May. 22, 2004 03:40 PM
UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Diana Taurasi was all business Saturday in her professional return to Connecticut.
The Phoenix rookie scored 26 points with four assists, two steals and a blocked shot to lead the Mercury to a 65-58 win over the Connecticut Sun. It was her first game back in the state where she delivered three straight national titles for UConn.
Taurasi drew a standing ovation during introductions from the sellout crowd of 9,341. Dozens of fans wore her familiar UConn jersey and there were countless signs welcoming her back. Despite wearing the opponent's colors, she drew cheers each time she scored en route to spoiling the Sun's season opener.
It was the first win for Phoenix (1-1), which selected Taurasi with the first pick in the WNBA draft last month. Anna DeForge added 17 points and had six assists for the Mercury. DeForge and Penny Taylor controlled the boards with seven rebounds each.
Taj McWilliams-Franklin led Connecticut with 14 points. Wendy Palmer scored 10 points and had a team-high 10 boards for the Sun.
The game also marked the debut of Sun rookie Lindsay Whalen, who led Minnesota to the Final Four in March. She struggled early before getting all five of her points in the final two minutes of the game.
Taurasi also had trouble early offensively, missing her first five shots in a choppy first half for both teams. She heated up in the closing minutes of the period and made it look easy the rest of the way, finishing 5-of-7 from 3-point range.
Her 3-pointer with 2:27 remaining put the Mercury up for good at 21-18. She scored the final eight points of the half to give Phoenix a 26-22 lead at the break.
She scored 11 points in an 18-2 Phoenix run midway through the second half on a pair of 3s, a fadeway jumper and a three-point play as the Mercury built a 57-36 lead.