ATLANTA -- Marynell Meadors believes the Atlanta Dream are becoming more mature, learning how to close out games this season -- a task that was tough for them last year.
"In the huddle, I told them we were not going to lose," the Dream's coach said. "This was our game. They all listened and I knew we were going to pull this one out. We're getting better."
Chamique Holdsclaw scored 19 points and Erica DeSouza had a double-double to help the Dream hold off the Connecticut Sun 72-67 on Tuesday night.
DeSouza finished with 12 points and 17 rebounds for the Dream (6-7), who won the season series against the Sun 2-1. Iziane Castro Marques and Sancho Lyttle had 14 points apiece.
Lyttle also had five steals for Atlanta, which finished with 14.
Asjha Jones and Tan White each led Connecticut (5-5) with 14 points.
DeSouza, who finished with seven offensive rebounds, said the defense is the reason the Dream are feeling confident about winning late close games. Atlanta held the Sun to 38.2 percent from the floor (26-for-68), despite shooting 37 percent (27-for-73) themselves.
"We struggled offensively, but our defense pulled us through," said DeSouza, who played for the Sun in 2007 before being acquired by Atlanta the next year. "We gave up games like this last year. But now, we're different."
Sun coach Mike Thibault said his team never got into a rhythm offensively, letting the Dream score 18 points off their 20 turnovers.
"We turned over the ball and it hurt us," he said. "We lead the league in fewest turnovers, averaging just under 11 a game. Tonight, that area hurt us."
The Dream went into halftime with a 19-point lead, sparked by a 12-3 run to close out the second quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Connecticut used a zone defense to get back into the game. Keisha Brown, who scored all of her 11 points in the second half, hit a 3-pointer and a midrange jumper that closed the gap to 61-56 with 6:41 left in the final period.
"We were asleep in the first half," Brown said. "We got back into the game by making some shots, but we were unable to come away with the win."
Atlanta answered with consecutive jumpers from Marques and Holdsclaw to go up by nine.
White's layup with 9.7 seconds left pulled Connecticut within two points, but Lyttle's two free throws sealed the game for the Dream.
"They surprised us with the zone," Meadors said. "But it's good for our team to play in games like this to learn how to win them."