Tina Charles caught fire early, scoring 13 of the New York Liberty’s first 17 points as the hosts built a five-point lead early. A layup by the visiting Las Vegas Aces with a minute and a half left in the first quarter provided a 20-19 lead, they would fail to surrender the duration of the contest before settling upon a 78-63 final Wednesday evening at the Westchester County Center.
Despite the hot start from Charles, the Liberty (3-5) mustered just 33 points in the first half, a season-low. The offensive woes continued into the second half, as New York scored just 30 after the break. Their 63 points for the game marked their coldest offensive performance of the year.
The Liberty were unable to match its three-point barrage from a game ago, connecting on just four of their 24 attempts from deep tonight.
Head coach Katie Smith mentioned those struggles while highlighting her team’s defensive efforts. “We held them to 78 points, which going into the ball game I would’ve been happy with. They’re a high scoring team but we could just not get any momentum on the offensive end.”
The Liberty not only struggled to score on live ball opportunities but struggled at the stripe as well. While the Aces went 15-of-20 from the free-throw line, the hosts earned six trips, converting three.
Center Kiah Stokes (left foot) and guard Epiphanny Prince (concussion) graced the hardwood after nursing their respective injuries. Prince scored three points in her seven-minutes production.
Shavonte Zellous commented on having a completely healthy roster for the first time this season. “It means a lot to have Prince and Stokes back in the lineup. If everyone can stay healthy, then you can see the depth that we have. We just have to continue to get better each and every day.”
The Liberty hosted its annual Garden of Dreams night featuring a variety of special guest performances. The foundation’s mission is to provide unforgettable experiences for children facing obstacles.
LAS VEGAS COACH QUOTES
Coach Laimbeer on the Aces performance… “Yeah, I thought we played very hard with energy on a back-to-back. We’re young, and that is a big positive from us that we can bring that kind of energy. I thought some of our bench players, [Dearica] Hamby played great. [Jaime] Nared played phenomenal defense. They have a lot of good guards. Nared was in their butt all day long. I think we are learning as a team and growing as a team. I told them we’ve accomplished nothing. We just won a game. But they know that we are growing.”
Laimbeer on the back-to-back games for the Aces last night and today… “Yes and no. With Phoenix we thought we were going to lose by a lot, we’re kind of that team, we are growing and if we hit our stride and we play defense and run and push the ball. We have some shooters now, A’ja Wilson, so we can score. We can score in this league now. That is something I did not have. At New York we could score, but not really. But here, this can be interesting times.”
Laimbeer on Anne Donovan passing away… “One of the greatest ambassadors of basketball. In her time slot, she obviously stood out, for her height, but also for her playing ability, and continued that throughout her whole life. Coaching, ambassadorship, you name it she did it. Everyone is very sad about it.”
Laimbeer on learning about his team… “Yeah, I think they know we have some pieces. A’ja [Wilson] gives us a chance to win a lot of games. They know if they listen and execute and do the right things, we’re going to be okay. We came from the bottom. San Antonio, three years in a row was the worst team in the league. So, we know we have to work hard, and good things happen when you do that.”
LAS VEGAS PLAYERS QUOTES
Dearica Hamby on contribution off of the bench… “I think it was very important. We have a very talented roster. All of us at some point has been starters outside of the rookies and have made big contribution to our teams. So being able to have that balance when A’ja’s having an off-night or McBride that you know someone else is going to step up and contribute.”
Hamby on team’s defensive effort against Tina Charles… “I think individually I had to be aggressive, but it was a team effort. We doubled her and just having rotations. Making her think twice before she made a move, I think that got in her head a little bit.”
Kayla McBride on Liberty’s fourth-quarter production… “We talked about it. We know that been together for a little bit, they know how to come back from leads. We know we had to stay aggressive, I think after the technical fouls we just didn’t want to give the momentum back to them at all. We stayed in attack mode on both ends of the floor and we were able to pull it out”
McBride on bench production… “It’ really important. Especially in games that are back to back. We are going to need all 12 bodies at times. So, to know that they can come in and give us great minutes I thought Jaime Nared did a good job especially on the defensive end. She came in and knocked down some shots. You know its top to bottom, and that comes from coach making sure that sometimes we are going to be tired, but it’s always the next man up mentality.
NEW YORK COACH QUOTES
Katie Smith’s opening statement… “Tough one. Held them to 78 points which going into the ball game I would’ve been happy with. They’re a high scoring team. But we could just not get any momentum on the offensive end.”
Smith on coaching against Bill Laimbeer… “They know what we’re running. We know what they’re running. We know where their bread and butter is at. They hit some shots but holding them at 78 gave us a chance to win that ball game. We just could not get on that offensive flow and knock down shots with any consistency.”
Smith on the return of Epiphanny Prince and Kiah Stokes… “I thought Piph looked good! It’s just knowing the offenses, getting her lungs under her, getting her legs under her. It was nice to have [Kiah] again. We were searching a little bit to try to figure out what combination was going to work. We have a lot of players and that’s just something I’m going to have to figure out.”
NEW YORK PLAYERS QUOTES
Tina Charles on the passing of Anne Donovan… “It hurt. It hurt bad. To be totally honest, she’s the only coach that I have played for that coached me, challenged me and forced me to be better. At a young age, I didn’t understand it and for me it stuck because I always wanted to text her to tell her, ‘Thank you.’ I wanted to say thank you to her always telling me, ‘You are not taking a hook shot this practice. Get to the basket, figure it out.’ My thoughts and prayers are with her family and close friends.”
Charles on the tonight’s loss… “The past few games we just have been getting lucky. I believe we needed this. We needed to get smacked around to know what it feels like. Hopefully we respond the next time we have practice. They were just aggressive, they got to the basket and they got whatever they wanted. They executed their plays, stayed together out there, they communicated, they didn’t have any excuses and they we’re talking to the refs. They were doing everything opposite of what we were doing tonight. Everything that allows you to win in this league.”
Shavonte Zellous on the first game with a full roster… “It means a lot to have [Epiphanny] Prince and [Kiah] Stokes back in the lineup. If everyone can stay healthy, then you can see the depth that we have. We just have to continue to get better each and every day. It’s just amazing that we have, from one to twelve, anyone that can come in and be productive on the offensive and defensive end.”
Bria Hartley on the Aces’ performance… “They hit shots and put pressure on our defense. We need to do a better job of making them uncomfortable and not get into their spots. On the offensive, we have to knock down some shots and relive the pressure on our defense. A lot of the shots we got were open. We just need to shot a better percentage.”
Kiah Stokes on being back from injuries… “My role on the team has mainly been defense so if I can block shots and get some rebounds, that’s what I’m here for. Anything offensively is just a big bonus.”