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Saturday, August 05, 2017

UConn legend, WNBA career scoring leader Taurasi returns to Connecticut

The legendary Diana Taurasi made her first appearance in Connecticut since becoming the WNBA's all-time leading scorer and the former UConn star did not disappoint.

Taurasi, who hasn't exactly put up gaudy numbers in previous trips to Mohegan Sun Arena, went off for 33 points including 17 in the fourth quarter in Phoenix's 93-92 loss to the Connecticut Sun.
Before the game she reflected on passing Tina Thompson to become the WNBA's career scoring leader.

"It is the funniest one to get, even when I was in school I wasn't a big scorer," Taurasi said. "I was more of a distributor My first two years, I played point in the WNBA so I didn't score a ton of points. I think once (Paul) Westhead got to Phoenix, he put me off the ball and said we need to generate offense, that is when I kind of took off. It is pretty cool when you get on the list with Tina, Catch and these great players in women's basketball so it is definitely an honor.

"I didn't know she (Thompson) was there for one. I didn't know until she stepped on the court, I looked up. To see her and Dyllan (Thompson's son) who I spent a lot of time with in Russia and the national team, it means a lot coming from her because she was a pioneer when the game was just getting started in the WNBA, she put a lot of work into it."

When Taurasi set the record, the Mercury were getting blown out and when they stopped the game to present her with the ball, it looked like Taurasi was going to get physcially ill.

"She felt like she looked, I am surprised they stopped the game to honor (me) on the road when are down 20," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "You could imagine what she was thinking at that time so she takes the ball, fires it back to somebody and walks back. Then she almost got thrown out, she is disgusted with the way this game is going, typical Diana, I am not surprised. I am not surprised she did it, I am not surprised one iota. I think she was the best player every time she stepped onto the floor in high school, she was the best player every time she stepped onto the court in college and with very few exceptions if any, she is the best player when she steps on the floor in the pros, in the World Championships, in the Olympics, it doesn't matter."

Taurasi joked that it wouldn't have taken much prodding to kick the ball she was presented into the stands.

"I wanted to kick the ball into the stands. I have a good left foot just like Messi," Taurasi said.
Taurasi has never been one to focus on individual statistics but she admits that moving atop the list was special.

"You sit back a little bit and consider yourself really lucky," Taurasi said. "I feel like I am lucky to having played for Phoenix for my whole career, to get to play with Penny (Taylor), Cappie (Pondexter), DeWanna (Bonner), all these great players so I have been lucky more than anything."
Speaking of Taylor, Taurasi reflected on her marriage to her former Mercury teammate.

"Once you get married, it is a different type of commitment," Taurasi said. "Penny and I know each other for so long, we have been through so much stuff that it felt right."

With Taylor retiring, Brittney Griner getting injured, Candice Dupree being traded and Bonner out for the season after giving birth to twins, Taurasi isn't surrounded with as many dynamic scorers as she has in previous Mercury teams.

"There are certain times on the court especially this year when she is one year removed and you expect Penny to make this play and it is not there so she is on the coaching side now enjoying that, it is different," Taurasi said.

The loss to the Sun dropped Phoenix to 13-11 but 2-5 since losing Griner.

"It is frustrating because we were starting to roll a little bit before she got hurt," Taurasi said. "She is a big part of what we do and the way she was playing this year was at a different level I think. We are trying to hold down the fort until she gets back, I think we have done a pretty good job in the last couple of games. People have stepped up a litle bit which I think will help us hopefully for the playoffs."

Taurasi had a career low field-goal percentage of 39.6 last season and before Friday's huge game, she was making 39 percent this season.

"There are days when I do feel 35," Taurasi said. "The challenges are physical and mental, when you pay so much basketball coming to the gym is either fun or a chore, right now to me it is still a lot of fun."

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