Sun 68, Liberty 59
NEWARK, N.J. (AP)
The Connecticut Sun kept the score close with their best defensive effort of the season and pulled out a big road win.
Tina Charles scored 15 points, Asjha Jones had 14 and the Sun rallied for a 68-59 victory over the New York Liberty on Friday night, snapping a two-game skid and getting their second victory in seven road games this season.
Renee Montgomery scored 10 of her 12 points in the fourth quarter as Connecticut (7-5) closed with a 10-0 run.
''A lot of the games we don't give ourselves a chance to finish the game,'' Montgomery said. ''We're down so much that we exhaust so much energy trying to come back, that when we come even close to coming back we kind of run out of gas. It was close the whole game and we gave ourselves a chance to win it and we did.''
Connecticut coach Mike Thibault got his 167th career victory, tying him with Anne Donovan and Michael Cooper for second place in WNBA history.
Although the Sun shot just 40 percent (26 for 65) for the second straight game, they held New York to 37.5 percent (24 for 64) - the Liberty's second-lowest effort of the season. The 59 points allowed were also a season-low for Connecticut.
''It's a road win, a good win,'' Thibault said. ''That's the best defense we've played for an entire game all year.''
Concerned with his team's effort coming off two straight road losses that left them with four defeats in six games after a 4-1 start, Thibault was pleased with what he saw.
''It showed up because we kept tipping balls, the full-court pressure on their guards for most of the game, tried to wear them down,'' he said. ''We got them to turn it over twice in the last couple of minutes. Keeping them from even getting shots is a good thing.''
Kia Vaughn had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead New York (8-6), which snapped a four-game winning streak. Nicole Powell scored 13 points, Cappie Pondexter had 11 and rookie reserve Alex Montgomery added 10.
''It's one of those losses where you're like 'why did we have to lose?' But it happens,'' Pondexter said. ''You can't get too high, can't get too low in this league. The good thing is we play Sunday, so we practice tomorrow and here we go again.''
The Liberty were without starting forward Plenette Pierson, who sat out due to a strained left knee injured in Wednesday's win against Atlanta.
''Obviously not having Plenette takes a post player out of us and that adds a little fatigue,'' New York coach John Whisenant said. ''But Plenette doesn't play outside and our perimeter people were not sharp, either.''
Renee Montgomery had a tying three-point play and Jones hit a jumper with 5:51 left in the fourth quarter to give the Sun a 58-56 lead.
After Pondexter made a 3 to put New York back ahead, Connecticut scored the next six points to take a 64-59 lead on Jones' two free throws with 3:02 remaining.
About 1 1/2 minutes later, Powell stole a pass by Renee Montgomery, ran down the court, avoided the defender and then missed a layup. She got the rebound on the left side of the baseline, stepped behind the 3-point line and missed the shot.
Renee Montgomery hit a jumper on the other end to stretch the Sun's lead to seven with 1:13 left, and she added a layup in the final seconds.
With the win, the Sun moved into second place in the Eastern Conference, percentage points ahead of the Liberty. Connecticut hosts first-place Indiana on Sunday.
''Any win in the conference is always key because it's going to be close down the stretch,'' Montgomery said. ''We don't want it to come down to the end where we're hoping somebody else loses. ... We want to put ourselves in a good position going down the stretch. This is only about halfway through the season, but still as much as you can do early in the season the better.''
The Liberty missed 13 of their last 14 field-goal attempts and had four turnovers over the last 7 1/2 minutes.
''We didn't execute,'' Pondexter said. ''I think we took some bad shots, we rushed a couple of shots, made a couple of key turnovers, myself included. ... They capitalized on it. The most important thing is forget about it and move on.''
Danielle McCray's three-point play started an 8-1 run as the Sun took a 44-36 lead on Charles' jumper with 5:39 to go in the third quarter.
Vaughn had seven points, including the go-ahead three-point play, during the Liberty's ensuing 14-3 run that gave them a three-point lead with 1:21 left in the third.
The teams played close in the first half with neither team leading by more than five points. Kara Lawson's three-point play with about 25 seconds left gave the Sun a 34-33 lead at the break.
Charles led Connecticut with 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting over the first 20 minutes. Powell had 10 points, including two 3s, for New York.