DeWanna Bonner holds both arms up in the air, signaling a made field goal. Tiffany Hayes jumps up and down, frantically waving the towel that was covering her legs mere moments ago. Several Connecticut Sun players hold three fingers up with wide smiles across their faces as the entire bench erupts.
Seconds prior, on the floor, DiJonai Carrington set a screen on Jackie Young, causing Chelsea Gray to turn her head a moment late as she aimed to recover and guard the perimeter. Gray ran into Alyssa Thomas, who set a high screen to free the Sun’s shotmaker.
The ball rips through the bottom of the nylon as Rebecca Allen drains her sixth three-pointer of the night, bringing the Sun within three late in the fourth quarter in a rematch of the 2022 WNBA Finals against the Las Vegas Aces.
“I need to work on my celebration, I think,” Allen laughingly said of her team’s joyous party on the bench. “ … It’s awesome having your team get around you like that. It gets you a little hyped up, even if I don’t show it.”
That night, Allen dropped 22 points off the bench. Notably, 20 of those points—including all six three-pointers—came in the second half. She also added five rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block.
After Allen’s last three-point shot to cut Connecticut’s deficit to three points, the Aces would then go on a 14-8 scoring spurt to defeat the Sun by a final score of 90-84. Although the Sun weren’t able to secure the victory in their first game against the Aces since losing the 2022 Finals, it was a breakthrough moment for Allen as a member of Connecticut’s core.
“It feels good to see the ball go through the net. I think I’ve needed something like this, this sort of game, for a little while. It gives me confidence, too.”
Allen came to the Sun through the Jonquel Jones mega-trade this offseason after spending her entire WNBA career to that point with the New York Liberty. She started in 32 of her 50 games played with the Liberty over the past two seasons. At the beginning of her first season in Connecticut, Allen served as the first player off the bench. Sun head coach Stephanie White often referred to her as the team’s sixth starter, leaning on her to support the team’s 14-year vet in Bonner. This led to a fluctuation in minutes for Allen, depending on Bonner’s play each game.
Now, due to Brionna Jones’ unfortunate season-ending Achilles injury that the team announced on Saturday, White has slotted Allen into the starting five in Connecticut’s three most recent games. Bringing in Allen forces the Sun’s starting group to play smaller, moving Bonner up to the four and having Thomas play the five. This allows Bec to space the floor in the other frontcourt spot.
Allen’s length is a huge plus on the perimeter. In her first game as a starter this season, she recorded three blocks and a steal on top of making two of her five three-point attempts. Standing at 6’2” with a 6’5” wingspan, her reach is tough to match, especially as a floor-spacing wing.
“On the defensive end, [Bec] is so deceptively long. She gets her hands on a lot of passes, a lot of shots, a lot of deflections; it’s really nice to have someone like that on your team,” Carrington told Winsidr. “I remember she had a lot of big plays last year and the year before for New York, so it’s nice to have that on our team this year.”
Allen’s vision and awareness also significantly impact her defensive ability. She sees the floor, makes the proper rotation to get into passing lanes, and forces turnovers. Allen doesn’t rely solely on her size and length to do the work for her.
The combination of Allen’s physical frame and mental sharpness have led to a strong defensive season despite seeing the court less frequently than in recent years. According to Synergy, Allen is holding opponents to a mere 30.4 field goal percentage on defense.
But wait, Allen has even more in her bag; she is a two-way force that can protect the rim and also consistently draw the opposing players’ eyes on the offensive end, allowing for teammates to make clean cuts to the hoop and connect on easy buckets.
To keep defenses guessing, Allen is a constant mover off the ball. This helps her create for herself beyond the arc. According to Synergy, Allen is shooting 39.4 percent on catch-and-shoot attempts and a whopping 45.5 percent on those attempts when unguarded.
As a whole, Allen is shooting 39.0 percent from three-point range this season, which is a top-20 number in the league for players with at least 20 attempts.
“When I first found out Bec was coming to our team, I was super excited,” Jones remarked. “[Allen] is a knockdown shooter. I know every time it’s going up, it’s going in.”
On top of high-level shotmaking, Allen—in her eighth year in the W—brings another veteran presence to Connecticut’s locker room. She is someone that her teammates can turn to for guidance, and she is also someone her fellow Sun players enjoy spending time with.
“First, [Bec] is probably the funniest person ever,” Natisha Hiedeman, lead guard for the Sun, told Winsidr. “Second, her positivity—she’s super positive and always has a smile on her face. Then just that spark that she brings [on the court]; she’s a shooter, one of the best shooters I’ve seen. Her ability to come on the floor and knock down shots, just have that confidence, I think that’s what this team needs and that’s what [Allen] brings.”
Now with Jones missing the remainder of the season, Allen and her surrounding cast will have to find even more ways to impact the game. Coach White has mentioned that there isn’t one player that can step in and do everything that Jones does, so she expects a team approach.
One way that White expects Allen and the rest of her perimeter players to fill the void left by Jones’ absence is to make an even larger effort to crash the glass. Jones spent her time in the paint, quarterbacking the defense, cleaning up the boards, and allowing the wing players to leak out and run in transition a moment sooner than they would normally be able to. Now, without the luxury of having Jones down low, Allen and her teammates need to put an extra focus on securing possession.
Allen has averaged 2.4 rebounds per game (RPG) this season, which is in line with her career average. This is a bit less than her past two seasons as a starter in New York, during which she averaged 3.4 and 3.7 RPG, respectively. Both numbers came in higher minute volumes than she has seen with Connecticut thus far. If White opts to keep Allen in the starting lineup moving forward, the increased minutes will presumptively allow for additional rebounding.
“Our expectation and communication with all of our perimeter players is that we need you all,” White told Winsidr. “Our perimeter players are going to need to have anywhere from four to six rebounds a ball game. Bec is a good rebounder. I think at times, our perimeter players have been able to sneak out in transition and not have to go get it because AT [Thomas] and Breezy [Jones] were so good at cleaning up. So we just have to be real intentional about understanding the difference now [and]that all five players have to go to the glass.”
The vibes are high in Connecticut as the Sun currently sit atop the Eastern Conference standings. They are likely the best team in the W not named the Las Vegas Aces, even with the threat of New York looming. But now is no time to be complacent. The Sun will have to continue adjusting to lineups without Jones, and Allen’s presence on defense, offense, and in the locker room is key for Connecticut to remain at the top.
Stats as of 6/28. Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of WNBA.com.