UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot played her first season in the WNBA at age 22 in 2011, the same year that Sheryl Swoopes finished her Hall of Fame career at age 40. Tuesday night, the two crossed paths again, this time in the record books.
Vandersloot had a triple-double in the Sky’s 101-95 double-overtime victory against Connecticut in their best-of-five semifinal series opener at Mohegan Sun Arena, joining Swoopes as the only players to achieve the feat in WNBA playoff history. Swoopes had the first triple-double in the WNBA playoffs, in 2005.
Vandersloot’s triple-double included a playoff record 18 assists — which also matched her WNBA single-game record — and a personal-best 10 rebounds. She also had 12 points, four steals and two blocked shots.
Swoopes had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for Houston in a victory that clinched the Eastern Conference semifinal series against Seattle in September 2005.
“You know, she’s elite,” Vandersloot said of Swoopes, a Naismith Hall of Famer who won four WNBA titles with Houston. “To be with that company, that’s special. And to do it in the playoffs. I needed 50 minutes to do it, though.”
Swoopes’ playoff triple-double was in regulation, and she played 35 minutes and 50 seconds. Vandersloot actually wasn’t in the whole 50 minutes Tuesday; she played 44:23. Swoopes was 34 when she had her triple-double; Vandersloot is 32.
Vandersloot led the WNBA in assists per game for the fifth year in a row this season, and sixth year overall. She underplayed her stellar performance Tuesday, saying she was “just doing my job.”
But teammate Candance Parker, who led the Sky with 22 points, was impressed. This is Parker’s first season playing alongside Vandersloot after signing with Chicago as a free agent.
“I think Sloot’s humble,” Parker said. “But it’s remarkable to do what she did. Defend, rebound, come down and facilitate under pressure. I think sometimes we get spoiled because we see it all the time, the plays she makes. It really has been fun for me just to watch the way she thinks the game and the way she’s always two plays ahead.”
It was just the second loss for the top-seeded Sun since July 3; the other defeat came in the Commissioner’s Cup final on Aug. 12. The No. 6 Sky came in an underdog as far as seeding, but they looked every bit as good as the Sun on Tuesday. And for Vandersloot, it was a historic performance on top of a very important win for Chicago to go up 1-0.
Chicago coach James Wade called it “one of the best point guard games in playoff history,” adding, “I’m not surprised because this is what she does.”
Said Connecticut’s DeWanna Bonner: “Sloot played a hell of a game.” The Sky have made the WNBA Finals once, in 2014, and Vandersloot was on that team. The No. 3 pick in 2011 out of Gonzaga has spent her entire career with the Sky. Her next goal will be trying to disrupt the Connecticut defense again in Game 2 on Thursday (8 p.m., ESPN2).
The Sun led the WNBA in defense this season, holding foes to just under 70 points in the regular season.
“We have to make Sloot a little more uncomfortable,” Connecticut forward Jonquel Jones said of the Sun’s task Thursday. “She picked us apart today. She’s a really smart player.”