SAN ANTONIO (AP) San Antonio coach Dan Hughes knows what the Stars are capable of offensively. However, he credited an added emphasis on defense with helping the team win four of its last five games.
Kayla McBride matched her career high with 30 points and San Antonio never trailed in rolling to an 80-66 victory over the New York Liberty on Wednesday night.
McBride and Adams had five points each as the Stars scored the game’s first 14 points. The Liberty finally got on the scoreboard when Tina Charles hit an 18-foot jumper with 4:19 left in the first quarter.
”The real story is defensively for us right now,” Hughes said. ”What a difference it makes on this basketball team when we defend.”
Adams scored 16 points and Danielle Robinson added 13 as San Antonio (11-9) improved to 4-5 at home.
Sugar Rodgers had a career-high 21 points and Cappie Pondexter added 17 points for New York (7-12), which snapped a three-game winning streak. The Liberty were just 2 for 11 on 3-pointers (18 percent) and finished 38 percent from the field overall.
”If we become a team that is defensive-minded, there will be enough offensive execution and ball movement to play to,” Hughes said. ”Our mindset has got to stay on the defensive end. I’ve really preached that to them and I think they’ve done a great job of trying to bring that out home or away.”
San Antonio demonstrated its increased defensive effort early, bolting to a double-digit lead as New York missed its first 12 shots.
”I thought they came out with a lot of energy in the first half, in the first quarter, especially” Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. ”We did not. We’ve been playing very hard, playing good basketball and tonight we just didn’t have it for whatever reason and they took it to us.”
Many of New York’s misses in the game-opening drought were on open jumpers and a few contested shots in the paint that Laimbeer thought were fouls.
Hughes credited center Jayne Appel with the Liberty’s early struggles in the paint. Appel finished with one block and two points, but altered numerous shots.
”Jayne Appel doesn’t get a lot of credit in a lot of situations,” Hughes said. ”She does so many things that we appreciate, (like) her ability to kind of anchor our defense inside. For a player that scored only two points, she gets nine boards and she to me is one of the best defensive players in the league. When players are buying into that and bringing that all of a sudden, the emphasis goes to the right spot.”
With Appel helping to stymie New York inside, McBride was free to key San Antonio offensively despite hitting the court several times following hard contact.
”I think the Eastern Conference is a lot more physical than the West,” McBride said. ”It’s an adjustment, especially as a rookie. I feel small some times. It’s an adjustment. It’s hard, but I think I’m getting used to it.”
The rookie from Notre Dame scored 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting – including 3 for 3 on 3s – in the first quarter to match New York’s output and help the Stars to a 13-point lead.
”We know she can shoot it,” San Antonio guard Becky Hammon said. ”She had a great night tonight. We might make her mom (LuAnn) stay down here the rest of the summer. I don’t know what she’s feeding her, but we’re going to try to keep feeding her whatever she had tonight. She’s super talented. She works at it, she wants to be good. And she has a little chip on her shoulder; got a little edge, I like it.
Adams made back-to-back 3s to start a 10-2 run that extended San Antonio’s lead to 57-37 about midway through the third quarter. Shameka Christon’s 3 in the opening minute of the fourth gave the Stars their biggest lead, 68-45.
After the game, the Liberty announced they acquired Swin Cash from the Atlanta Dream in exchange for DeLisha Milton-Jones in a deal involving veteran forwards.
Cash, who spent her first six seasons in the league playing for Laimbeer with the Detroit Shock, has averaged 11.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 399 career games. She was averaging career lows of 1.5 points, 0.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 8.8 minutes in 17 games in her first season in Atlanta.
Milton-Jones has averaged 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in 480 career games, including career lows of 5.9 points and 2.5 rebounds in 19 games this season. She had two points and two rebounds in about 4 1/2 minutes against the Stars.