Sun lose, but Whalen notches career high

Updated: July 14, 2004, 9:43 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was vintage Lindsay Whalen: Her team trailing. The clock winding down. The ball in her hands.

Fans rose to their feet as Whalen drove the lane, got fouled and threw up a blind layup as the whistle blew with 3.8 seconds to play. Remarkably, the ball went in and some fans behind the home bench playfully bowed with their arms outstretched to acknowledge the former University of Minnesota star.

Whalen's new team, the Connecticut Sun, still lost the game. But the day was hers anyway.

For the first time since leading the Gophers to the Final Four last season, Whalen played in front of a Minnesota crowd on Wednesday -- and she turned in a career performance. She led the Sun with a career-high 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting.

It wasn't enough, though, as the Lynx beat Connecticut 66-63.

"A few plays here or there, a few offensive rebounds in the second half, and it could've been a different story,'' Whalen said afterward in her typical monotone voice.

For the fans who grew to adore the point guard from Hutchinson who put the Golden Gophers on the national map, the game couldn't have been scripted better.

"Lindsay was getting cheers when she scored and the Lynx were getting cheers when they were winning,'' Sun coach Mike Thibault said.

The crowd of 16,227, a Lynx record, gave Whalen a loud ovation during player introductions. The fans, many wearing Gopher colors and Whalen replica jerseys (both Connecticut and Minnesota), cheered every basket she made.

After a slow start, Whalen brought loud cheers by blowing by defenders on the perimeter and driving the lane -- a sight Gopher fans became accustomed to seeing at Williams Arena. Late in the first half, she completed a three-point play on a spectacular spin move in the paint to bring fans to their feet.

Among those in attendance were Gophers coach Pam Borton, who sat courtside, and former teammates who took part in a halftime ceremony honoring women's sports in Minnesota.

"It was good to be back and see everyone,'' Whalen said. "It was a great crowd. They saw a good game, down to the wire. So I'm glad about that.''

The Lynx tried to draft Whalen in April, but Connecticut wanted too many key players in a trade for the No. 4 overall pick. The Lynx ended up instead with Kansas State center, Nicole Ohlde, who led Minnesota with a career-high 21 points and 11 rebounds on Wednesday.

"Obviously this is a big game for Minnesota having Lindsay Whalen coming back,'' said Lynx guard Amber Jacobs, whose Boston College Eagles were eliminated in the Sweet 16 last season by the Gophers.

"We had a great fan base today,'' Jacobs said. "Hopefully, it'll spark an interest with (the fans) and they'll come back supporting the Lynx.''

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press