Pondexter seizes defensive win for Liberty

Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Cappie Pondexter's only basket in overtime broke a 76-all tie, and Glory Johnson's would-be tying lay-up came just after the buzzer, allowing New York to escape with a 78-76 win. Essence Carson led New York with 18 points; Pondexter had 13 points, 9 in the fourth quarter and overtime, to go with eight rebounds and six assists. Liz Cambage had 22 points for Tulsa before leaving with an ankle injury, while Glory Johnson had 17 points and 11 rebounds. For hyperventilation, side-eyes, worry, sheepishness, power moves, berserk buttons, and flashbacks, join your intrepid and accidentally mulleted blogger after the jump.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome back to Liberty basketball at the Prudential Center! The long exile is almost over, and believe me when I say we're all pretty psyched for it. At least one of my neighbors has started counting down the games until we're back at the Garden.

You don't want to know what kind of day I've had, only that this game is probably keeping me from committing mass murder. There are too many stupid people in the world. Some days, I'll even admit to being one of them. And if the people behind me squeal about Skylar Diggins one more time, I may be forced to take drastic action.

Halftime involves the Timeless Torches and the Lil Torches in full disco mode. I do not want to see Timeless Torches gyrating to "Bad Girls" ever again. But I do like the new dresses for the Lil Torches' girls.

I was not what you would call thrilled with the rendition of the anthem. If you're going to do a three-part harmony, then you should be able to sing in harmony. Or sing. Period.

The defense for both teams has been on point. A lot of quick hands. Diggins had one pretty steal and has been pesky on defense, but has been stuffed and silenced on offense, much to my glee. She's discovering that nothing is going to come as easy as it did in college, and maybe that'll knock some of the arrogance out of her. Cambage and Glory Johnson have both been very physical. Tulsa might be a very different team if Plenette Pierson had had time to mentor Johnson.

Jennifer Lacy is still captain of the Shock, but she must be doing something right, and maybe that's why she's still on the roster.

The rest of halftime involved some kind of Girl Scout inspirational dance thing that ran so long that both teams were doing lay-ups by the time they finally got the Scouts off the court. Timing's been off all night.

Toni Young just dunked. No one really noticed. This is going to be entertaining.

Just when I was about to call the refs beautifully unique sparkleponies, frolicking ostriches, and assorted other euphemisms from the Chris Kluwe dictionary of G-rated insults, they more or less absolved themselves from the second half of incompetence they displayed. Personally, from the angle and scale we were given, I couldn't have determined whether Glory Johnson was able to force double overtime or not, but I'm glad the officials decided that the ball was in her hand by the barest of microseconds when the red light came on and the clock had zeroes straight across.

I've said a lot of harsh things about Liz Cambage in the past, but I really hope she's all right. When she went down I thought for a moment it might be an Achilles, but the way she was able to hop around in pain makes me think it was a sprain, and tha's a relief. I apologize for the lack of focus by my fellow Liberty fans; many of them felt that the referees robbed the team of a clean fast break by delaying the whistle, and felt that the officials should be made aware of this crime at the highest possible volume. Best wishes to Liz, and I promise to stay off the "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" stuff for the rest of the season.

Kayla Pedersen boxes out pretty well. It just seems like the pieces haven't fallen into place for her yet. I don't know whether it's mental or physical, but she just seems to be missing something. If I knew what it was, I'm pretty sure I'd be making millions as a coach somewhere. Nicole Powell played like she wanted to stick it to the Liberty. Granted, if I were her, I'd want to stick it to the Liberty too, and she showed flashes of the Powell who used to make our lives miserable when she was a Monarch. But there were just as many moments where she looked like the Powell who made our lives miserable when she was a Lib. She absolutely roofed Plenette Pierson on one play. She rebounded well, too. Jennifer Lacy hit a gorgeous open three, but didn't play much else. It looked like Pedersen was swinging between positions as necessary.

Someday, somehow, I want Plenette to have the chance to work with Glory Johnson. I don't know how or why or when or where, but this needs to happen. Johnson already has the edge to her game- what it looks like she needs is the ability to slide that edge under her opponents' skin and make them react to her, instead of her reacting to them. She's incredibly athletic and amazing to watch on the glass. But she lets her emotions get to her. She's got to learn to harness them. Liz Cambage was doing a good job of drawing contact from the smaller Liberty posts (though, to be fair to the Libs and the rest of the WNBA, everyone except Brittney Griner is a smaller post than Liz Cambage), and she had a step on Kelsey Bone all night- all she had to do was make the pivot and she had an open shot. She absorbed a lot of contact, too, but for the most part she took it well. Man, is she a nice option to have when she's there. Roneeka Hodges used all her three-pointers in Washington- her shots were all over the rim except through the basket. Candice Wiggins was very fast on defense, and her hands were very quick, but she was invisible on offense. Maybe she was meant to be. I don't know. Skylar Diggins was quiet for the first half, then hit two rapid threes in the third quarter (the second off a luscious pick from Glory Johnson, which I enjoy writing about both because I like good screens and because Glory Johnson is a fun name to write). Again, she was ball-hawking well on defense, and she had a beautiful steal in the second quarter (which I liked when she blew the fast break lay-up and the follow, but I will admit that I do not like Diggins and enjoy seeing her struggle as a rookie; I'll probably get over it next year).

Toni Young looked somewhat less lost in this game than she did in Connecticut. I think she got more of an opportunity to play like she did at Oklahoma State with the fast pace of this game (well, sort of fast; it's complicated). She didn't play much in the second half, but I can understand why Bill would go with his veterans and the post that he actually wants to be a post. Kelsey Bone bodied up early and often, getting into the lane- she had a pretty one off a feed from Cappie Pondexter in the second half. Leilani Mitchell played a lot of minutes, hit a three in the first quarter, and was generally unremarkable. If she had an impact, it was that she bogged down the offense, but we had the same problem with Cappie at the point. That's a system issue that Bill's going to have to work out if he wants Cappie as his lead guard. Alex Montgomery brought the defense, and a couple of third-quarter baskets. She and Katie Smith teamed up on a big play late in the game- Alex chased down a loose ball and hurled it blindly back inbounds, where Katie made the save on the other sideline while Alex pulled herself out of the first row. Katie brought the veteran presence, one really bad pass, two threes, and some unexpected common sense. She's still a situational player in my book, but that situation might well be closer.

Kamiko Williams got the start, which was a lot sooner than we expected it to happen. She started off strong, but started to lose her grip on the game late in the second quarter. Diggins was frustrating her, and she fumbled and made bad passes. She also seemed to forget that she was in the pros now and thus had to worry about getting the ball over the timeline in eight seconds- the only backcourt violation was the communication breakdown on the opening tip, but she danced with the line a little too often for my tastes. Kara Braxton went toe to toe with Cambage, and in my opinion, got the better of her in the head-to-head matchup. She had her usual share of boneheaded plays, because she's Kara Braxton and if she didn't do something stupid in a game I'd assume we'd gotten a Pod Person instead, but she kept them to a minimum and did well on the boards. Cappie Pondexter was called upon to do pretty much everything, and after disappearing for most of the third quarter, she answered the bell in the fourth and hit the one shot she needed to hit in overtime. She rebounded, she dished- near the end of the game, she even played intense Rutgers defense to stymie Candice Wiggins and force a shot clock violation. These are the games we pay her for. These are the games people chant MVP at her for. It was good to see Plenette Pierson back in the lineup, and she had a solid game, with her first basket coming off a gorgeous shovel pass from Cappie. Essence Carson was solid, especially in the fourth and the overtime. She's so good when she's good.

The defense for both teams was on point, until the very last play of the game. You are all probably familiar with my basketball experience- I spend a lot of time on my butt watching it, but that's the extent of it. I never played, never coached, never worked for a team. So how is it that I feel like the only person who looked at the final play and went "well, 00.5 is barely enough for a catch and shoot, but the safer bet is to go for the alley-oop, since that gives you a margin to catch if you flub the pass... Cambage is out of the game, so the only person it can logically go to is Glory Johnson, so guard the living hell out of Johnson and don't let her catch the ball"? I don't think she's been that open since high school! Complete defensive breakdown, and only by a hundredth of a second did we escape double overtime.

Go home, officials, you're drunk. I think Cambage had more attempts than the entire Liberty team. As near as I could tell, both teams were attacking the basket with equal passion, but there seemed to be more whistles when the Shock had the ball than when the Liberty had the ball. That's not all on bad officiating; the rookies and Kara had a tendency to get out of position. But my eyebrows went up when I realized how many attempts Cambage had from the line. Of course, it also doesn't help when you can't hit your free throws!!! Berserk button pressed like someone impatiently summoning an elevator!

I was surprised not to see Williams or Goodrich, but supposedly they're both injured.

I like the new intro video, but give me back my "Strike It Up" when the team comes out onto the court.

Lots of Knicks in the house: Allan Houston (oooh, he suits up pretty), Rasheed Wallace, Iman Shumpert, rocking a fantastic cityscape shirt. (Yes, I look for these things.) Jay-Z was also there.

Booo to the girl and her mother who stole two of my Sharpies. Those weren't gifts, and no, you can't have a third one "for my aunt", you little scam artist.

That was a heck of an escape, and I'm really impressed with Tulsa's potential. On to what's left of Indiana, I suppose.

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