caitlin clark [600x400]
caitlin clark [600x400] (Credit: Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)

MLBPA s Clark Union talks to be kept internal

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- The Connecticut Sun trounced the Indiana Fever 89-72 on Monday, at one point leading by as many as 28 points and ultimately leaving Fever coach Christie Sides upset with her team's effort.

"I'm going to start with how you can't, at this level, coach effort," Sides said to begin her postgame news conference at Mohegan Sun Arena. "I felt like we were just trying to ask them to keep playing hard, play hard. You can't start there. You can't play in this league if you have to coach effort. It's just too hard."

Connecticut, which raced ahead 26-15 after the first quarter and was up 55-35 by the end of the first half, had defeated Indiana by just four points in their previous meeting last month in Indianapolis. But Monday's contest was not nearly as competitive, with the Fever struggling on both ends early but especially defensively.

"This is a team you can't come out and be lackadaisical against; they're just that good," said No. 1 draft pick Caitlin Clark, who was held to 10 points (all in the first half) on 3-for-8 shooting to go along with two assists, three turnovers, a steal and no rebounds for Indiana. "They're going to punch you in the mouth. And I don't think we had it from the jump, and obviously, that's a little disappointing."

The Sun's 89 points -- led by 22 from DiJonai Carrington -- were second most in a game for them this summer. They also shot 47.1% from the 3-point line as they improved to 10-1 on the season and rebounded from Saturday's loss to the visiting New York Liberty.

"I thought we could have played with a lot better energy," Clark said. "I thought we let little things on the offensive end frustrate us, and we didn't play good defense.

"It's not a recipe to win many games."

The Fever were led by Aliyah Boston's double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds. She also had five assists.

By the midway mark of the third quarter, Sides removed most of her starters from the floor, save Boston, and did not reinsert them into the game. Clark was included in that group, not returning after she picked up her fourth foul with 4:41 left during that frame.

The Fever's reserves found a bit more of a rhythm, helping to make the final score look more respectable than their worst deficit.

"We were down 28 and I wanted to put a group in there that would get out and play some defense," Sides said of that decision. "I'm really, really proud of that group that went out there and cut the lead. They played hard. We've got Atlanta coming up. We've got Chicago coming up. Just thinking ahead."

Following a grueling start to the season when the team was frequently playing every other day, Indiana was hoping to gain some momentum after having more rest and practice time over the previous 10 days.

They picked up a close victory at the winless Washington Mystics on Friday as a move in that direction, but Monday's effort might have been closer to a step backward.

"It's really disappointing. We have to figure that out," Sides said, before challenging her players. "I think [improved effort] is going to start with them. We're here to build a road map for them to be successful, and that's on them. They've got to figure that one out."

The Fever, who fell to 3-10, have been outscored by 159 points this season, the fifth-worst point differential through the first 13 games of a campaign in WNBA history.

The team will look to respond this week in Indianapolis with "two very winnable games for our group," Clark said, against the Dream on Thursday and the Sky on Sunday.

"We get to go back home and play on our home court and really show what we're capable of and respond," Clark said. "I think that's going to be what [Sides] is looking for and that's what we should want out of ourselves too."