WHITE PLAINS, NY– May 29, 2018 – The New York Liberty played from behind for a large majority of the night against the visiting Dallas Wings. However, the Liberty used a 17-5 spurt to turn the tide midway through the fourth quarter and ultimately seal the come-from-behind victory for not only their first win of the season, but first victory under the direction of first-year head coach Katie Smith.
Tina Charles was the Liberty’s (1-2) frontrunner with a game-high 34 points but it was a 25-foot three-point heave from Shavonte Zellous with 34 ticks left that moved New York in front of Dallas (2-3) for good.
Zellous began. “We just needed a possession. We talk about it every day in practice. As long as we get a possession, whether it’s a good shot, bad shot, we just don’t want to have a turnover. Clock going down, you just have to make something happen and that’s what I did.”
Zellous’ triple broke the game’s third and final tie in the fourth quarter. The Liberty overcame its largest deficit of the year, trailing by as many as 17 points, evident at the 3:59 of the first quarter.
Smith explained. “We didn’t press up and knew they could shoot, we allowed them to look over us and take uncontested shots. Just a little bit of effort making them do something different, like putting the ball on the floor. We finally had that sense of urgency and put some pressure on them and dictated the game to make them uncomfortable. They really responded after that first quarter, challenging each other and flying around. Sure, they hit shots but way more difficult for the remainder of the game.”
The Liberty were also supported by Marissa Coleman’s 12 points and Kia Nurse’s 11 points which marked the first time the Liberty had at least four players score double-figures. The last time New York had four or more players in double-figures came on September 3, 2017 against Dallas. Zellous (12), Charles (18), Kia Vaughn (11), Epiphanny Prince (20) and Bria Hartley (13) tallied.
Tonight’s victory marked the first for Smith at the helm. She stated. “It’s pretty cool. It’s unreal and as I said this team makes it really special. I’m pumped, they have put up with me and I’ve tried to take care of them. The first win I’ll take it, hopefully the first of many but one is where we will start.”
The Wings were led by Liz Cambage and Skylar Diggins-Smith who contributed 28 and 20 respective points.
NEW YORK COACH QUOTES
Smith on winning at Westchester… “Awesome! Glad to see our hard work the other night when we played Minnesota, we put ourselves in position to win but a few breaks here and there. Proud of them for them to continue that as continue to put the work in. We’re really happy for them to get this thing done today and the monkey off our back a little bit. I’m super proud of them of digging out of that hole that we put ourselves in and playing so hard. Everybody made plays and were ready to go.”
Smith on first career win… “It’s pretty cool. It’s unreal and as I said this team makes it really special. I’m pumped, they have put up with me and I’ve tried to take care of them. The first win I’ll take it, hopefully the first of many but one is where we will start.”
Smith on team’s leadership… “I hope by all means, yes, Tina is somebody we will rely on and rely on heavy but I hope they all know that any night, any of them could be in that game and making plays. Everybody should be ready and I hope they have that confidence in each other. Each of them knows that their time is coming and it will come. We are going to need every single person because we have to play hard all the time, these games are so tough. I like who we have, we have a couple of people banged up but I like the competitiveness and how they are all locked in and ready when their name is called.”
Smith on team’s early struggles tonight… “We didn’t press up and knew they could shoot, we allowed them to look over us and take uncontested shots. Just a little bit of effort making them do something different, like putting the ball on the floor. We finally had that sense of urgency and put some pressure on them and dictated the game to make them uncomfortable. They really responded after that first quarter, challenging each other and flying around. Sure, they hit shots but way more difficult for the remainder of the game.”
Smith on early season takeaways… “I’m happy with the direction we are going. I wasn’t happy with the first-quarter but I thought from Chicago to Minnesota we made some jumps. This game obviously the first quarter took a little bit but I thought that next three quarters, there’s that consistency of how we are doing things. Running the basketball, pushing tempo on teams. We are gradually getting there, lots of little things we can improve on. And all of us, coaches, players everything we are feeling each other out. I’m pleased with the way we are attacking both their stars and every single person and on the defensive end really disrupting people.”
Smith on Allen’s contribution… “She had a nice block, was flying around grabbing rebounds. She is a threat on the perimeter, looks to score, can score and shoot it. I thought she was really active on the defensive end, flying around especially on the help side. Finally got some minutes but was able to sustain and give us some minutes off the bench. Really pleased by her being locked in no matter what.”
NEW YORK PLAYERS QUOTES
Charles on Katie Smith’s first win as a head coach… “Everyone is very happy for Coach Katie, she’s a Hall of Fame player and I know that’s the same thing she is striving to be as a coach and as a person. She is that as a person. We are all locked in and going to do whatever she feels we need to do to win games.”
Charles on the win… “What was more important than getting the first win of the season was that we came back because this is something that we are always going to remember. When we are down 15 or 16 points, hopefully we are not in that situation again, but anyone can get hot.”
Charles on her 4th quarter mentality… “My mentality was not necessarily to take charge but I wanted to be aggressive. I was very passive and ‘Spoon’ and Sugar Rogers were telling me that. They are very transparent and they know I want to be great. Once I am playing at a certain level it makes the game easier for my teammates.”
Charles on Dallas… “In the 1st quarter they were fitting shots. I believe Diggins-Smith was 4 for 5 from three, Thornton hit a three and Azura Stevens came down and hit a three. They are making threes and we were coming down trying to make twos. It’s really hard to come back that way. We just locked down on our defense. When Cambage started dominating, as she should being 6’8, 6’9, but just our defense, staying together and staying resilient really helped.”
Zellous on her mindset with the shot clock winding down… “We just needed a possession. We talk about it every day in practice. As long as we get a possession, whether it’s a good shot, bad shot, we just don’t want to have a turnover. Clock going down, you just have to make something happen and that’s what I did.”
Zellous on how the Liberty’s game was different in the second half… “We just knew the first half wasn’t us. We watched the Chicago and Minnesota game, each game we wanted to grow and get better. We knew the first half was not how we were getting better, we knew we needed to clamp down on defense. Dallas is a very good, physical team and we knew we had to stop Skylar and Liz. We did a good job of doing that. Everyone helped each other and down the stretch, everyone hit a big shot.”
Kiah Stokes on Coach Smith’s practices… “They are good, they are intense. [Smith] definitely doesn’t mess around. If we have too many turnovers, we are on the line. If we aren’t talking enough, we are on the line. She just makes us play really hard and be accountable for everything that we do.”
Stokes on the win… “I think it’s great that we got this win. Obviously, we want to try and win all of our home games. So, we didn’t want to let this one slip away, like we did against Minnesota. It is still early in the season, it’s just hard seeing that zero in the win column. So, getting that first one I think will just help us keep it rolling.”
DALLAS COACH QUOTES
Williams on loss tonight… “Just too many turnovers in the second half. I thought that we got away from the things we were doing well in the first half, such as taking good percentage shots, and getting the ball inside. The momentum shifted in the middle of the third, when New York went on a run and hit a couple threes. We just never really recovered from it.”
DALLAS PLAYERS QUOTES
Cambage on limited touches in the fourth quarter impacting offensive game… “Our defense and our turnovers are what killed us tonight. They brought it in the second half, and we didn’t and that’s not good enough. You have to be ready to play, whether you’re on the bench or starting you have to be ready to play and we weren’t in the second half.”
Cambage on New York capitalizing on Dallas turnovers… “Definitely, that’s what killed us. Our defense and our turn overs.”
Cambage on how her performance will translate into this season… “At the end of the day, and at the end of this game stats don’t mean anything. Doesn’t matter if I would’ve had 100 points we still lost.”
Christmas-Kelly on giving up the lead in the fourth quarter… “I would say our defensive energy. We know we have to bring it in the fourth quarter, especially with a team like this who can get going quick; we have to be able to get key stops. I think they [Liberty] felt comfortable in the fourth quarter. That’s something we have to take pride in. All of our games up until now we have been trying to focus on defense, and I think we fell a little bit short.”
Christmas-Kelly on coach’s point of emphasis in the fourth quarter… “Don’t give them easy baskets. Our turn overs led to their transition baskets, and I think that’s something that we need to cut back on. We had 9 turn overs at half time and then we ended up with 19. We had more in the second half then we had in the first half. I think if we limit that and focus on our offensive sets and get good shots then we can get better”
Christmas-Kelly on takeaways from tonight… “The way we started this game. We struggled a lot in the past on the way we come out in games. We started very strong, and just have to carry that over into the second half and finish strong with our defense.”