Cold Shooting Dooms Liberty in Loss

Coming off two consecutive home wins, the New York Liberty were held to just 10 fourth-quarter points in falling to the Sacramento Monarchs, 70-63, on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

Shooting troubles in the final quarter proved to be the Liberty's undoing. After Lisa Willis hit a three-pointer to give New York a 56-50 lead just under two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Liberty did not hit another field goal until Cathrine Kraayeveld scored with 2:11 remaining in the game. By then, the Liberty had dug themselves into a hole they could not escape as their record slipped to 3-4.

While the Liberty struggled to put up points for much of the afternoon in shooting just 35 percent from the field, all five Sacramento starters finished with double-figure scoring totals, which was the difference in the game.

"I would say today we played poor offense," said Head Coach Pat Coyle. "I would give Sacramento credit by setting the tone for this game, but we didn't match it. I would credit their defense. They did a very good job today."

In a foreshadowing of their fourth-quarter shooting drought, the Liberty missed their first eight-field goal attempts of the game before Essence Carson hit a deep two with 6:14 remaining in the opening quarter. That sparked an 18-5 run that saw New York up 19-14 at the end of the first.

Once again, however, the Liberty went cold, shooting just 2-for-11 in the second quarter. Despite their struggles, they still played aggressive on the offensive end, forcing the Monarchs pay for numerous fouls by converting 12 of 14 free throw attempts to take a 36-33 lead into halftime.

The third quarter was a back-and-forth battle that saw six lead changes and three ties. The Monarchs came out strong, scoring on their first two possessions to take the lead before Shameka Christon hit a 25-foot bomb from behind the arc to put New York back up by two. The see-saw battle continued before Megan Duffy hit a three from the corner to put the Liberty ahead for the remaining 3:09 of the quarter.

Up 53-50 entering the fourth, the Liberty suddenly lost their scoring touch following Willis' three that had given them a six-point lead. The Monarchs went on a 15-1 run to go up 65-57, led by veteran Ticha Penicheiro, who scored nine of her game-high 18 points in the fourth. Kraayeveld hit the team's second field goal of the quarter with 2:11 remaining, and after Christon stole the ball and made a running lay-up, New York was within four. Time, however, eventually ran out on New York.

Christon, who had led the team with 25 and then 19 points in its last two games, struggled to find her range and managed just seven points. It was the first time she didn't score in double-digits this season.

"I'm going to take full responsibility," said a very humble Christon, who shot 2-for-12 from the field. "I have to be better for my teammates."

Although she did not enjoy the spectacular performance she put forth in her debut as a starter, rookie Leilani Mitchell turned in another solid performance in place of the injured Loree Moore at point guard. Despite managing just two points, Mitchell contributed a Liberty season-high eight assists as well as two rebounds and a steal.

Both Willis and Tiffany Jackson turned in strong games off the bench. Willis led the team with 11 points, while Jackson recorded 10 points, nine boards, two steals and one block. Both players single-handedly outscored the entire Monarch's bench, which combined for just six of Sacramento's 70 points.

"I thought Willis and Jackson gave us good minutes off the bench," said Coyle. "I have been happy with the play of our bench all year. I feel like our bench has kept us in games and got us back into games."

Despite her individual performance, Willis was disappointed in the team's effort. Nonetheless, she expects her team to bounce back.

"We just didn't shoot a high-percentage today," Willis said. "We have to execute better. When we execute, the basket looks huge to us and we do well. This isn't a step back for us though. It's always tough when you lose, but they're a good team. There are some things we need to learn and wake up. We'll learn and we'll bounce back."

New York looks for its first road win and a return to the .500 mark on Wednesday in Atlanta against the Dream, an expansion team that remains winless through seven games.

Celebrate Dads and Daughters Day with the Liberty when they return to The Garden on Saturday, June 14 vs. the Lynx at 7:30 pm. To score tickets, click here to purchase online, visit The Garden Box Office or call 877-WNBA-TIX.