Gruda, Phillips help Sun to overtime winJul 6, 2009 - 1:32 AM AUBURN HILLS, Mich.(AP) -- Mike Thibault never doubted his decision to leave a roster spot open for Sandrine Gruda.
She immediately proved her coach right, scoring a career-high 23 points in her season debut and Erin Phillips scored six of her 19 points in overtime as the Connecticut Sun beat the Detroit Shock 95-92 on Sunday night.
"That was an exceptional performance, considering she had one practice and one shootaround with us," Thibault said. "She was a huge difference in the game tonight."
Even with teams carrying just 11 players this year, Thibault was willing to wait eight games for Gruda to finish representing France in the European championships.
"If I've been criticized, this is the first I've heard of it," he said. "This is one of the best young centers in the world. We weren't waiting for our ninth man."
Gruda, though, hadn't been expecting to be so effective in her first game back.
"Coach gave me some time off, but I wasn't expecting anything today," she said. "I just knew it was going to be more physical than what I had been playing, and I had to be ready for that."
Detroit, which fell to 2-7, got 28 points from Katie Smith and 20 from rookie Shavonte Zellous. The defending champions also lost star Deanna Nolan to a pulled right hamstring in the third quarter. Nolan day-to-day.
"It's frustrating," Smith said. "This whole season has been. We played better today."
Smith's 3-pointer put Detroit ahead 79-77 in the final minute of regulation, but Lindsey Whalen forced overtime with a pair of free throws with 8 seconds remaining.
Phillips started overtime with a three-point play, and her 3-pointer made it 90-85 with 54 seconds to go. Smith answered with a 3-pointer, but Ashja Jones put it away with a short jumper.
"We played well enough to win, and we had a good offensive game, but we didn't get the key stops we needed," Detroit coach Rick Mahorn said.
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