Just the Facts, Ma'am: 26 New York turnovers and 3 20-point performances from Connecticut gave the Sun an 85-74 win in Uncasville. Tina Charles's 23 points and nine rebounds led the Sun; Kara Lawson added 21 points and five rebounds, and Allison Hightower had 20 points. The Liberty were led by the 17 points each of Cappie Pondexter and Essence Carson.
For bad passes, bad judgment, bad timing, bad luck, bad shots, bad ideas, and really good Mexican food, join your intrepid and seething blogger after the jump, but remember to dodge the flying basketballs.
Nothing says the start of the season like a home and home series with your nearest rival. You know, I'm getting a bit of déjà vu about this.
As usual, due to the Sun's rather stupid, paranoid, and insufficiently clear security policies, you will be getting no notes from inside the arena. I'd have to get a press credential, and that defeats the purpose of going as a fan. So everything is postgame, which does not bode well for the mood of them.
I will give a shoutout to the awesome kid at Burger King in Flushing who correctly recognized our jerseys, the Connecticut team (okay, he called them the Suns, but there are league people who do that), and likes Kia Vaughn. That's the kind of thing that makes me so very happy. Less joy to whoever or whatever caused the accident that tied up 95 so badly that we ended up taking the Post Road through Lyme. Not that Lyme and Old Lyme aren't beautiful places to travel through, but when it's 3:15 and you think you're trying to make a 4PM tip, you don't want to be admiring the lovely old houses of Connecticut.
Yes, for some reason, I recall the Liberty's giveaway calendar reading 4PM for this game; you can understand if your intrepid blogger and your dashing guest reporter were a bit unnerved when there were no game preparations going on at 3:45. Fortunately, some helpful Sun folks straightened us out, so we had dinner before the game (oh, Sol Toro, how I love you and your taquitos) and joined the Usual Suspects, Connecticut Chapter, down by the rail so we could wish our Libs good luck. (And maybe, just maybe, get DeMya Walker and Kelley Cain on this jersey so I can get it hung up and out of my hair already?)
Mohegan Sun staff seem so weirded out by Liberty fans. It's like they don't expect opposing fans to make the trip. You give us tickets, you give us food, you give us cheap bus fare, why are you so surprised at our existence, and why do you think we've never been here before? I wasn't sure if they were expecting us to grow fangs, or if they thought we were aliens. Maybe it was the leis.
Nice anthem until the very end- she just didn't have enough to carry it all the way through. That's not as much of a knock as you might think. There's some crazy stuff at the end of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Somehow, we ended up sitting with another group of Liberty fans. It was awesome. And we did get the chant going when the Sun staff played the opening to "Car Wash", which is an integral part of the Liberty's opening routine.
The women of inspiration were indeed inspiring. And Rebecca Lobo's words about Margo Dydek were very touching. Why did we have to lose Margo so soon?
Tan White had some nice defensive plays and brought the hustle. Renee Montgomery was the bad Renee today, hoisting up stupid shots (though that dagger through the heart at the end of the shot clock, the one that got reviewed, was a heave). She was frustrating on defense, but she was an easier matchup to plan for. Kelsey Griffin did a surprisingly good job of imitating a Big Ten player for a Big XII player- she had one throwdown on Essence Carson that looked straight out of a wrestling match. And then she threw a fit that the ref called a foul on her, and then she kvetched about not getting a call at the other end. This is why you don't kvetch to the ref when you do something exceptionally stupid. I like her scrappiness, but it was less effective today than it was on Thursday. The one turnover on Danielle McCray was questionable- I do happen to think it was the right call, but a lot of Connecticut fans didn't.
Tina Charles went into beast mode tonight. She went at our posts and took advantage of bad rotations- Cappie Pondexter and Essence Carson both ended up trying to guard her more than once. This is a bad plan and if it was Whiz's plan, he should feel bad for doing it. Allison Hightower is positively blossoming. She was the player who took advantage of being the open woman this time. She was the one who found the seams and got to the line. I'm happy to see her doing well. I just wish she'd do it against someone else. Mistie Mims knows every trick in the book, which is impressive for someone only from, what, the 2005 class? I mean, she had a good apprenticeship in Houston with some folks I'd rather not talk about, but she's picked up that element of her game. I thought she and Plenette Pierson were going to drop the gloves by the end of the game. Plenette certainly seemed to be in that kind of mood. Kalana Greene almost got forgotten again, which I shouldn't have- she was half of why our offense couldn't get going. Her size and speed was a bad combination for our guards. She was picking pockets like a professional working Times Square. The other half was Kara Lawson, who channeled everything from her football days when dealing with Leilani Mitchell and Nicole Powell. She used her build very effectively and viciously. She was a crucial part of the double-teams that hobbled Leilani's ability to get the offense started, and she was impossible to stop on offense for most of the game.
There's a reason I love watching Mike Thibault work. He adapts. He learns. He changes his plans, and then he wins.
Asjha Jones, did you really wear jeans and sneakers? Even if they were very nice burgundy jeans and fancy sneakers? Or am I wrong? I'd like to be wrong.
Kara Braxton needs to grab the ball with authority and hold on to the ball. She kept bringing it down, then fumbling it to Sun players. Hang on to the ball, Kara. I swear on my honor as a former Girl Scout of the Greater New York Council that it won't bite. Alex Montgomery didn't manage to mess things up too badly in her brief minutes, though I do wonder why she was attempting to dribble the basketball with her crotch. This is a family show, Alexandria! DeMya Walker couldn't get herself out of the lane with anything remotely resembling speed, and when she did, she usually managed to commit an offensive foul. Two games in three nights, with a bus trip in between, did her no good. Essence Carson was one of the only players out there who seemed to care about the game and the results of the game every time she was in. She brought energy, she brought nerve, she brought fire, she brought emphatic blocks and drives in the lane.
Nicole Powell... not so much. The first few minutes were great, when her shot appeared to have returned to her and she was actually moving without the ball. But maybe her battery ran down, or maybe her back got tight, because then it all stopped. She lost her positioning on defense. She stopped moving without the ball on offense. Then... forgive me, but I'm about to be really geeky. Then she acted like Lore had installed the bootleg emotion chip in the back of her neck. Yes, her defense on Kara Lawson was better, and it was crucial to the comeback attempt, but the way they were going at each other, one would have thought someone's mother had been gravely insulted. I was genuinely worried when Lawson went down that someone was going to start a fight. And it might have been Plenette Pierson, whose temper was flaring all night with Mistie Mims. It's a shame, because the overacting as she bodied up overshadows the work she put in to try and take care of her team- the ridiculous height of her jumper and her scoops in the lane, the defense and the blocks and the energy. Kia Vaughn should have been more aggressive, or at least more active, but she was getting boxed out and making dumb mistakes. The problem with Kia sometimes is I think she lets her teammates' issues get into her head- if Powell has beef with Lawson, she's going to try and find a way to let Lawson have it; if Pierson and Mims are having words, she's going to interject herself with a hip or a shoulder. Her teammates might appreciate her loyalty, but the expression of it isn't always effective. Leilani Mitchell was flat-out a liability in this game, on both ends of the floor- too small to defend Lawson or Greene, too slow to defend Montgomery, unable to escape the traps on the other end of the floor. When she was used as a spot-up shooter, she was useful, but if I wanted a spot-up three-point shooter who wears #5 and went to college in the state of Utah, I'd really rather have Erin Thorn. Cappie Pondexter ended up running the point for much of the game, which inhibited her offense, but still doesn't excuse some of the stupid shots she took. And the bulk of her points came when the game wasn't really a game, when the comeback hadn't started yet. She went on a little run in the second half to cut the lead back to 12 or so, but when the chips were down, somehow other people were the option. Whether that's on the opposing defense or on the way Pondexter compiles her stats, I don't know.
Crowning moment of the game for the Sun- Kara Lawson's flip pass to Tina Charles for two in the first half.
Most notable moment to me for the Liberty- I swear on my grandmother's grave I saw Plenette Pierson smack Cappie Pondexter upside the head after a bad pass leading to a turnover. Plenette, I think you did what almost every Liberty fan wants to do to her.
Who were you passing it to, Liberty? Really? I want to know. The inexplicable passes out of bounds were ridiculous. Absurd. Downright offensive to the game of basketball. How can a team with a Stanford alumna and a former Virginia Cavalier be so dumb? Because I swear this is the dumbest basketball team in the Women's National Basketball Association. I love them, but I just can't sometimes with them.
Disappointed in the second-half officiating. They let things get a little chippy out there, though finally calling the technical on Powell put the kibosh on most of it. Still, you should not have a player attempting to reenact the chariot race from Ben-Hur, without the chariots.
We were in the autograph section, but since we're both trying to get Walker and Cain on items of clothing (my jersey, his hat), staying behind for Sun players seemed counterproductive, so we gave our stubs to a Sun fan and headed out, hoping to catch some Libs. No luck. I swear, my team is one of the most difficult to catch for an ink junkie. It's one of their less endearing qualities, and those are more numerous as time winds on.
There are a lot of ways a team can go from looking great in one game to awful in the next. I'm not sure in this case whether it was a fluke on Thursday or preparation by the Sun today. I think the Liberty are somewhere between these extremes, somewhere between dominating defense and abhorrent offense. I just wish I could be sure of the heart and hustle.