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Notes & Quotes: Sun Top Liberty, 88-86

GAME NOTES:

The New York Liberty lost a heartbreaker at home to the Connecticut Sun, falling 88-86 on a buzzer-beating three. It was the Liberty’s second consecutive loss, and the Sun picked up their league-leading sixth win.

The Liberty exploded for 54 points before halftime, their most productive half of the season. Their previous high was 46 points against Indiana (6/2). It was a complete team effort— every starter found the bottom of the net, and each finished the half with a positive +/-.

Kia Nurse was back into double figures after failing to reach the 10-point mark for the first time all season against Phoenix (6/5). The rookie finished with 11 points, all in the first half. She went a perfect three-for-three from deep before the break.

Shavonte Zellous also returned to double figures after a quiet two-point performance against Phoenix (6/5). The guard finished with 13 points, along with seven assists. The Liberty are now 2-1 when Zellous reaches the 10point benchmark.

Tina Charles finished with 24 points, her fourth consecutive game with over 20. The league’s leading scorer also added nine rebounds and five assists. It was one of her most efficient games of the season, as she shot 50 percent from the field and went six of seven from the line.

Marissa Coleman stuffed the stat sheet, helping the team in a variety of ways. The veteran finished with 11 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. Her layup with 30 seconds left gave the Liberty the lead late.

After getting to the line just five times against Phoenix (6/5), the Liberty cashed in from the charity stripe in this one, hitting 15-of-19 attempts. Connecticut, meanwhile, shot just 50%, leaving 12 points at the line.

Brittany Boyd was on a strict minutes’ restriction against Phoenix (6/5), her first game back from a torn Achilles’ tendon. The guard bumped her time on the court up from four minutes to eleven against Connecticut, finishing with three points and three rebounds.

The Sun and the Liberty came into the game third and fourth in the WNBA in rebounding per game, respectively, and it showed up in the box score. The two teams were neck-and-neck on the boards, with Connecticut finishing with a 40 to 35 advantage. The difference was on the offensive end, where the Sun pulled down 16 compared to the Liberty’s 6.

NEW YORK COACH

Katie Smith’s opening statement…

“Tough one obviously, it should not have come down to the last play but it did. Rebounding was the deciding factor of this ball game.”

Team’s resilience in close losses despite abbreviated roster…

“I love our squad, I like their mentality and that they battle when they are tired. They show up every day and are trying to do things we have asked them. But again, we need more but again I’m pleased by everybody that’s here, everybody’s asked to get in the game is locked in and ready to go.”

Smith on team’s stride throughout the season…

“Another couple of games, every game starts to roll by and now we are going to be every other day and every couple of days. It starts to get crucial and you can’t let people get too far ahead of you. This league is tough that people are going to beat up on each other but we need to at some point put a string of games together and we are capable of that. But have to clean up a lot of the little stuff that is controllable. It’s not like they are knocking down threes in our face, we are giving them opportunities that they shouldn’t get.”

Smith on upcoming Indiana matchup…

“We just played them (Indiana) and that was somewhat of a trap game in a sense. You look at their record and assume it’s going to be easy and we almost got our tails beat. Hopefully, our mentality of understanding is that they are a scary team. They can put up points pretty easily and quickly if you let them get rolling. I think the way we played out there and finished that game, started off well and finished a little slower. They ratcheted up their pressure to put us in a bind and we barely got out of there with a win. I think that is still in the back of our heads and I hope we come out trying to prove something.”

NEW YORK PLAYERS

Tina Charles on bigger picture…

“Bigger picture of the season when does the season become late: “It definitely pisses us off as you can see everyone is quiet. We know this game was ours and the talent we have in the room, we know how much hard work Katie and the coaching staff has been putting in to prepare us for games. When we watch film, we know we are right there. If we keep holding each other accountable and motivating one another. Having another voice and leader and experience in Marissa Coleman that helps as well. Definitely, we are right there we just have to put it together.”

Charles on game’s early pace…

“That first quarter where everyone was involved it was great. When there is less of me and more of the team and that is a great pace of basketball. Everyone is confident and everyone is involved. The talent that we have I don’t need to take 20 shots with this team. That is not something I am looking to do. I definitely depend on them and trust them to get us over the hump. When that second group comes in, when Brittany Boyd comes in and pushes the pace. When Coleman making shots, when Nurse knocking down shots. Rebecca Allen spacing the floor and when Z (Shavonte Zellous) is aggressive. I don’t think there is any team that can touch us.”

Charles on areas for improvement…

“Second chance points definitely got us. I don’t think they did anything special. They didn’t throw us off on the games that we have seen on them. It was all just second chance points and great effort. Jones and Chiney had great effort on the boards and they knew that is what they had to do to get back in the game. Coach [Herb] Williams said when you allow that to happen anything can happen at the end.”

CONNECTICUT COACH

Curt Miller on team’s mindset this afternoon…

“First off it was a great game, it was an unbelievable opportunity for us to scratch, claw, and stay in it. We had a chance to be put away multiple times. To our kids, credit with our 4th game in seven days, in four different cities just unbelievable character in that locker room.”

Miller on New York as a matchup…

“With that being said I am on the record saying New York is the team to beat this year. Period. They have everything; three-point shooting, defense, offense and a dog in Charles. They have everything that a championship team needs. In my opinion it makes this win bigger. I don’t care about what their [Liberty] record is right now, I think New York when it’s all said and done is going to be the team to beat.”

Miller on last play drawn up…

“Plan A.) if Jasmine Thomas got smothered on that penetration that’s where we would put Stricklen. So that was the diagram, if it opened up J. Thomas had to go make a play, if it didn’t then Stricklen was in the corner to do what she did, and it was a really good find for J. Thomas. She could have easily forced that shot, and that was a huge make by Stricklen.”

CONNECTICUT PLAYERS

Chiney Ogwumike on team’s production…

“In the first half our bench did a good job of giving us the energy that we needed. This was our 4th game on the road in seven days so we were dead in the start. I just love my team because we fight, and we push so in the second half I realized I just had to take it one possession at a time.”

Ogwumike on defensive effort against Tina Charles…

“She [Charles] is such a talented player she’s going to get hers, but for me it was just making her uncomfortable as much as I can knowing that she may still get the ball and score; I am glad my teammates had my back and were always talking to me.”

Shekinna Stricklen on game-winning shot…

“It was all up to Jasmine Thomas. She would drive all the way and kick it out. She kicked it to me. I know I didn’t have that much time, so I just let it go. This is my first game-winner so; my teammates had a lot of confidence in me.”