Sky open season with victory over Sun
Well, this is a good sign.
The Chicago Sky got off on the right foot to start then season, and had to do so without its biggest star.
WNBA reigning most valuable player Elena Delle Donne was out with an illness (stomach virus) for the season opener on Saturday night, and yet the Chicago Sky managed to manhandle the visiting Connecticut Sun at Allstate Arena, 93-70.
"Unfortunately, we've been there and done that a couple years ago," Sky coach Pokey Chatman said of her team having to learn how to win without Delle Donne when she missed a majority of the 2014 season due to a flare-up of her Lyme disease. "But (the other players) trust the process, they trust each other and they understand the role they have to play.
"We were always aggressive tonight and I can say that about every player that came into the game. We were in attack mode the entire time."
The Sky extended a 22-13 first quarter lead to 20 points by halftime (45-25) by forcing the Sun into poor, rushed shots. Connecticut shot just 29 percent from the field in the first half, and finished at 34 percent for the game. Connecticut forward Chiney Ogwumike, the WNBA rookie of the year in 2014, was held to just 4 points.
Defense was a focus in training camp after the Sky allowed the second most points per game in the WNBA last season.
Meanwhile, the Sky scored 10 more points than their league-leading average of 83 points per game last season.
The Sky made just one roster change since last season, the addition of 6-foot-7 rookie center Imani Boyette out of Texas. Veteran guard Cappie Pondexter says the cohesiveness of the team is already helping on both ends of the floor this season.
"I like the fact that we have a year of experience together," said Pondexter, one of two players to reach double figures for the Sky. She had 13 points and point guard Courtney Vandersloot led the way with 14 points.
"And we all took it to heart last year when we finished the season (prematurely, losing in the first round of the playoffs). We all got better individually and you can see the improvement in all of us."
Every Sky player scored and 10 of the 11 players had at least 6 points. Jessica Breland, Jamierra Faulkner and Allie Quigley each had 9 points.
Faulkner added 6 assists while Vandersloot had a game-high 7 assists.
"I focused on my defense and how I mentally prepare for games," Faulkner said of her off-season work. "I just watched extra film with Pokey, just making sure I know everything I need to know (about an opponent)."
Two players reached double-figures for Connecticut. Guard Alex Bentley had a team-high 14 points while rookie guard Rachel Banham added 13 points on 3 three-pointers. Banham, the former Minnesota star, made headlines last winter for setting various records when she dropped 60 points in a Big Ten game against Northwestern.