MONTVILLE, Conn. — Alyssa Thomas scored 19 points and the Connecticut Sun spoiled former UConn star Sue Bird's final scheduled game in the state, beating the Seattle Storm 88-83 on Thursday night.
Brionna Jones added 13 points, and Courtney Williams and DeWanna Bonner each had 12 for the Sun (20-9).
The 41-year-old Bird finished with 14 points and seven assists for the Storm (18-11). Two other former UConn stars, Breanna Stewart and Gabby Williams had 17 and 16 points respectively.
Bird, who plans to retire at the end of this season, hit her first two shots of the game — both 3-pointers — and had eight points in helping Seattle to an early 18-8 lead. The Storm led 24-21 after a quarter.
But Connecticut closed the first half on an 11-3 run. A one-handed set shot from Thomas gave Connecticut its first lead just before halftime and Connecticut went into the break up 44-40 and led 72-68 after three quarters.
Williams tied the game at 83 with a steal, a nice spin move and a layup. But Natisha Hiedeman hit a 3-pointer at the other end for Connecticut. Neither team could hit a shot from the floor over the final 2:42 and Connecticut held on for the win.
The arena was awash in UConn gear, Bird national team jerseys and her familiar No. 10 Storm jersey.
Stephanie Brune, 28, of Lakeville, Massachusetts, wore a goat's-head hat, complete with horns, and said she considers Bird the greatest of all time.
“She's a pioneer for our age group,” Brune said. “She's a leader through and through and she's phenomenal.”
Young basketball players attended the game as well. The coach of a girl's youth basketball team in New Haven brought them here to inspire them
"They can be the same thing. They can reach to the top just like Sue Bird did," said Taron Anderson.
The game was the first sellout in Uncasville since the 2019 WNBA Finals and many of the fans were there to see Bird. They gave the 41-year-old a standing ovation during a pregame ceremony and another during player introductions.
“I appreciate that they honor and welcome back the UConn players," said Sun coach Curt Miller. “But through and through they are Sun fans, and I appreciate that balance.”
Connecticut gave Bird several gifts, including a selection of books curated by her sister Jen, who owns a book store, and a 2002 vintage bottle of wine.
Bird played 30 miles north at UConn from 1998-2002, leading the Huskies to two of its 11 NCAA championships. Her former college coach, Geno Auriemma, watched from a sky box.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont declared Thursday “Sue Bird Day” in Connecticut.
“(Bird) is a trailblazer, whose tenacity has elevated the sport of basketball. Connecticut is proud to be part of her journey,” he tweeted.
The Storm started four former UConn players: Bird, Stewart, Williams and Tina Charles, who also finished with 14 points.
While Thursday night teams honored Sue's legacy, they are also standing in solidarity with Brittney Griner.
Griner is currently on trial in Russia for a drug-related charge. Now, each WNBA team including the Sun carrying on BG's Heart and Sole Shoe Drive
Fans already piling up donations on night one.
"I thought it was a good cause especially now where she's being detained in Russia she's not able to it herself so we figured why not," said Carla Massaro.
This night, all about women supporting women.
Fans who would like to participate can donate new or gently worn shoes and toiletry products at the following Connecticut Sun home games: Thursday, July 28 vs. Seattle Storm; Sunday, July 31 vs. Chicago Sky; Tuesday, August 2 vs. Phoenix Mercury; and Thursday, August 4 vs. Phoenix Mercury. Collection bins will be at both entrances on the Mohegan Sun Arena concourse.
DeAndria Turner is a multi-media journalist at FOX61 News. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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