NEWARK, NJ - Going into Sunday's contest with the Chicago Sky, New York Liberty coach John Whisenant was not worried about the drive or mindset of Essence Carson. Rather it was the conditioning he had concerns about.
Carson missed a week of practice due to an injury suffered in warmups before the last home game. The eye injury forced her to the sidelines save for a shootaround the day before the Chicago contest.
"When you play at a level of athlete like Essence Carson, a week out of practice can be significant," Whisenant said. "I was really concerned."
The concerns were alleviated as Carson logged 22 minutes, shared the scoring lead at 18 points and hit a late three that was instrumental in the Liberty's 80-73 victory at the Prudential Center on Sunday afternoon.
"I was concerned with the amount of minutes we could give her," Whisenant said of Carson. "She said she was fine, Then down the stretch there was concern how she would hold up but she made the big plays."
Tying Cappie Pondexter for scoring honors, Carson shot 8 of 13 from the field. She hit only three point attempt and handed out three assists. The biggest adjustment ? Wearing protective goggles.
"Having them on, feeling them on your head, they took a little getting used to," Carson said with a laugh regarding her required eye wear.
She spent some time in the training room on Saturday and shooting a bit on her own. Without any practices to keep the legs and wind sharp she did not want to enter a game with no activity for the week.
"Doing the shooting I thought would get me back into a rhythm," she said. It did and her shooting touch, especially at crunch time, was definitely needed.
Carson watched Derek Jeter get his 3,000th hit on Saturday while she was in the training room. She spoke of Jeter's accomplishments and professionalism in post game comments on Sunday. One is certain, one of the greatest to wear the Yankee pinstripes would feel the same regarding Carson's resilience and work ethic.
What we liked on a hot afternoon in an air conditioned Prudential Center :
Liberty defense. Well at least the second half.
"Our defense is always the same technically," Whisenant said. "We do not change things but at halftime we talked about keeping them (Chicago) out of the middle of the floor. Their high and low post out of the middle affected our defensive help."
Sky scored 49 points the first half and 24 the final twenty minutes. In offensive efficiency the Sky's numbers:
First half 126
Second half 69
The Sky finished with 19 turnovers to the Liberty's 10. Thirteen of the Chicago miscues came in the second half. Another example of the New York defense stepping up.
The Liberty had six players in double figures. Spreading the wealth creates balance. In the stretch though, a lot of sets went through Pondexter and/or Carson.
Courtney Vandersloot. The Sky rookie can fill it up. She shot 3 of 5 from three and tied teammate Sylvia Fowles with a team high 14 points.
The Sky's inside game. When they had the opportunity to run their sets, Chicago was very tough inside. The Liberty constantly had to double down on the likes of Fowles and Michelle Snow. Problem was, Liberty's second half added pressure and intensity did not allow Pokey Chatman's club the luxury of running their sets as they did the first half.
Quanitra Hollingsworth. Logged 25 minutes and provided an inside presence the second half finishing with 11 points. Liberty were able to get inside looks the first half but without finishing. The 6-5 center out of VCU provided seven of her points following intermission.
Liberty improved to 7-5 while the Sky is now 6-7. Back with Stat analysis tomorrow.