Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray injuries derail Aces comeback against Sun

Aces coach Becky Hammon didn’t recognize the team in front of her.

“They made some shots, and we made a lot of mistakes defensively,” she said.

The Aces lost 97-90 to the Connecticut Sun on Thursday at Michelob Ultra Arena as a 37-point first quarter and injuries to two starters proved too much to overcome.

The defeat snapped the Aces’ seven-game winning streak, the longest since the franchise moved to Las Vegas from San Antonio, and handed Hammon her first home loss.

“We were tested tonight, and we failed,” guard Kelsey Plum said.

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

Injuries knock out Aces

Jackie Young scored a season-high 26 points but left with 9:47 remaining after she was fouled by Sun guard DiJonai Carrington while driving for a layup, appearing to roll an ankle. The former Notre Dame star made both free throws but left with the help of trainers and did not return.

Then, with 2:39 remaining, point guard Chelsea Gray collided with Sun guard Natisha Hiedeman. Gray also left the game, with a towel over her mouth after her jaw made contact with Hiedeman’s shoulder. Hammon said Gray received stitches after the game.

The Aces coach, who received a technical foul in the fourth quarter, was critical of the game’s officiating.

“Players are going to do what they’re going to do,” Hammon said. “The game got out of control — people get hurt, people get Ts.”

First quarter costs Aces

The Aces (9-2) played one of their worst quarters — the first quarter — as they committed seven turnovers, blew several layups and missed both of their free-throw attempts.

In that period, the Sun (7-3) shot 83.3 percent from the field during the first 10 minutes, led by forward DeWanna Bonner’s 4-for-4 from 3-point range. The Aces trailed by as much as 19 points.

“We kind of tiptoed into a bar fight,” Hammon said.

The Aces turned things around by locking in on defense. Once again, they mixed in some zone and gave center Kiah Stokes a longer run to combat the Sun’s size in the post.

The Aces forced four turnovers in the second quarter and came up with three steals, cutting the deficit to three points at halftime. But the Aces felt it put them too far behind.

“They just played better than us tonight,” Plum said after Las Vegas split two games in three nights with the Sun.

Hammon wins coach of the month

Recognition continues to roll in for the Aces for the season’s first month. Hammon was named WNBA Coach of the Month for May on Wednesday. She is the first coach to win the award in her first month on the job.

The Aces’ 9-1 start was the best in franchise history and the best for a rookie coach in league history.

Hammon was quick to credit her players for the team’s strong start. The coach said her team still has another level to reach as the season goes on, but she’s loved her team’s competitiveness, resilience, consistency and energy.

“They’re the ones out there making me look good honestly,” she said.

The Aces continue their homestand at 3 p.m. Sunday, when they play the Dallas Wings for the first time this season.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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