the game. I’m just happy with the results.”
Rebekkah Brunson added 12 points and 10 rebounds to help Minnesota (7-3) pull into a tie with San Antonio for first place in the Western Conference.
Renee Montgomery scored 14 points to lead Connecticut (6-4). Charles was held to a season-low six points and eight rebounds.
The Lynx outscored the Sun 23-6 in the third quarter to pull away for their second straight win and tying the best 10-game start in franchise history.
“It was our defense,” Moore said of the third quarter. “When we play defense like that, especially at home, that’s the way we want to play and it really sparked our offense.”
With new WNBA President Laurel Richie in attendance, the energetic Brunson demonstrated why she is the league’s rebounding leader, and Moore was showing why she was the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.
Moore scored 11 points in the first quarter to put Minnesota in front while the Sun were shooting 47.6 percent against the Lynx’s league-leading defense. Moore then led Minnesota’s third-quarter push with seven points. She finished 6 for 9 on 3-pointers.
“When you have played with somebody for so long, you kind of know what shots are going to go in and what aren’t,” Montgomery said of the matchup with Moore. “You know if you leave her open, they are going.”
The Sun took an early advantage doing just what it has all season, shooting the ball. Connecticut entered third in the league in scoring, but eventually the Lynx’s defense took control.
Minnesota is holding teams to a league-low 39.7 percent shooting. After its strong opening quarter, the Sun shot just 30 percent the rest of the way.
Connecticut shot 2 for 18 in the pivotal third quarter.
“They were just way better than us,” Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “They played great and we did not. Their defensive pressure in the second half was way better than the first and way better than ours. If you’re 2 for 18 in a quarter you’re probably not going to win too many times.”
Charles, the league’s third-leading scorer, was held to single digits for just the second time this season and finished 3 of 13 shooting.
Minnesota’s veteran center Taj McWilliams-Franklin helped keep Charles in check.
“That was something that we were really confident in going into the game,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We fight the post as good as anyone in the league. We limited the touches, and when they did have touches, it was a little bit difficult for them.”
Connecticut dropped to 1-4 on the road in the opener of a three-game swing away from home.
“I think it’s a struggle point for everybody in the league right now,” Thibault said of the road troubles. “There are not a lot of road wins happening.”
The big third-quarter by the Lynx was the separation in what had been a close game. There were seven lead changes and 10 ties during the first half.
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