Defense and Hustle Lift Liberty to First WinJune 4, 2012
NEW YORK- The New York Liberty (1-5) are finally showing some signs of life.
Playing the second game of a back-to-back against the Indiana Fever (4-1), the Liberty notched their first victory of the season with an 87-72 win on Sunday night at the Prudential Center.
Outside of the locker room, Liberty head coach John Whisenant had a smile on his face as he spoke with media. “It was a good win,” he said. “We got back to what gives us a chance to compete with anybody in the league, and that is our defense. The players recognized that and we corrected the mistakes.”
Defense and hustle told the story of this game as the Liberty had control from the opening tip with Plenette Pierson picking up where she left off the night before in Indiana, scoring the Liberty’s first basket of the game. Essence Carson and Leilani Mitchell also got involved early on with Pierson as the trio combined for 17 of the Liberty's 24 points in the first quarter.
As the second quarter began, the question that remained was whether the Liberty could stay consistent for the duration of the period. In New York's last four games, the Liberty have opened each of them with high energy, only for it to drop in the second quarter resulting in a halftime deficit. This was not the story against the Fever, as the Liberty sustained their intensity and went on to outrebound and out-hustle Indiana on both ends of the floor.
Both Mitchell and Carson still had the hot hand in the second quarter, scoring the crucial baskets whenever the Fever made a threat to their lead. The duo scored a combined 11 points in a two-minute span. Meanwhile, Cappie Pondexter added nine in the period and the Liberty led by eleven at the break.
Heading into the second half, the Liberty had yet to win a quarter in the final 20 minutes of the game this season thus far. With momentum in their favor, New York held onto their double digit lead for the duration and went on to outscore the Fever 16-12 heading into the final frame.
New York went ahead by as many as 17 in the fourth quarter, and the only threat to their lead came late in the period when a layup from Jessica Davenport cut the margin to seven. With 2:02 left to play, back-to-back 3’s from Mitchell and Pondexter pushed the lead back to double figures, putting the game away for good. As time expired, fans rose to their feet and gave the team a standing ovation for the hard fought first victory of the season.
The Fever had four players in double figures and were led by Tamika Catchings’ 19 points and six rebounds. Katie Douglas netted 15 points and grabbed four rebounds. Briann January and Shavonte Zellous contributed 12 and 10 points respectively.
All five Liberty starters finished in double figures, led by Pondexter’s 25 points and five rebounds. Pierson and Carson recorded 16 points apiece, along with Pierson pulling six rebounds. Mitchell added 13 points and pocketed three steals, while Kia Vaughn finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
“I thought it was a great team win,” Pondexter said. “I think everybody stepped up and contributed. Our coaches said we had five players in double figures and that’s a huge difference compared to two people consistently in double figures. If we continue to play that way, we can beat anybody across the board.”
The Liberty have a chance to build off this first win on Tuesday, June 5 when they face the Atlanta Dream.
For live game updates from press row at the Prudential Center, follow Tracy Jusay on Twitter @writergirlny