ROSEMONT, Illinois — Missing their leading scorer, the Chicago Sky are asking rookie Elena Delle Donne to pick up the slack.
She answered the call on Sunday, scoring a career-high 23 points, including two free-throws with 1.8 seconds left, to lead the Sky to a 72-70 win over the San Antonio Silver Stars and earn praise from her coach.
"We've all been talking about it and the word that we've all used is unique skill set for somebody 6-5, and poise," Sky coach Pokey Chatman said.
Chicago (4-1), playing its second game without Epiphanny Prince, led by as many as 15 points in the second quarter, but Jia Perkins tied the game 70-70 on a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left. Delle Donne then took the inbounds pass from Swin Cash and was fouled in the lane by Shameka Christon, setting up her two free throws. After a timeout, Perkins missed a desperation, off-balance 3-pointer to seal Chicago's win.
Delle Donne, the second overall pick in April's draft, helped Chicago recover from its first loss of the season, an 81-69 defeat on Friday to the Silver Stars in San Antonio.
"We really wanted redemption. We were unhappy after that loss for many reasons," said Delle Donne who had the toughest outing of her young career in the loss. "We watched the film and we let it sink in and then we realized that it was time to bounce back."
During that game, Chatman wanted Delle Donne to be more assertive. She responded Sunday by making 7 of 12 from the field and connecting on her first five attempts. The Sky also tried to establish her more in the post, while giving her more ball-handling duties.
"I felt a lot more comfortable tonight," Delle Donne said.
Prince, who is averaging 20.7 points, left the team last week to join the Russian national team as it tries to qualify for next year's world championships. She hurt her right ankle Thursday and is back in Chicago to consult with team doctors. She's not scheduled to rejoin the Sky until July.
Chicago got its fourth win in five games thanks to Delle Donne and Sylvia Fowles, who had her third double-double of the season with 15 points and 16 rebounds.
"It's obvious Piph brings a lot to the table, but at the end of the day it's 11 people out there who have to play on the floor," Fowles said. "Her being limited it hurts us, but at the same time we've still got a team that needs to go out there and play and win."
San Antonio was saying similar things.
Perkins scored 20 to lead the Silver Stars (2-2), who were without injured All-Stars Becky Hammon (right middle finger) and Sophia Young (right ACL). Despite that, and falling behind by 15, San Antonio came back to tie the Sky.
"My only thing was I wish we could have played more basketball because I felt like we were headed in the right direction," Silver Stars coach Dan Hughes said.
Perkins' 20 points were a season high, and without Hammon and Young, she is being asked to do more for San Antonio.
"I think we're coming along well," Perkins said. "We've been playing good basketball, team basketball, so we don't have any excuses right now. We're good with what we've got."
Chatman and the Sky know what they have in Delle Donne, who's averaging 19.4 points per game and has scored at least 20 three times. Chatman also knew that everybody expected Delle Donne to get the ball on the last possession.
The lack of surprise didn't matter.
"The only thoughts going to the line is knock these down," Delle Donne said. "There's no negative thoughts, nothing. Just make these shots one at a time."