Sun vs. Liberty Notes: Pondexter spearheads strong Liberty win, 75-54

Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

Just the Facts, Ma'am: It was a slow start for the visiting Liberty, but the intensity picked up in the second half in their 75-54 win at Connecticut. Cappie Pondexter led New York with 17 points, while Anna Cruz added 11 with nine rebounds. Chiney Ogwumike led Connecticut with 13 points and was one of four players to notch a team-high five rebounds. For excitement, the magic touch, cheap heat, friendly staffers, odd smells, decoration, sexy jerseys, and leaping to conclusions, join your intrepid and humid blogger after the jump.

SQUEE! SEASON!

Yes, as a matter of fact, that has pretty much been your intrepid blogger's rallying cry for the last week or so. I have never claimed to be 100% eloquent and erudite at all times.

I'm currently sitting in the box office lobby at Mohegan Sun, as we finished dinner somewhat earlier than I anticipated, so I'm killing time with some pre-game notes. We've already seen some of the Usual Suspects, and more might come out of the woodwork. I've decided to forego wearing the Lobo jersey to Sun games- rocking the Kym Hampton #34 these days. I don't want anyone to even consider that I might have Connecticut sympathies. Not anymore. Just because they have four straight first-round picks of ours, that doesn't mean I have to like them.

Connecticut's pretty in the spring. Lots of young trees growing tall in the woods on the side of the road. You can take that as symbolic of Ogwumike, Thomas, et al if you like.

Every time the bus swoops into the garage, I think wistfully of Margo. The clearance is 7'2", and I always thought they should have had cutouts of her by the entrance to the garage.

Mohegan is currently hosting the Connecticut Republican convention. There are lots of very intent people in stars and stripes and red, white, and blue walking around with large passes about their necks. I don't know what to think of this. I guess it's just a thing. (Unfortunately, the drunken idiot who yelled "AMERICA!" at us and tried to high-five my husband was not affiliated with them. I think he was drunk, saw the word "LIBERTY" emblazoned on our chests, and assumed that we were about to begin a Team America: World Police segment.)

So as a Liberty fan, that was a very satisfying game. There are a couple of questions remaining, but not as many as we expected. Of course, this could change from game to game.

Young Mohegan staff tonight, and they were all really nice. Of course, we made an effort to be nice to them- when you're a fan on the road, always be nice to the arena people. You're in their house, you play by their rules. Special thanks to Brittany from security, who grabbed my backpack out of bag check while we were on the autograph line, and John who was willing to help us out with our unfortunate plight of sitting next to a gentleman marinating in the aroma of stale urine, old sweat, and cheap beer.

Really whiny anthem. The singer didn't have the voice to carry off any of the big notes. At least she got the words right.

Mohegan finally got a center-hung scoreboard! It is shiny. Works pretty well, too, which is always a plus for new shinies.

Toni Young played a little, mostly in the first half, and did not impress- she continues to be remarkably athletic, but with no basketball acumen or demonstrable unique skills. Chucky Jeffery had a pretty good game in the second half, depite the PA guy initially calling her Chucky Jefferson. She ran a little bit of point and hit a couple of sweet jumpers. Sugar Rodgers should not ballhandle, ever, unless your other options are Kara Braxton or a literal shambling corpse. She has a very uncontrolled dribble. She's showing a lot of hustle, but it's not always translating into good plays. She made a great defensive play on the baseline to recover a loose ball, then promptly bounced it off the top of her sneaker- that kind of thing. I think she's meant to be an instant offense player, and whatever else she brigns to the table is gravy, but she got really, really open a couple of times and no one saw her. Also, plans that involve Sugar and Chucky on the floor together are bad plans. We got away with it tonight, but I don't think they go well together. Kara Braxton showed a lot of hustle and fire on defense, more than I've seen from her in a long time. I think Bill might have preferred to see her pull down those balls she batted around, but she fought for loose balls and got them to her teammates. I don't actually know if I've ever seen her hustle after missed shots like that. She kept two or three plays alive. She and Sugar actually had a nice rapport. Alex Montgomery was a demon on the defensive end, flying after shots- she had a resounding deflection on a pass meant for Chiney Ogwumike that had all the force of a blocked shot. She was hot early on offense- I hope the corner three was a harbinger of things to come. It was good to see Plenette Pierson back on the floor, even if she does have the Creature from the Black Lagoon attached to her knee like a limpet. More importantly, it was good to hear her back on the floor- her leadership is very vocal, and she plays a big part in making sure the newcomers find their place on the floor. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if she ended up a coach someday.

¡Anna Cruuuuuuuuuuuuz! She was awesome tonight. She kept a steady hand on the offense, for the most part (there were a couple of boneheaded passes to players in white jerseys). She hassled ballhandlers and came up with some nice boards. I don't think we're going to get this kind of offensive production from her every night (though I am TOTALLY OKAY with that), but if we get half of that from her at the PG spot, I think we'll be ahead of where we expected to be. Plus, Giant fans will have more opportunities to unleash the CRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUZ. DeLisha Milton-Jones had the outside shot working a little bit, but also got up inside with the long arms for inside baskets and three-point plays. She also made life miserable for any Sun player who was around her (to be honest, I thought she should have gotten fouled for hitting Douglas in the face). Kelsey Griffin should know better, and Kelsey Bone should definitely know better. Cappie Pondexter was smooth and efficient. I don't mean to resurrect and rekill a dead horse here, but she's much more suited to the 2- less pressure on her to make plays for everyone else, more of a chance to get to the basket or pop the midrange J. Essence Carson was still a step slower than we're used to from her, and still seems to have trouble with the various lines on the floor (though she did have one perfectly timed long ball: "Five! Four! Threeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-point goal, Esssenccccceeeeeeee Carson!" Defensively she's still strong and still game, but as Bill said, we probably won't see her back 100% on offense until 2015. Tina Charles started a little slow, but was more assertive later in the game. She's still taking some dumb shots- long jumpers that she has no business shooting, forced shots while triple-teamed (isn't that what you whinged your way out of Connecticut to avoid?), that kind of thing. I think some of the alley-oops to Kara were practice for throwing those to Tina.

It's humid out here, pouring down rain as we head south on I-95. The A/C is at that awkward stage where it's just cold enough to be uncomfortable, but not conditioning enough to dehumidify as much as necessary. Something's pounding on the right side of my head, but there are still Game Notes to note. Plus, turning off the light seems to have helped with the headache. Go figure.

Kelley Cain played solid defense for the few minutes that she was in, but good Lord, she could not throw it in the ocean. She tried to use the glass like she was Tim Duncan, but she wasn't even Jessica Davenport. Danielle McCray had a tendency to sneak into the game without proper introduction, and I can't remember a thing she did. Kayla Pedersen put in work on the boards, but that was about it. Renee Montgomery was out there, and ran the offense decently, but she seemed less integrated into the scoring portion of the offense than I would have expected. I feel like Donovan is trying to turn her into more of a distributor, and I'm not sure how effective that is with her skillset and style of play. Then again, she's a more capable ballhandler than most of their other guards. Kelsey Bone played very well- got some strong baskets down low and cleared space. She got most of her scoring done early, though. Alyssa Thomas seemed to be relying heavily on her strength- she's very solidly built, and bulled through several of her baskets, but at the same time, kept trying to fight through heavy contact instead of maybe taking a step back or passing the ball to one of her teammates.

I think Katie Douglas left her shots in the preseason. They weren't looking for her a lot, but she didn't deliver when they were. A fair amount of it was the Liberty defense, especially in the second and third quarters, when the game turned. She might actually have been stronger defensively tonight (which is not to say that Katie Douglas being strong on defense is a surprise). Chiney Ogwumike was excellent tonight, though I thought she hit more shots than she actually did. She gives almost as good as she gets down low- she's not a Bad Girl, but she can grab and hold as well as any savvy veteran down there. Kelsey Griffin got two early fouls and never seemed to have her head in the game after that. Alex Bentley took a lot of shots and committed stupid fouls. I'm not sure how much she facilitated her team's offense. During the preseason, a lot of that fell to Allison Hightower, but Hightower was more focused on defense- she did a lot of deflecting and a lot of running around after Cappie and Essence.

Connecticut's defense was really good to start the game, and showed strong flashes afterwards- but their offense was a hot mess. They missed easy shots, and took some bad ones. I don't think they were ready for the Liberty's big run.

I know Katie was trying to get over with the Connecticut crowd, but really, referring to her years in Indiana with "I took a sabbatical for a few years"? You won a title there, Katie. Do try not to downplay it quite so much.

I think it's a bit of a shame Faris didn't get into the game at the very end. Don't get me wrong, I think there are ulterior motives for her continued presence on the roster, but if you've got the cards, play the cards.

I'm really not sure what to think of Katie Smith with her hair down, black patent heels, and a little black dress. (Other than that, from our upper deck seats, with her hair down like that, at the angle we were at, she looked weirdly like Kim Barnes Arico, and I know that it's blasphemy to compare a Wolverine and a Buckeye. Fortunately, Katie talks with her hands a lot more than Kim. Kim just yells a lot.)

I loved the intensity that the Liberty showed from the second quarter on. They got down a little, then they fired it up and kept the heat on even with the reserves in the game. If we can keep this up, even a little, we'll be fine.

Of course, the two most decked out Liberty fans in the entire arena are sitting in the autograph section. So we grabbed our tickets and Moooose, and Kelly Faris and Alyssa Thomas were kind enough to take a picture with Moooose, which will be posted somewhere on the Internet once my computer decides to acknowledge my memory card. We also bought a pin to add to Moooose's headband.

Looking forward to the home opener!

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