UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) - Tina Charles was far more impressed with personal accomplishments during her rookie season than she is this year. Now, she's just concerned with winning.
Charles, the reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year, scored 22 points and tied her career high with 23 rebounds to lead the Connecticut Sun to a 79-76 victory over the short-handed Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday night.
``Last year it was more like 'wow,'' Charles said. ``Now I just want to do whatever my team needs for us to win.'
Charles also had 23 rebounds June 25, 2010 against Phoenix, one behind Chamique Holdsclaw's league record of 24 set on May 23, 2003.
Renee Montgomery scored 17 points, and Kara Lawson and Asjha Jones added 16 apiece for Connecticut (5-3).
Kristi Toliver had 19 points, DeLisha Milton-Jones scored 13 and laToya Pringle 11 for Los Angeles (4-4), which played its first game without Candace Parker. Parker, who tore the lateral meniscus in her right knee in Sunday's loss to the New York Liberty, will be out for about six weeks.
Parker, averaging 17.7 points and 9.9 rebounds in seven games this season, was limited to 10 games last year because of a shoulder injury.'
``I knew that at the beginning, we would either come out and play really well or there would be a lack of chemistry on both ends of the floor because of Candace's absence,' Los Angeles coach Jennifer Gillom said. ``This is our first game without her and true enough, we had a hard time finding that chemistry early on.
Montgomery scored the last four points for the Sun, including two free throws with 12.9 seconds remaining for a three-point lead.
Tina Thompson then missed two 3-pointers and Toliver a jumper as the Sparks lost their third straight on a seven-game trip and fell to 0-4 on the road.
``This was a playoff atmosphere,' Connecticut coach Mike Thibault said. ``Given everything that went on throughout the game, that's a hell of a win. (Los Angeles) is really talented. Just a great basketball game.'
Charles' putback with 1:44 left gave the Sun a 75-73 lead, and they didn't trail again.
After Natasha Lacy made a free throw with under a minute left for the Sparks, Montgomery's layup stretched Connecticut's advantage to three points.
Lacy's layup with 26 seconds to go pulled the Sparks back within one, before Montgomery hit two from the line.
``We're fortunate to come out with the win tonight, but you take them anyway you can in this league,' Lawson said. ``We'll get back and try to get better. We definitely have to finish. Teams are too good to give them that many extra opportunities.'
The Sun led by 12 points in the first half, including a 32-20 lead midway through the second quarter. Toliver scored 14 points off the bench to help the Sparks erase the deficit and take a 42-41 lead at halftime.
``That second unit that went in there in the second quarter, they are used to playing together in practice and I decided to go with that group,' Gillom said. ``They did a great job of coming in, giving us that energy and getting us back into the ballgame.'
The Associated Press News Service
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