When the Sun rose to the top of the league early in the season, the rest of the league took notice. After their hot start to the season (9-1), the Sun find themselves on the back end of a very tough stretch. They have now lost five in a row and have a 9-6 record. Now, some of the beginning of season questions have resurfaced.
With a third of the season in the books, what are some of the reasons for these Sun struggles?
Jones and Stricklen Struggling
There has been a decrease in production for two of the centerpieces of the Sun offense: Jonquel Jones and Shekinna Stricklen.
Jones, has already been named the WNBA Player of the Week three times this season. Undoubtedly, she will garner MVP consideration at the end of the season. But during this four game losing streak, Jonquel is averaging 11 points and 8.35 rebounds. That is way below her season averages of 15.5 and 10.5. Jones needs to be dominant for the Sun to shine and she just hasn’t been lately.
Stricklen is in the middle of an awful shooting slump. She is currently shooting 3/15 (20%) from 3pt land during this losing streak. To put things into perspective, during the last four games of their nine-game win streak prior, Stricklen shot 19/32 for an absolutely absurd shooting percentage 59.3% from deep. Shekinna has to produce if the Sun are going to have success the rest of the way.
The Sun’s current misfortunes are not only attributed to the starters’ lack of production. Ironically, the Sun have not won a game since Layshia Clarendon went down with an injury.
Clarendon underwent season-ending surgery to repair her peroneal tendon in her right foot two weeks ago. Defensively, Clarendon was a valuable asset because of her ability, as a big guard, to defend the 1 through 4 positions.
Though she only averaged 15 minutes per game, Clarendon was essential to the Sun’s early season success. Per 36 minutes, Clarendon ranked second in the team in points behind Jonquel Jones with 14.6 pts. Curt Miller and his troop are struggling to find a replacement for her and this is showing during this 4-game skid.
It is fair to say that the Sun have handled their beginning of season well, which had led to this team holding the top spot in the W since week 2. With no player over 30 years of age on its roster and as one of the youngest teams in the league, we wondered if the youth of this team would falter when adversity would hit.
Even though the team has not won since June 21st, they still have just 5 losses on the season and are tied for 3rd in the league. Curt Miller seems optimistic that his team has will be able to turn things around soon. “I liked our competitiveness more than on some of the road trip, I saw togetherness, I saw a competitiveness that we need to play with in order to win” Curt Miller said after Saturday’s lost.
Connecticut will look to turn things around on Friday at home as they get a visit from the Phoenix Mercury (7-6).