Former UConn star Montgomery adjusts to new role
However, when Montgomery joined a star-studded Minnesota team last July, she wasn't going to be asked to shoot at will. Montgomery was asked to be more responsible with the ball, bring defensive energy off the bench and when given the opportunity to take an open shot.
Montgomery posted the best assist/turnover ratio of her professional career in the 19 regular-season games she played with the Lynx last season. This season she is averaging more steals per 40 minutes of her career.
"A team like ours when we have so many weapons, you have to find a niche for yourself so ball pressuring and 3s will be good ones for me," Montgomery said before Thursday's game at Connecticut. "The coaching stuff instilled so much confidence in me as a player that if I see the rim and I am open, I get yelled at all the time that I don't shoot the ball enough. They have a lot of confidence in me as a player so that helps with how you perform."
That was never more evident than in the closing moments of the clash of undefeated teams when Montgomery hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left in a 72-69 win at Los Angeles.
"They don't just talk the talk," Montgomery said. "It is one thing that they say 'we need you to shoot' but when you shoot they get mad and if you miss it they will get you mad and take you out. They are not like that. They want me to shoot shots because they think I can make shots so for her (Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve) to draw up a play for me to shoot in one of the biggest games in WNBA history, it proves they are not just giving me lip service, they really believe that.
"Those are the games when you are working out, nobody is in the gym and you are imagining you are shooting the last shot. Everybody sees somebody doing '3-2-1.' Those are the kinds of games where all that working out, that is the game you are preparing for."
Lynx star Maya Moore, the all-time leading scorer in UConn history, also reflected back on one of the most hyped regular-season games in recent WNBA history.
"If you are in a competitor you want to be in those situations where there is a little extra something added to the game with two teams having a chance to play each other going in undefeated," Moore said. "It was a fun game and I was glad we were able to finish it the way we wanted to. We learned a lot."
Speaking of learning lessons, Montgomery and Moore are two of six freshmen at UConn to play at least 1,000 minutes. While it is uncertain how many minutes highly-touted freshman Crystal Dangerfield will play, she figures to have a prominent role so I asked Montgomery what advice she would give to Dangerfield.
"I would just tell her to take it all in, whatever Coach Auriemma says, you have to ignore the delivery and listen to the message," Montgomery said. "He might go off on you for a long period of time but the point is to take care of the ball. Sometimes you have to ignore the delivery and listen to the message."
TOUGH BREAK FOR BANHAM
After Thursday's overtime victory Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller said rookie guard Rachel Banham would undergo knee surgery that should keep her out through the Olympic break. It turns out her time on the sidelines will be longer than that.
Banham had season-ending micro-fracture surgery on her right knee Friday at the Constitution Surgery Center in Waterford. Banham will need between 4-6 months of rehabilitation before she returns to the court.
“While we are obviously disappointed to lose Rachel for the remainder of the season, we remain tremendously excited about her bright future with the Sun,” Miller said in a statement. “Rachel showed the potential to be an impact player in this league despite playing through significant pain for the majority of the season. We really appreciate her grit and determination to play when less than 100 percent, but it is now time for her to concentrate on her rehab so she can come back healthy for her second season."
Banham averaged 3.7 points in 10.9 minutes per game while shooting 35 percent from 3-point range. She had two double-digit scoring games. Her final stint with the team as a rookie came when she played 4:34 in the overtime win. The only time she saw after halftime was the 3.1 seconds she was on the court late in overtime with the Sun up by two and Miller opting to put his best foul shooters on the court with the Sun leading by two points with 10.9 seconds left to play. After Alex Bentley made the first of two free throws, Banham checked out of the game.
While there is no good time for an injury like this to happen, Connecticut is in a better situation after recently acquiring USF star Courtney Williams as part of a trade that sent Kelsey Bone to Phoenix. Williams played more than any other Sun player after the first quarter in the Minnesota game.