Liberty Return, Fall to Sky

The New York Liberty returned from a five-week hiatus a bit rusty on Thursday night, as they fell to the Chicago Sky 69-60 at Madison Square Garden despite a remarkable fourth-quarter performance from Essence Carson.

The rookie out of Rutgers single-handedly kept the Liberty in the game, scoring all eight of New York's fourth-quarter points. However, it was too little too late, as Chicago went on an 8-0 run to grab the lead for good early in the quarter before Carson finally snapped a long Liberty scoring drought with 4:46 left in the game.

The loss was only New York's second in its last eight games, and just the third Liberty loss of the season at MSG, where the team had gone unbeaten since a June 8 game vs. Sacramento.

"It was very frustrating and I don't know what to say," said Shameka Christon, who struggled to find her range all night. "It's not a good feeling. Do I think we came out and played well tonight? Absolutely not, and it showed. Collectively as a whole, we did not come out and compete tonight."

New York started the game out strong, dominating the first quarter on the boards and at the charity stripe. The Liberty outrebounded Chicago 11-5 while shooting 8-for-10 from the free-throw line.

"I didn't think we competed tonight," said Liberty head coach Pat Coyle. "I don't want to say that it was their effort. I'm not sure what went on tonight and that's as honest as I can be. I have to give them (Chicago) credit. They brought it. They're athletic. The stat for me is the 10 assists on 22 baskets, and that's not us. Our assists are usually much higher. We assist on I think 75 percent of our baskets, so that number is a little disturbing."

With the Liberty up 20-17 entering the second quarter, Chicago began to get its act together, as Jia Perkins, on her way to a game-high 19 points, keyed the Sky offense into a 34-34 tie by the end of the half. If not for a monster performance by Janel McCarville, the Liberty would have been down at halftime, as McCarville scored seven points in the second quarter, equaling the total of the rest of her team combined.

Once again, the Liberty came out strong in the third, and McCarville continued to dominate. The rugged center scored six points, dished two assists, grabbed three boards and blocked one shot to give New York a 52-49 lead heading into the fourth.

The lead would have been larger if not for a controversial call to end the third quarter. Erin Thorn hit an off-balance three at the buzzer to seemingly give New York a six-point lead which would have been its biggest of the game. However, after review, officials overturned the play, ruling that the tip of Thorn's index finger was touching the ball when time ran out. The call turned out to be a break for the Sky.

"It would have been nice to have those extra points," said McCarville, "especially after Chicago came out and quickly took the lead away. We would have been up, but instead we were behind and lost focus. But I'm not going to blame the officials or anyone but us."

Indeed, Chicago exploded out of the gate in the fourth quarter, jumping out on a 9-0 run that gave the Sky the lead for good. They were led by Olympian Sylvia Fowles, who scored seven points in the quarter to round out her double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Carson did her best to keep New York in the game, scoring eight points in a spectacular 1:33 stretch to draw the Liberty within two at 60-58. But without a supporting cast, Carson couldn't beat the Sky by herself, and Chicago went on another 9-0 run to defeat the Liberty 69-60.

The rookie guard was one of the few bright spots for New York on Thursday. Carson scored a career-high 19 points to go along with four rebounds, one assist and fantastic defense.

McCarville also turned in a strong performance, recording 13 points, six boards, three assists one steal and one block. Still, she was not satisfied.

"I don't think I was really that rusty, or like I thought I might be," she said. "But I now I could play better, and I am disappointed of how I played in the fourth quarter. It's unacceptable."

Coyle agreed that rust was not a problem for her team.

"I think we were anxious to get going. I don't think we were flat," said the Liberty head coach. "We've had good practices and they've been good. We even brought in some guys and scrimmaged and they've been competitive. We're scrimmaging, practicing and everybody is in the same boat. To me, the layoffs are not an excuse, we just didn't play well. I don't know how else to say it. We didn't execute well and we just turned the ball over too much. That's a key stat. I didn't think our defense was bad. I just think we need to regroup and come back tomorrow and be better."

Christon, who has turned in an All-Star caliber season, struggled mightily, scoring just six points on 2-for-12 shooting, all of which came in the opening quarter.

"I have no excuse," she said as she sat solemnly at her locker after the game. "I (stunk). There were only a few players who came out to play tonight, and I commend them. I didn't hold up my end of the bargain. It was so frustrating, but hopefully it's just a one night thing."

With Tiffany Jackson out day-to-day with an aggravation of her previous stress fracture injury, Erlana Larkins and Jessica Davenport saw added minutes in the post. Larkins scored three points, grabbed six boards and blocked one shot while Davenport recorded four points and one vicious first-half block that drew cheers from the Garden crowd.

"I'm going to do my best and do whatever the coaches asks out of me," said Davenport. "This has been a really frustrating season for me. I was playing so well overseas, and then to get injured and not get a chance to play for a while, it hurts. And the team has played so well without me. I'm just trying to find my role. The coaches have been very supportive, telling me that I will get my chance. We will miss Tiff, but hopefully I can come in and play well."

It was also a rough night for starting point guard Loree Moore, who did not record any points or assists. Moore, who grabbed four rebounds and made one steal, is determined to not let the Liberty let the night's loss become a habit.

"I really don't know how to explain what you saw tonight," said Moore. "We were playing really well, exceptionally well, before the break, and then we came in tonight and it was like we didn't know how to play. Hopefully it's just a one night thing and we'll shake this off, get it out of our system and start playing like we know we can. We have a good team here, a special group and I think we can go far if we can shake this off and come together."

The Liberty get a chance to quickly get this game out of their system, as they travel to Detroit to face their Eastern Conference rival Shock on their push towards the playoffs.

Friday night's game tips off at 7:30 on MSG Network, or come back right here on nyliberty.com for a live stream.

To score tickets to the next Liberty home game on September 5 against Atlanta, click here to purchase online, visit The Garden Box Office or call 877-WNBA-TIX.