DeWanna Bonner left Tuesday's matchup against the Las Vegas Aces -- a 90-84 loss in which the Connecticut Sun trailed by as many as 19 -- thinking it was one of the worst performances of her career. The 14-year veteran finished with five points and sat the game's final nine minutes as the Sun made a late rally.
Bonner took the showing hard, watched film and was determined to come out better the next time. That she did, in historic fashion no less.
Bonner dropped a career-high 41 points in a 94-77 win over the Aces on Thursday night, setting a franchise single-game scoring record and helping hand the defending champs their first loss of the season.
Bonner managed the first 40-point game against an unbeaten opponent, as well as the most points all time versus a defending champion, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. It was the 24th 40-point game in WNBA regular-season history and second this season.
"Man, I worked so hard for this one," Bonner said after the game.
"We know what she's all about," teammate Alyssa Thomas added. "We know what she's capable of, and I think she reminded the league of what type of player she is."
The Sun snapped the Aces' 11-game winning streak dating back to last season. Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon called the Aces' first half the "worst half of basketball I've seen us play" since she took over in 2022.
"They just kicked our asses," Hammon said.
In their first meeting, it was the Aces (7-1) who dictated the game from the beginning, jumping to a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter. But on Thursday, "we were the aggressor," Bonner said, behind an improved defense that fueled the Sun's offense.
"Our intensity level for 40 minutes was terrific," said Connecticut head coach Stephanie White, whose Sun (7-2) remain No. 2 in the standings. "It's a great start for us to start to feel like things are coming together."
Bonner's 14 first-quarter points helped the Sun get going -- she credited, in part, her daughter Cali giving her "superpowers" before the game -- and when she realized she had a hot hand, she kept shooting.
About midway through the third quarter and the Aces down 17, Hammon was so fed up that she subbed out her starters because she was "not going to watch that kind of basketball." She said she was prepared to close the game with reserves before the starting five begged her to put them back in, which she did about a minute later. Vegas went on a bit of a run but never cut the deficit closer to 10.
Bonner added 17 in the final frame, finishing 16-for-23 shooting from the floor and 5-for-7 from 3-point range.
"She came out and kicked our ass, pretty much single-handedly," Hammon said.
The former Auburn standout last crossed the 30-point threshold in 2021, with her previous career high (38 points, achieved twice) coming in 2012 and 2016. Earlier this season, she passed Lisa Leslie to climb to No. 11 on the league's all-time scoring list.
"I prepare really hard. I work really hard," Bonner said. "I'm going to believe in myself and my game and all the work that I've put in for 14 years until it's time for me to retire."
Bonner joined the Sun in 2020 following a trade from the Phoenix Mercury, who drafted her in 2009 and with whom she won two championships.
"It's just been so refreshing," Bonner said of her time in Connecticut. "And to score 41 points here, I just love this organization so much, literally. It just changed my life ... that locker room is probably one of the closest teams that I've been on in a very long time."
Despite having a new coach and seeing the departure of two starters, including 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones, Connecticut hasn't relinquished its championship aspirations. Under previous head coach Curt Miller, the Sun made the WNBA Finals in 2019 and 2022, and the semifinals the other two seasons.
"She's been around this league for a long time," White said of Bonner. "She wants to win another championship. She understands what it takes, and she has the respect of every person in our locker room."