96 - 94 Final
  for this game

Sun squander 21-point lead, hold off Mercury 96-94

Jun 21, 2010 - 2:07 AM PHOENIX(AP) -- Tina Charles scored 24 points, including the deciding free throws with 1:17 left, and grabbed 12 rebounds to lift Connecticut past the Phoenix Mercury 96-94 on Sunday after the Sun blew a 21-point third-quarter lead.

Sandrine Gruda had a season-high 21 points, Renee Montgomery scored a career high-tying 19 and Kelsey Griffin grabbed 11 rebounds to help Connecticut (8-3) win for the fifth time in six games.

"This is a great win for us especially on the road," Charles said after the eighth double-double of her rookie season. "Just the fact that we had all the intensity and energy that was in the crowd and we didn't let up."

Diana Taurasi scored 24 points and Penny Taylor had 23 to lead the defending champion Mercury (5-7), losers of two straight. Nicole Ohlde added 11 points.

"It would be a step-back if we were down by 20 and we gave up," Mercury coach Corey Gaines said. "Then that would be something. That would tell you you are in trouble. But they didn't do that."

The teams traded points after DeWanna Bonner completed a three-point play to tie the score at 90-all with 3:25 left. Bonner made two free throws to tie the score for the last time with 1:31 to go, missing two with 29.9 seconds left.

Connecticut didn't get a shot off on the ensuing possession, and Phoenix's Temeka Johnson missed a 16-footer in the final seconds.

"You can take the 8 minutes of good basketball, but we have to look at the other side: 32 minutes of not looking very good," Taurasi said. "We have to find a way to do a little bit more, more often. That is just each one of us doing a little bit more, being a little bit sharper."

Charles' jumper gave Connecticut an 84-63 lead with 45.9 seconds left in the third quarter, but the Sun missed eight of their next nine shots.

Ohlde's layup 14 seconds later started the Mercury's 24-2 run that gave them an 87-86 lead on Taylor's two free throws with 4:53 left in the game. Taurasi had nine points during the spurt and Taylor seven, but neither scored again.

"We knew they were going to make a run at some point," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "I thought we played great for almost 3 quarters. Then we went on a bad stretch, and we did not talk real well on defense a few positions. Then they made some big big shots. Taurasi played her normal self. Penny made some plays that I thought we had covered, and then she still made the play. But you know she does that on a regular basis."

Anete Jekabsone-Zogota made two free throws with 4:16 left to end Connecticut's scoring drought, and Gruda made a jumper - the Sun's first field goal of the quarter - 30 seconds later to take a 90-87 lead.

The Sun led 53-43 at the break, but missed nine of their first 12 shots of the third quarter as the Mercury pulled to 60-58 on Johnson's running jumper with 5:25 left in the period.

Montgomery made three 3s during an 18-1 run that gave Connecticut an 81-61 lead 1:41 left in the third. The Sun were 10 for 18 from beyond the arc, led by Montgomery's 5-for-7 effort.

"I just shot when I was open," Montgomery said. "I don't think I did anything to spectacular they were just doubling our posts off of me. So when they passed out to me I shot it."

Connecticut improved to 4-0 against the Western Conference, which has only one team above .500 - league-best Seattle. The Sun won at Phoenix for the first time since June 25, 2005.

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