Charles and Prince lead first place New York to 90-78 win over depleted Connecticut
UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Tina Charles poured in a season-high 31 points and Epiphanny Prince stuffed the stat sheet with 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists and six steals, as first-place New York (16-6) defeated Connecticut 90-78 in an impressive display.
Already playing without Chiney Ogwumike (knee) for the season, Connecticut (12-11) lost frontcourt mates Alyssa Thomas (shoulder) and Elizabeth Williams (knee) earlier in the week. The depleted front court was overpowered by the Liberty, as New York scored 48 points in the paint. Charles and Prince each had three offensive rebounds, while rookie Kiah Stokes had two more.
“We shot well,” said Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer. “We are not a fifty percent shooting team, but we did tonight. It also shows though that if we do not play defensively we also have offensive tools that can get the job done.”
Prince missed the beginning of the season fulfilling obligations to the Russian national team, but the Liberty have surged since she joined the lineup. They are on a four game winning streak, have opened up a 2.5 game lead in the conference, and are percentage points behind Minnesota for the league’s best record.
“I feel more comfortable in the offense and with my teammates, Prince commented. “My teammates are setting good screens and they are getting me the ball when I am comfortable.”
Despite the gaudy numbers from Charles and Prince, the Liberty showed the ball movement and execution that makes them so good. Veterans Swin Cash and Candice Wiggins hit big shots when called on. Tanisha Wright, long known for her defensive prowess in Seattle, combined with Prince and Wiggins to help force Connecticut into 17 turnovers. Wright also dished out nine assists.
Connecticut coach Anne Donovan commented the turnovers were the difference; her team shot 51 percent from the floor but took 16 less shots than New York.
“We need more shot attempts than we had,” said Donovan. “We take a high volume of shots game by game and we did a lot of the things on our checklist, but we had to take better care of the ball than we did.”
Connecticut knew they would need big games from all-stars Kelsey Bone and Alex Bentley, and the duo delivered. Bone scored 17 points on 8-for-14 shooting, while Bentley led the team with 19 points, on 8-for-10 shooting. However the rest of the team only hit 13-of-33 shots.
The loss leaves the Sun 1.5 games out of the final Eastern conference playoff spot, trailing both Washington and Indiana. The Sun, however, needs to prove they can win games in their conference; they are only 4-10 against Eastern conference foes. Eight of their final eleven games are against teams in the East, and two each are against first and second place New York and Chicago.
By the Numbers
Points in the Paint: Liberty 48, Sun 26
Second Chance Points: Liberty 15, Sun 7
Fastbreak Points: Liberty 4, Sun 12
Biggest Lead: Liberty 12, Sun 5
Lead Changes: 3
Times Tied: 4