NEWARK, NJ - Sometimes a coach just knows.
The players are not sharp. Everyone is a step slow in practice. The ‘A' game seems miles away. The signs are all too evident - try as he or she may, the coach cannot alter the situation.
On Friday evening that was not the case. New York Liberty coach John Whisenant had his team coming off a sharp practice following an impressive win on Wednesday. They were prepared and focused.
In the first minute Epiphanny Prince buried a three pointer from the left side. Prince was fouled on the play. She went to the line to give the Chicago Sky a 4-0 lead. It was not insurmountable by any means but it was a start that did portend well for what was to come for the Liberty.
Forty minutes of struggling on the part of the Liberty. The Sky, never relinquished the lead on the way to a 92-83 victory at the Prudential Center.
"We really did not defend," Whisenant admitted. "Our goal is to give up 15 to 18 points per period. We gave far too much on defense. We scored enough offensively but gave up too much allowing them to shoot 50% (from the field)."
Whisenant is not looking to make excuses. But fact of the matter is with a compressed schedule - three games in five days - drills are on the back burner. Walk-throughs are the order of the day to maintain fresh legs. But those sessions have been sharp with players attentive and going through the ‘workout' in a positive frame of mind.
"No. Not at all," was the emphatic reply of Cappie Pondexter when the question was asked about a possible letdown following Wednesday's outstanding win over Phoenix. "I really think we were focused and had the intensity. We were ready."
In Pondexter's estimation you had to give credit to Chicago.
"They shot the hell out of it," she said, "especially in the third and fourth quarter."
At the half the Liberty trailed 46-41. Swin Cash opened the second half scoring, canning a three pointer for the Sky. The Liberty kept getting back to a two possession game. But not any closer. The Sky always seemed to have an answer. Usually in the form of a Prince trey or Tamera young jump shot or penetration.
For the Sky, it wasn't just a case of Prince knocking down three pointers. She did hit five of the Sky's eight from beyond the arc. Chicago also did an admirable job of penetrating. Often that penetration allowed the ball handler to finish or find an open teammate cutting to the basket.
"Pokey (Coach Chatman) really did a great job in having us spread the floor on offense," Sky assistant Jeff House noted. "That opened things up for the penetration and got us some great looks."
Prince led all scorers with 30 points. Young added 19 and Courtney Vandersloot added 12 and four assists. A second year guard out of Gonzaga, Vandersloot was effective outside and repeatedly beat defenders off the dribble as well. She proved, a significant matchup problem for New York.
Pondexter led four double digit Liberty scorers with 24 points. Plenette Pierson had another strong 15 point outing. Kara Braxton battled with a commendable 13 point 11 rebound effort. The offense was not the problem. As noted it was more than adequate to win. But the defense?
"Our ‘white line' (defense) was in left field," Whisenant said.
No time to dwell on the past. Learn and move on. Quickly. Los Angeles visits the Rock on Sunday.
"We have to watch film, go over the scouting report," Pondexter said, "and bounce back."