Gruda leads Sun past Fever 77-68

SportsBasketballConnecticut SunMike Thibault

The Connecticut Sun are intent on staying inthe Eastern Conference playoff race.

Sandrine Gruda scored 21 points to lead the Sun to a 77-68victory over Indiana on Wednesday, snapping their three-game losingskid and ending the Fever's seven-game home winning streak.

Connecticut (11-8) moved a half-game behind Indiana (11-7) forthird place in the conference. Washington (12-5) is in first place,percentage points ahead of Atlanta (14-6).

"The whole Eastern Conference is a dog fight," Sun coach MikeThibault said. "We needed it badly, and it was a great win forus."

Connecticut is in position to gain more ground on the conferenceleaders. The Sun play their next five games at home, where they are7-1. They host Atlanta twice and Washington once during thehomestand.

"At least now we get to go home," Thibault said. "We've beengood at home."

The Fever were looking to continue their own strong play at homeon Wednesday.

Tamika Catchings had 22 points, nine rebounds and four steals,and Katie Douglas added 13 points for Indiana. Catchings grabbedher 2,000th rebound in the second quarter to become the 10th playerin WNBA history to reach that milestone.

"We just have to get better," Catchings said. "We continue tosay, 'Oh, we have to get better, we have to get better' and makingexcuses, but when it comes down to it, people aren't ready to play.

"We have to win. Everybody has to gut it out and we have tofigure out how we're going to win. For me, it's frustrating. It'sall of us. It's not just one player. As a team, we have to dobetter."

After falling behind 56-52 to begin the fourth quarter, the Sunwent on an 11-0 run to take control with 5 minutes left. Indiana,which began the final period 0 for 10 from the field, got a pair offree throws from Briann January with 3:54 left to haltConnecticut's rally.

The Fever pulled to 68-66 on a 3-pointer by Douglas with 2minutes remaining, but the Sun answered with Tina Charles' jumperand Gruda's two free throws to regain the momentum.

"We wanted to win this game because we know we are a good,talented team," Gruda said. "It was very, very important for usto win this game. We need to prove to ourselves that we couldwin."

There were six lead changes and three ties in a sloppy firsthalf, and neither team led by double digits. Connecticut shot 39percent from the field and had 10 turnovers.

Indiana, which led by nine points, took a 38-34 advantage at thebreak despite shooting 37 percent and committing seven turnovers.

The Fever extended their lead to six points in the thirdquarter, but Gruda's two free throws cut the deficit to 54-52entering the final period.

"We saw a very good Connecticut team today," Fever coach LinDunn said. "They were desperate for a win. We did not match theirlevel of intensity. They were a 10 and we were a seven."

The Fever and Sun finish their regular-season series Aug. 15 atConnecticut.

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