Liberty Rout Mystics for First Win of Season

The New York Liberty scored their first win of the 2008 campaign with a dominating 79-60 thrashing of the visiting Washington Mystics on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. Shameka Christon and Cathrine Kraayeveld led the way with 17 points apiece, as New York evened its record at 1-1.

The Mystics, who fell to 0-2, were led by veteran forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin and guard Alana Beard, who scored 25 and 20 points respectively. The rest of the Washington roster, however, contributed only 14 total points.

The game was never in doubt, with the Liberty leading from start to finish, using an up tempo offense which saw them push the ball quickly up the court following defensive rebounds and turnovers.

Ahead 11-10 midway through the quarter, New York went on a 12-0 run spurred on by consecutive three pointers by Loree Moore and two from Christon that saw them stake a 23-10 lead after 10 minutes of play. In contrast to their struggles on the boards in last Sunday's season-opener, New York set the tone early, outmuscling the Mystics by a 14-11 margin in the opening quarter, and finishing the game with a 37-34 advantage.

Head Coach Pat Coyle's squad instituted a full-court press to begin the second quarter, and the strategy worked wonders. After drawing an immediate traveling violation in the opening minute, the Liberty forced the Mystics into turnover after turnover, and they didn't waste their own opportunities, converting 17 Washington mistakes into 12 points.

"We had three really good days of practice," said Coyle. "The cliché you play the way you practice is the truth. We got good minutes from a lot of people. We are going to continue to get after it."

In addition to their defensive dominance, New York's offensive game hit on all cylinders on Thursday, as the Liberty made strong, crisp passes inside and out to find the open shot. Second-year forward Tiffany Jackson was very impressive, scoring all eight of her points in the first half. The team's dominant first-half performance clearly frustrated the Mystics, who resorted to some chippy play and hard fouls as New York used a 9-1 second quarter run to lead by 21 points at halftime, 46-25.

The second half was more of the same for the Liberty, as Christon connected on a deep two followed by a strong inside move by Janel McCarville that deflated any hope Washington had for a comeback.

For the game, New York shot 46.3 percent from the field while their stingy defense limited Washington to only 34.9 percent shooting.

"New York made some great shots," said McWilliams-Franklin. "They are not slouchers. They hit a lot of three-pointers that they had missed in the game against Connecticut, and that sent them rolling. They played well and we played about as bad a half as we could've played."

The trio of Liberty rookies played a pivotal role in Thursday's contest, as Essence Carson, Erlana Larkins and Leilani Mitchell combined for 13 points. Larkins also led the team with seven rebounds.

Especially impressive was Mitchell, who recorded her first WNBA points with five in the fourth quarter and added one assist and one rebound. Her rebound in particular sparked her teammates, as the 5-foot-5, 130-pound rookie outhustled three Mystic players for the ball.

"I thought Mitchell did a really good job today," said Coyle. "She gave Loree (Moore) good minutes in the first half. She handled herself well, because they put a lot of pressure on her."

Another huge factor propelling the Liberty to victory was three-point shooting. The top three-point team in the league last season, New York went 0-for-7 on opening night, yet hit four in the first quarter alone. They finished the game shooting 7-for-16 from behind the arc -- a 43.8 percent success rate.

The lone negative on the evening was a minor injury suffered by McCarville early in the third quarter. The forward sprained her left thumb fighting for a loose ball, but X-rays came back negative. McCarville finished with nine points, five rebounds and three steals.