They earned a #7 seed, which gives them a first round single elimination playoff game against the #6 seed. That’s the Chicago Sky this year, who had a record of 12-10. The winner of this game will advance to the second round on Thursday, but the opponent is still up for debate. The WNBA will re-seed the playoffs after Tuesday’s single elimination games, so it could be #3 Los Angeles or #4 Minnesota.
As for this game, though, Connecticut split the single season series against the Sky. Chicago won the first meeting, 100-93, while the Sun prevailed in the second contest, 77-74. The first game dropped the Sun to 1-6 on the season after their 0-5 start, so there was a certain amount of “still figuring this team out” going on in that one. In the second game, Connecticut built a sizeable lead before Chicago rallied before the Sun held them off for a third straight win to move to 4-6 on the year.
For one reason or another, former Marquette guard Natisha Hiedeman is one of just two Sun players to appear in all 22 games this season. She averaged 18.5 minutes per game, including four starts for her. The Sun aren’t relying on her to score for the squad, which is why she was only chipping in 6.1 points per outing. Hiedeman’s other numbers aren’t particularly shiny, although the 1.9 assists per game is a little more surprising than the 1.9 rebounds per game. I would have expected her to be averaging more assists than that, but then again, she’s playing about half the game on average, and four assists in a game would be pretty good. Hiedeman is knocking in 35.9% of her long range shots this season, which makes her one of the most reliable shooters that head coach Curt Miller has.
Connecticut’s primary scorers are DeWanna Bonner and Alyssa Thomas, who average 19.7 and 15.5 points per game respectively. Please be advised: Bonner is third in the league in scoring. Both women are double-double threats at all times (7.8 and 9.0 rebounds per game), while Thomas leads the team in assists at 4.8 per contest. One thing to watch for in this playoff game is the health of Jasmine Thomas. She has been limited to just five minutes and two minutes in her last two appearances while missing three of Connecticut’s final six games all together. Thomas averages 10 points, two rebounds, and four assists per game, although those numbers are obviously dipped down a little bit after playing so few minutes in those two recent games.
Chicago is led by the married pair of Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot. Quigley is the top scorer on the squad, getting Chicago 15.4 points per game. She also chips in elsewhere, contributing 2.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists while playing 29 minutes a night. Vandersloot is a passing wizard, averaging a WNBA high 10.0 assists per game. #2 in the league? Indiana’s Julie Allemand at 5.8 per outing. YEAH. That’s the level of action from Vandersloot that we’re talking about here, and that’s not even getting into her 14 points or four rebounds per game, or the fact that she knocks down 40% of her threes, either.
Clearly, disrupting the Vanderquigs will be priority #1 for the Sun if they want to advance to the second round. When Chicago won earlier this season, Vandersloot had 11 assists, while Quigley added 22 points. In Connecticut’s victory, the Sun “held” Vandersloot to “only” seven assists. Quigley had 16 points, still over her season average, but down from the 22 a week or so earlier. Sometimes these things are not particularly complicated in terms of a defensive strategy, y’know?