WNBA Finals: Connecticut Sun stay alive with resounding Game 3 win over Las Vegas Aces

Alyssa Thomas #25 of the Connecticut Sun is congratulated by teammate Jonquel Jones.
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The Connecticut Sun kept their championship aspirations alive Thursday with a resounding win over the Las Vegas Aces in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals. Sun forward Alyssa Thomas wrote a new entry in the record books with the first triple-double in WNBA Finals history, scoring 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists.

Las Vegas, which holds a 2-1 series lead, was led by Jackie Young with 22 points, while 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson added 19. Kelsey Plum chipped in 17 and Chelsea Gray scored 11. The top-seeded Aces will have a second attempt to close out their first title in franchise history on the road Sunday afternoon in Game 4 (4 p.m. ET on ESPN).


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun, Game 3: Post-game quotes

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas on historic triple-double performance: “That’s what I’ve been doing all season. We’ve been struggling offensively and finally got a game back at home. Me and my teammates were making shots, so none of this is ever possible without them.”

Sun head coach Curt Miller on Alyssa Thomas (video below): “She’s probably the toughest player I’ve ever coached, but she’s the most consistent player in terms of effort that I’ve ever been around. I know what I’m going to get every single day. That’s how she plays and that’s what makes her special. She doesn’t know how to play other than that way.”

Aces head coach Becky Hammon on Game 3 loss: “This game was about physicality and mental toughness and they smoked us on it. Period. The physical follows but the mental for them was there and not us. And kudos to them for executing their game plan and executing it hard. They didn’t do a whole lot different, they just did it harder. They’ve been blitzing us the whole series, they just did it harder and we responded soft.”

Sun’s DeWanna Bonner on Alyssa Thomas’ triple-double: “When you say the engine, she’s the engine. You know, you don’t use that [word] loosely, so shout out to her. We were just able to hit a couple of shots tonight so that she can get her triple-double. So she needs to thank me.” [Laughter ensues.]

Aces’ A’ja Wilson on what went wrong in first quarter as Sun outscored Aces, 34-19: “Defense, defense. We just were not locked in on the defensive and we were a step slow on the defensive end. And that fuels our offense. So we have to be more locked in on the defensive side, more than anything, when you’re playing against a team like Conn. And so for us to come out and lack that, it was gonna be a long game for us regardless of who we played.”

Sun’s Jonquel Jones on Game 3 win: “I think it’s just the MO of our team: When our backs are against the wall, we play really good basketball. Sometimes you wish that you didn’t put yourself in those positions, but that’s done now. All we can do is focus on the next game.”

Aces’ Jackie Wilson on her 22-point performance and what Vegas needs to do in Game 4: “I just did what I supposed to do — knock down open shots. They were leaving me open. I just have to step into it with confidence and make the shot. Besides that, we’ll make a few adjustments. We made it too easy for them. They’re a physical team, and we just have to match their physical energy.”


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun, Game 3: Fourth-quarter live updates

9:10 Q4: There it is! First triple-double in WNBA Finals history, recorded by Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas (video below). Thomas’ assist on the layup by DeWanna Bonner gives her 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Sun lead 83-69. Additionally, Thomas’ 15 boards is a new postseason career high, and she also becomes the first player to record a triple-double in both a regular season contest (two) and postseason contest in a single season.

5:37 Q4: Nearly midway through the fourth quarter, DiJonai Carrington makes two free throws to give the Sun a 92-76 lead. Carrington has nine points and one steal off the bench.

4:22 Q4: Aces head coach Becky Hammon takes out her starters, obviously preparing for a Game 4 in Connecticut. Jackie Young leads all scorers with 22 points, while A’ja Wilson has 19 points, Kelsey Plum 17 and Chelsea Gray 11. Sun lead, 94-76.

0:00 Q4: The Sun pull off the win to keep their championship dreams alive, closing with a 19-0 run to beat the Aces 105-76.


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun, Game 3: Third-quarter live updates

8:59 Q3: The Sun start the third quarter with five unanswered points including a three from DeWanna Bonner (video below), pushing the lead to 58-42. The Sun set two WNBA Finals records in the first half, scoring the most points in the first quarter of a WNBA Finals game (34) and the most assists in any half of an WNBA Finals game (19).

2:56 Q3: Courtney Williams’ jumper from 21 feet makes it 73-61 and all five Sun starters are now in double-digit points. Jonquel Jones leads Connecticut with 18 points.

1:31 Q3: A’ja Wilson’s layup makes it a nine-point game, at 75-66.

0:00 Q3: The Aces win the third quarter, 27-24, but the Sun maintain their advantage and head into the fourth quarter up 77-69.


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun, Game 3: Second-quarter live updates

8:35 Q2: The Sun pick up where they left off in the first quarter, making two unanswered buckets including a three from Natisha Hiedeman to extend the lead to 20 points (39-19).

6:17 Q2: A’ja Wilson ends a five-minute scoring drought for Last Vegas, but the Aces still lag behind by 20 points (41-21).

26.8 Q2: As the second quarter winds down, Connecticut maintains its commanding lead at 53-39. However three Aces players — Wilson, Chelsea Gray (video below) and Jackie Young have all reach double digits in scoring.

0:00 Q2: Huge three from Kelsey Plum (video below), who swishes it from 41 feet at the buzzer, cutting the Aces’ deficit to 11 points at the half (53-42).


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun, Game 3: First-quarter live updates

9:35 Q1: Newly named All-WNBA First Team selection A’ja Wilson gets the first points (video below) on the board for Vegas for the third straight game.

4:58 Q1: Midway through the first quarter and Aces lead, 15-11 behind nine points from Jackie Young (video below). She had just five points in Game 2.

3:15 Q1: The Sun take their first lead of Game 3 on a bucket from DeWanna Bonner, 19-17.

2:13 Q1: DeWanna Bonner swishes a three-pointer in what feels like a change in momentum for Connecticut. The Sun have scored 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting (80%).

0:00 Q1: The Sun finish the quarter on a 10-1 run and lead by 15 at 34-19. Jonquel Jones (video below) has 18 points while Alyssa Thomas is one assist away from a triple-double (12 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists).


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun, Game 3 pre-game: A’ja Wilson leads All-WNBA team selections

Ahead of Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, the league announces its All-WNBA selections, featuring 2022 WNBA MVP and Las Vegas forward A’ja Wilson and Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart as unanimous first-team picks. Joining them on this year’s First Team are Aces guard Kelsey Plum, Phoenix Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith and Chicago Sky center-forward Candace Parker.

This year’s All-WNBA Second Team includes Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas, New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, Sun forward Jonquel Jones and Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles. This marks the eighth all-WNBA Team selection for Fowles, who retired at the end of this season.


WNBA Finals Game 3: What’s at Stake

  • The Connecticut Sun look to stave off elimination in their first game at home since Game 4 of their semifinals series win vs. the Seattle Storm on Sept. 6. The No. 3 seeded Sun hope home-court advantage will provide the boost they need in pursuit of the franchise’s first-ever WNBA title. The Sun have previously qualified for the WNBA Finals three times (most recently in 2019).
  • Now in their fifth year as the Las Vegas Aces, the franchise is looking to capture its first WNBA title under first-year head coach and 2022 WNBA Coach of the Year Becky Hammon. This marks the second time the Aces have appeared in the Finals, after losing in a three-game sweep to the Seattle Storm in 2020. Las Vegas looks to extend its lead to 2-0 before heading to Connecticut for Game 3 on Thursday.

Refresher: Aces take 2-0 series lead behind A’ja Wilson’s second straight double-double

The Las Vegas Aces extended their advantage over the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday, winning Game 2 of their best-of-five WNBA Finals series in decisive fashion, 85-71. The 2022 WNBA MVP, A’ja Wilson, powered the Aces with a game-high 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Chelsea Gray (21 points, eight assists) and Kelsey Plum (20 points, seven assists) punctuated the scoring with 20-point performances of their own.

The Sun were paced by Courtney Williams with 18 points and five assists. Also in double figures were Jonquel Jones (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Alyssa Thomas (13 points), while Brionna Jones came off the bench to score 12.


What they’re saying ahead of Game 3 between Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun:

Sun coach Curt Miller on approach to must-win Game 3: “You can’t think big picture. That becomes overwhelming and daunting and feels, at times, bigger. It’s too big. So you’ve got to drill it down. … All we’ll talk about is Game 3, and in particular, all we are going to talk about is the first quarter, and that’s our approach. I think if you start thinking we have to win three in a row, we have to do those kind of things, it becomes big. So we are going to talk about Game 3 and Game 3 only and be ready for that first quarter.”

Aces’ head coach Becky Hammon on balancing “the excitement of going up 2-0 but staying locked in”: “I mean, I don’t see any banners. I don’t see any balloons. Sure as hell glad I didn’t see that confetti again because we ain’t won nothing yet.”

Sun’s Jonquel Jones on mindset for Game 3: We have another opportunity. That’s why it’s a series, and like I said before, we’re going home and we’re going in front of our fans and we are going to use it to help us win the game.”

Aces’ Chelsea Gray on what it will take to close out the series: “I would say, ‘Not look too far ahead.’ We have to focus on winning that first quarter and winning that second quarter, and the big picture will happen. It’s the little things that gets the wins. It’s not like at the end you try to go and out-score somebody. It’s the little things. It’s the rebounding. It’s playing for each other — one more pass, one more play — and that’s what we have been doing all playoffs. We have to be able to do that for Game 3.”


Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun: Leading scorers ahead of WNBA Finals’ Game 3

Aces leading scorers (postseason points average):

  • Chelsea Gray, 23.3
  • A’ja Wilson, 21.6
  • Kelsey Plum, 17.4
  • Jackie Young, 11.3
  • Riquna Williams, 6.1

Sun leading scorers (postseason points average):

  • Jonquel Jones, 14.6
  • DeWanna Bonner, 12.0
  • Alyssa Thomas, 11.6
  • Brionna Jones, 10.4
  • Courtney Williams, 9.5

2022 WNBA Finals Schedule: Las Vegas Aces vs. Connecticut Sun

Note: Games marked with an asterisk (*) are if necessary

  • Game 1: Sunday, Sept. 11 — Connecticut at Las Vegas
    • Las Vegas wins, 67-64 (3 p.m. ET on ABC)
  • Game 2: Tuesday, Sept. 13 — Connecticut at Las Vegas 
    • Las Vegas wins, 85-71 (9 p.m. ET on ESPN)
  • Game 3: Thursday, Sept. 15 — Las Vegas at Connecticut 
    • 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Game 4*: Sunday, Sept. 18 — Las Vegas at Connecticut 
    • 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
  • Game 5*: Tuesday, Sept. 20 — Connecticut at Las Vegas
    • 9 p.m. ET on ESPN

MORE WNBA: 2022 WNBA Finals — Las Vegas vs. Connecticut schedule, how to watch, results

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.


How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.


Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

YEAR WINNER SCORE MARGIN RUNNERUP
2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.


More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.