Mystics fall to 0-9, set record for worst start in loss to Sun

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Eric Thibault has been fielding a lot of phone calls lately. He appreciated the love, support and positive reinforcement as his team lost game after game, but he admitted it has become a bit much.

The phone probably won’t stop ringing, at least for a few more days, after his Washington Mystics dropped their ninth consecutive game Tuesday night to secure the worst start in franchise history. The Connecticut Sun prevailed, 76-59, to become the seventh WNBA team to start a season 9-0. Washington posted a season low in points as it fell to 0-1 in Commissioner’s Cup play.

The Sun is the last undefeated team in the league. The Mystics are the last winless team in the league. Less than a month into a new-look season, the Mystics have a lot to figure out.

“Despite obviously losing the person who’s going to be our starting point guard one game into the season,” Thibault said, referring to Brittney Sykes, “basically we feel like there’s been games we could win and we haven’t, so that’s frustrating. It’s pro basketball — you get judged on wins and losses. It’s frustrating to lose. It’s frustrating to feel like you missed some opportunities. I think that it’s important we don’t carry the weight of the whole season into every game. You’ve got to feel a little bit of desperation and urgency, but you’ve got to play the game that’s in front of you.”

Washington, which surpassed the 2007 team’s 0-8 start, was down two starters Tuesday: Sykes and Shakira Austin. Sykes missed her seventh consecutive game with a high ankle sprain as the Mystics returned to the scene of the crime, where she went down in the second game of the season. Thibault said she is slowly getting better; she was jumping while doing some light shooting at Tuesday morning’s shoot-around. There is no timetable for her return.

Austin aggravated her surgically repaired hip late in Friday’s loss at the New York Liberty. She did not practice Monday and did not travel with the team to Connecticut. Thibault said he thought she would be able to return this week but wasn’t sure when; the Mystics host the Chicago Sky on Thursday and Caitlin Clark’s Indiana Fever on Friday before visiting New York on Sunday. Austin has missed three games this season and remains on a minutes restriction.

The schedule — two games at Connecticut, two against 2023 runner-up New York and matchups with the Phoenix Mercury and Seattle Storm (two of them), which loaded up in free agency — hasn’t done the Mystics any favors. They also had a road trip out West featuring three games in five days.

My first job is to not feel sorry for myself,” said guard Ariel Atkins, who had nine points on 3-for-12 shooting Tuesday. “Nobody cares. It is what it is. I have to do my job every day, regardless of what our record is. And I think at the end of the day, my job is to not only to make sure I’m good [but to] make sure my teammates are good. We’re still doing the things that we need to do in order to get our first win. I think we’re fighting for our culture and our organization every day. … We’re doing the things we need to do — just got to figure it out on the court. We will.”

The Mystics fell apart in the second half after keeping the game competitive in the first. Washington led 33-32 at halftime after holding the Sun to 13 second-quarter points. Connecticut returned the favor after halftime: Washington’s anemic offense, which ranks last in points per game, went ice cold and managed just 10 points in the third quarter. Those 10 points came on 2-for-15 shooting, including 0 for 8 from inside the arc.

The Sun opened the quarter with a 13-2 run and never trailed again. The Mystics finished 6 for 29 (20.7 percent) from three-point range and shot 31.3 percent overall.

Just trying to figure out how we have a flow for about 22 minutes and not for the rest,” Atkins said. “I think that if there was anything that I could pinpoint of what I’m trying to wrap my brain around, it’s how we get each other easier shots. I feel like every shot we take right now is either contested at the rim or a contested pull-up for me. We may get a few open threes here and there, but right now we’re not getting any easy looks whatsoever.”

Rookie Aaliyah Edwards started in Austin’s place and scored a career-high 14 points to go with nine rebounds. There was a strong contingent of Edwards’s former University of Connecticut teammates in the building, including star Paige Bueckers.

“I’m glad of how I was able to [play],” Edwards said. “My teammates were finding me. I was able to finish. But [one person can’t] win a game — it’s a team collective.”

Myisha Hines-Allen was the only other Mystics player in double figures; she scored 10 points off the bench.

DeWanna Bonner led the Sun with 20 points and eight rebounds, and former Maryland standout Alyssa Thomas finished with seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Brionna Jones, another Maryland alum, had 15 points.

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