Liberty Take Down Sun

The shorthanded Sun (11-20) made things interesting, but the Liberty (13-16) kept their playoff hopes alive with a 71-66 win Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

Even though the field goal percentage was low in the first quarter, the difference in intensity after Tuesday’s blowout loss was evident from the opening tap. The New York second unit was especially active, with Plenette Pierson, Sugar Rodgers and Swin Cash getting to the line eight times—making all eight. The efficiency from the free throw line and active hands defensively allowed the Liberty to gain control early on. A 6-0 run to finish the quarter gave the Liberty a 20-11 edge after one.

Poor shooting continued to plague both teams in the second half. Avery Warley-Talbert netted the first field goal for either team in the second quarter when she corralled an offensive rebound and converted the putback with nearly four minutes gone by. It took the Sun more than half of the quarter to hit their first shot—an Alex Bentley jumper with 1:48 left. Ineffective shooting prevented the Liberty from widening the margin despite the Sun’s struggles. Excluding Tina Charles’ 5-for-9 first half performance, New York shot just 18.5 percent from the floor. Thanks to an 8-0 run that ended the half, Connecticut trailed by just eight heading into the locker room.

As New York’s struggles continued after the half, the Sun started to come out of their funk. Warley-Talbert started the half off on a positive note with a three-point play, but the good feelings faded quickly, with Connecticut going on another 8-0 run to slice the lead to three. With Charles kept under wraps, the Sun were able to continue chipping away at the lead all quarter. Guard Katie Douglas provided the offensive spark for Connecticut, getting to the line and draining deep jumpers en route to 13 points in the period. Bentley hit a contested jump shot with 1:43 left in the quarter to give the Sun its first lead since the opening minutes. By the time the horn sounded, Connecticut was staked to a two-point lead.

The game remained tight throughout he fourth quarter, with no more than one possession separating the two teams for the majority of the period. After Bentley hit a layup with 39.2 seconds to play that cut the Liberty lead back to two points, Cappie Pondexter answered the call as she has done time and again this season with the game on the line. Pondexter came off a curl and drained her third basket of the game to stretch the advantage back to two possessions. Charles came away with a steal on the other end and the Liberty made their free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.

The Liberty were led by Charles, who scored 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Warley-Talbert was a force on the inside with 11 points and 11 boards of her own, and Rodgers chipped in 12 points off the bench. Without All-Star Chiney Ogwumike, who is recovering from a dental procedure, the Sun were led by Douglas and her 26 points.

New York continues its quest to make the playoffs this Sunday at Madison Square Garden, squaring off against the Indiana Fever at 3 p.m.