Whalen’s second game at Target Center proves more low-key than first

Lindsay Whalen and the Connecticut Sun played the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday.

David McCoy

Lindsay Whalen has gotten the star treatment whenever she’s come back to Minnesota since leading the Gophers women’s basketball team to the Final Four her senior season in 2004.

But when Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault took her out of Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Lynx with 2:45 left, fans at Target Center barely seemed to notice, as a surprisingly subdued cheer was offered for Whalen as she took her seat.

But that was OK with her.

“It wasn’t as hectic as last year,” Whalen said. “So it was nice to come in and relax and play the game.”

It was a much different situation last year, when Whalen’s first trip back to the Twin Cities set a new single-game attendance record for the Lynx.

But Sunday, the crowd was only 9,011 strong – just more than half the 16,227 who watched the Lynx pull out a tense 66-63 win over the Sun last year.

Whalen scored and played less, too. Compared to 18 points in 35 minutes last year, she scored six points in 26 minutes in the 72-53 Connecticut win Sunday.

Asked if nerves about coming back contributed to her less-than-stellar output – she averages 11.8 points per game – Whalen said it was actually the opposite.

“Every road game last year was like a new game because it was a new arena and a new feel,” Whalen said. “So I think just playing in here again and coming back, it just felt a little more comfortable. It was definitely easier coming here this year.”

With the rest of her teammates having little trouble scoring, Whalen was able to fall back into playmaker mode, she said.

And despite having just three assists on the stat sheet, Thibault credited Whalen with starting much of the offense.

“I told Lindsay afterwards, one of the things she did so well tonight was that she did like they do in hockey,” Thibault said. “She made the first assist. She made the assist to get it to somebody else to make the pass.”

Gophers point guard Shannon Schonrock, who is doing a public relations internship this summer with the Lynx, said it was nice to see her former teammate. She said she wasn’t sure why more people didn’t want to.

“I don’t think it was just a lack of interest in Lindsay,” Schonrock said. “I just think the WNBA, in general, has a hard time drawing sometimes because it’s summertime, and it’s just a hard time of year where people want to be outside and probably doing other things.”

Whalen said she planned to meet up with former Gophers teammates for “dinner and stuff” after the game.

Though she enjoys getting the chance to see family and friends while in town, Whalen said it wasn’t quite enough to make it her favorite road game.

“Road games are hard,” Whalen said. “So it’s tough to say which one’s my favorite or least favorite.”

As far as the reduction in fan activity went, Whalen said she was still pretty happy with the turnout.

Even though it suggested that the focus might be shifting toward the Lynx and away from her.

“I tried not to look around too much, tried to focus in (on the game),” Whalen said. “But at the end, I looked around and there was a lot of Lynx colors out there, so that’s good to see.”