NEW YORK — In control from the opening tip, the New York Liberty’s productive offense and lockdown defense led to a 84-68 victory against the San Antonio Stars on Wednesday morning at Madison Square Garden. In the win, the Liberty (8-5) snapped a six game losing streak against the Stars (3-11).
The Liberty dominated the Stars by scoring inside the paint and attacking the basket, led by 14 points and six rebounds from center Tina Charles. The Liberty’s creation of offense near the basket is something head coach Bill Laimbeer expects, and is something that has been a part of the team since the start of the season.
“That’s our MO,” he said of the team’s success in the paint. “We take great pride in it because that’s who we are.” Throughout the entire year, the Liberty’s offensive strategy has revolved around putting Charles, their best offensive weapon, in positions to score and defend close to the basket. And, for the most part, it has worked.
But on Wednesday, the Liberty also took advantage of opportunities outside the paint and behind the three point line, bolstered by players like guard Epiphanny Prince, who played in her third game with New York after missing the first ten while competing in the Eurobasket Women 2015 Tournament. She finished with 13 points and four assists in 26 minutes on Wednesday.
“Shooting will get a big lift with her in the game,” Laimbeer said of Prince. “She’s a solid guard; a quiet assassin. Right now, she’s struggling with her shot but she’s still scoring double-digit points for us. … When she gets hot, you’ll know it.”
The Liberty’s win was a promising sign for several reasons, including the contributions from their bench. Guard Essence Carson, in 18 minutes, shot 7/12 with 16 points — the team high for the game. Guard Sugar Rodgers also chipped in with 13, and center Kiah Stokes churned out seven rebounds and seven points. “[They] have been really great coming off the bench and providing different scoring options for us,” Tina Charles said.
There was an even brighter side, however, to the Liberty’s victory: the continued integration of Prince into the team’s gameplan. Although she, a Brooklyn native, is still familiarizing herself with the team’s offense, her impact has been felt on the court already.
Furthermore, Prince’s role is only heightened with continued excellence from offensive rock Tina Charles. Their two stat-lines from Wednesday’s victory are an example of how the Liberty can vary their offensive production while still playing effectively; an example of how to win in different ways. Prince’s presence adds a second dimension to the Liberty’s offense, a perimeter aspect that was less vibrant with just Charles’ input. The Liberty’s developing chemistry certainly plays a role in their gameplay as well.
“With the way our team is set up,” Prince said, “we can play and read off each other. We’re unselfish and all just want to win.”
The wholeness and completeness of their offense on Wednesday was an example of the team’s true potential — how two aspects of the offense could come together and thrive. That offensive continuity was a revelation that only extended to the defensive end for the Liberty.
San Antonio was limited to just 37% shooting from the field and just ten second chance points, compared to New York’s 48% and 18, respectively. The Stars attempted to rally during the second and third quarters, but almost every San Antonio step forward was met with a Liberty steal or block or three pointer on the other end.
Prince, Charles, and the Liberty will try to continue their momentum during tomorrow night’s matchup against the Connecticut Sun (7-5) at Madison Square Garden.