Brooklyn, NY—If the NY Liberty play like they play this afternoon, they will win a lot games this season. It didn’t start off pretty for the Liberty but it doesn’t matter how you start, it is how you compete and finish at the end.
The Libs, who won last Sunday 90-73 in their opener against the young Indiana Fever team looked poised and confident against the Connecticut Sun.
Breanna Stewart scored 21 points, 6 boards along with 5 assists, and 4 blocks helped the New York Liberty (2-1) beat the Connecticut Sun (3-1) 81-65, Saturday afternoon before a loud crowd of 7,102 in Brooklyn.
Saturday was the first regular season game that Jonquel Jones played against her former team. The 2021 MVP was traded in the offseason from Connecticut to New York as part of a three-way deal that sent Liberty guard Rebecca Allen to the Sun.
The Sun came out firing on all cylinders and at the end of the first the Connecticut Sun had 23-17 lead led by Tiffany Hayes with 7 points. The Sun pushed the tempo in the first quarter and caught the Liberty flat footed on defense in that frame.
DeWanna Bonner set the tone early for the Sun, she scored 8 points at the break. Connecticut lead 38-32 going into the locker room. Connecticut shot 39.5% (15-38) from the floor in the first half but the Sun feasted from beyond the arc to distanced themselves from the Liberty in the half.
“I don’t think anyone would sit here and say that’s not what they think they can be,” said Sun coach Stephanie White, after the Liberty’s victory, a game televised by CBS. “Certainly, on paper, you look at this roster and you think they have an opportunity to be exceptional.
“Now, we’ve seen a lot of these teams like this that have had opportunities to be exceptional, some of them have gone on to do that, some of them haven’t.”
In the second half the Liberty settle down and opened with an 8-3 run to trim the Sun’s lead to one point, 41-40, forcing an timeout by coach Stephanie White with 7:31 left in the third quarter. New York continued to score and took a 50-45 lead over Connecticut with 3:12 remaining in the quarter. Sabrina Ionescu and Courtney Vandersloot played a little two man game scored back to back buckets for the Libs.
The Liberty was able to use their bigs well and score 40 points down low on the blocks against the Sun. It was surprising to see because Connecticut has a lot of size and length themselves but the Libs moved well without the ball in their hands and was able to get a few bunnies under the rim.
Tiffany Hayes was the top scorer for the Sun pouring in 16 points and four boards, DeWanna Bonner chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds. Jonquel Jones had to contend with Hayes and Brionna Jones all game long. JJ got in foul trouble for most of the game but was able to put up 7 points and a block in the win.
Connecticut was held to just 34.9% (22-63) from the hardwood, while the Libs was 47.1% (32-68) from the floor for the afternoon. The Sun turned the ball over 17 times, which turned into 28 easy transition points for the Liberty.
“Not very good in the first half, better in the second half, but still not as good as we want to be” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “You saw near the end, you know in basketball, you have your sets, but it’s really about playing to each other. We had Stewie moving around, pinching, setting the screen and we got more open looks by the movement.”
Liberty Vandersloot finished the game with 18 points and Ionescu poured in 17 and ran the offense like a true floor general.
The Liberty will travel to Seattle to play the Storm on May 30th for an 9 P.M. start time.