Liberty 77, Storm 59
NEWARK, N.J. (AP)
With five days to practice and rest since a disappointing loss in their previous game, the New York Liberty were fired up against the Seattle Storm.
Essence Carson scored 22 points and Cappie Pondexter had 20 to lead the Liberty to a 77-59 victory over the Storm on Saturday.
''It was a big win, a much-needed win,'' Pondexter said. ''We were really striving to win. ... I think having a week off and getting our legs refreshed and our minds refocused, we were able to come out and win.''
Pondexter and Carson combined to shoot 15 for 30 from the field and 10 for 12 from the free-throw line. Pondexter also had a season-high seven rebounds and four assists.
The Liberty (5-9) hadn't played since a 10-point loss to Atlanta on Sunday, New York's fourth loss in five games.
''I'm sure she had in her mind she wanted to win today,'' Pondexter said of Carson. ''I did as well, especially coming off that last performance against Atlanta. We got back in the gym and worked on things, just prepared for today.''
DeMya Walker added 11 points for the Liberty, who lost leading rebounder Kia Vaughn to a concussion late in the second quarter. She did not return and finished with eight points and one rebound.
The Liberty were already without second-leading scorer and rebounder Plenette Pierson (strained left knee), who missed her fourth straight game and is not expected back until after the Olympic break.
''It's a big loss,'' Carson said of Vaughn. ''But as you saw today, when one goes down everyone's willing to step up. When Plenette went down, we had a lot of people step up. As long as we continue to pick up the slack we'll be all right. And when they come back, we'll be even stronger.''
Ann Wauters and Tina Thompson scored 10 points each for Seattle (6-8), which snapped a five-game winning streak. The Storm shot just 32 percent from the field (19 for 59), including 4 for 22 on 3-pointers. They also committed 25 turnovers - their most since having 27 in the season opener against Los Angeles - which led to 20 points for the Liberty.
''We turned the ball over way too much,'' said Seattle's Sue Bird, who finished with nine points. ''For us especially it's a bad thing because when we get our defense set we're a much better team. They were able to get out on transition, get easy buckets. We hadn't seen this in a while, it was uncharacteristic. We hadn't played like this for a while. It was definitely disappointing.''
Bird's third 3-pointer - and first since about 4 minutes into the game - capped a 7-1 run that pulled the Storm to 56-48 heading to the fourth quarter.
However, Pondexter and Kara Braxton had consecutive layups to restore the Liberty's double-digit lead, 65-52, with 6:17 to go. Seattle got no closer than 10 again.
''I didn't think we were quite engaged defensively,'' Storm coach Brian Agler said. ''Earlier, I thought we were, but as the game progressed forward (the Liberty) were pretty much doing what they wanted to do. And when you turn the ball over 25 times, those are 25 possessions where they're either scoring easily or you're on your heels defensively.''
Nicole Powell, who finished with six points and five rebounds - four in the fourth quarter - hit a jumper with less than 43 seconds remaining to close the scoring and give New York its largest lead of the game.
''It was a nice win against a team that is on a roll,'' Liberty coach John Whisenant said. ''They are a good team. I'm sure they'll be in the playoffs and be a contender.''
Carson had a bank shot and Pondexter made a layup in the opening minute of the third quarter to extend the Liberty's eight-point halftime lead to 35-23.
Thompson's layup cut the lead to 39-32 with 7:05 left in the period, but New York scored the next six points and Pondexter's 3 with 4 1/2 minutes to go pushed the Liberty's advantage to 50-36.
The Liberty's second 9-0 run of the game, started by Carson's two free throws with just more than a minute remaining in the first quarter and capped by Vaughn's layup with 8 minutes to go in the half, gave them a 20-12 lead.
Camille Little's three-point play pulled Seattle to 24-21 near the midpoint of the second quarter, but Pondexter followed with a 3 and Vaughn had a turnaround jumper to push the Liberty's lead to eight with 3 1/2 minutes to go in the period.
The Liberty led 31-23 at the break as Seattle had season lows in scoring for the first half and the game.