Dream 79, Liberty 58
NEWARK, N.J. (AP)
The Atlanta Dream opened the season with three losses, so this one was a big relief.
''It feels so good right now,'' McCoughtry said. ''This is what we need. I feel we got our losing streak out of the way early. ... So now we can go on our winning streak.''
''It's early right now,'' McCoughtry said. ''Most of the teams haven't reached their potential yet. We're still getting better, they're still getting better so it's just another game where you're getting to know your teammates.
''It's not fun being in a losing streak. So we had to come out hungry and play smart.''
McCoughtry shot 6 for 11 from the field after missing Atlanta's 94-88 overtime loss to New York in the season opener on June 5 with an injured left knee.
Essence Carson scored 21 points and Kia Vaughn had 16 for the Liberty (2-2), who have lost consecutive games at Prudential Center - their home for the next three seasons - after opening with two road wins.
New York was held to its lowest scoring output after averaging 85 points its first three games.
''We started out great and being able to play on the road is very, very tough,'' Carson said. ''We showed we can do that. We really have to maintain that focus and that hard-nosed, blue-collar, hard workers that we were in those first two games.''
The Dream, who swept the Liberty in the Eastern Conference finals last year, put together runs of 11-0 and 9-0 in the first half and led by 12 at the break. They maintained their double-digit advantage throughout the second half.
''We just dug ourselves so far into a hole it was so hard to come out of,'' Carson said. ''We were just totally out of our rhythm ... and we didn't have enough defensive firepower to save the day.''
Sandora Irvin's two free throws with 6:24 left in the fourth capped the Dream's 10-0 run for a 69-48 lead. Alison Bales made two from the line about 1 1/2 minutes later give Atlanta its biggest lead, 73-50.
Playing with a comfortable lead most of the game, Dream coach Marynell Meadors was able to play her reserves more and rest players coming off injuries such as McCoughtry, Lyttle and Iziane Castro Marques.
''Our bench really played well, and they scored well and they rebounded well and they played extended minutes,'' Meadors said. ''That was a key. Our starters got us off to a good start and we were able to sub because of the score.''
Pondexter, who was second in the league in scoring at 21.4 points per game last year, finished with seven on 3-for-12 shooting.
Liberty players Plenette Pierson, Alex Montgomery and Jessica Breland and assistant coaches Monique Ambers and Lady Grooms were involved in two separate traffic accidents on the way to the arena. None of the players or coaches was injured. The players arrived about an hour before tipoff, and the coaches a little closer to the start of the game.
Pierson, who was driving just ahead of Breland, Montgomery and two of their friends, witnessed their car get hit in her rearview mirror and was still visibly upset after the game.
''It was something I couldn't shake the whole game. No matter what I tried to do, I couldn't shake it,'' she said, teary-eyed. ''I never had time to calm down and gather myself. It was from the accident to here.''
The Dream scored 11 consecutive points bridging the first two quarters to take a 25-16 lead on Coco Miller's jumper in the opening minute of the second.
Carson, who scored 17 in the first half, made two free throws and had a layup, and Pondexter had a steal and fast-break layup to get the Liberty within three with 8 minutes left in the quarter.
Kelly Mazzante's 3-pointer with 1:37 left started a 9-0 run and McCoughtry capped it with two free throws 1:20 later to stretch the Dream's five-point lead to 44-30.
McCoughtry had 16 points in the first half and DeSouza added 12.