NEWARK, NJ - Opening night at the Prudential Center provided thrills and excitement. But no victory for the host Liberty. What went wrong ?Actually, there were good points to be taken from this contest. The final ten minutes however gave coach John Whisenant and his Liberty club, a little notice on what must be corrected.
First off, it is unfair to say the Liberty simply blew the game or just let it slip away. Give Indiana credit. They entered the final quarter down 70-62 to a team that defeated them a night earlier in Hoosier country. Pulling this one out and exiting the Rock with a W was no easy task. The Fever saw their offense come alive and their defense do the same. The Liberty were the opposite on both ends. Whisenant made a very good point noting, "when you defend your offense is sharper. When your defense is poor you start standing around and stagnating on offense." In that final quarter the Liberty epitomized what Whisenant was discussing. Their defense became non existent and the offense followed suit.
The Liberty mentor also pointed out a rethinking of the rotation is in order. He felt the call should have gone out to a few younger players earlier to keep the veterans' legs fresh for the stretch. Especially in this situation having played a game 24 hours prior.
Kept a chart of the first four minutes of the opening and third quarters. Scrapped that to chart the final four minutes of the game. The deciding four as it turned out.
Score: 78-77 NY
1. TO Missed shot
2. TO 2 pt FG
3. TO Offensive foul
4. 2 PT FG Missed shot
5. 2 FTs Missed shot
6. TO TO
7. 3 PT FG (Jeanette Pohlen's 'dagger') Missed shot
8. 2 FTs Missed shot
That is a 9-2 Fever edge the last four minutes. Efficiency wise it plays out to a 113-25 Indiana favor. Crunch time response indeed !
Players of note:
Essence Carson, Liberty : Led all with 23 points. Hit 3 of 5 from three and a perfect 6 of 6 from the line. Showed good ability on perimeter and in attacking the basket.
Cappie Pondexter, Liberty : A little shot first for a lead guard but did have a 13 point night. Actually a better performer inthe road wins at Atlanta (12 points 11 assists) and Indiana (21 points).
Nicole Powell, Liberty : A versatile 13 points, 5 assists, 3 steal outing for the 6-2 forward.
Pienette Pierson, Liberty : A 16 point scorer, Pierson can operate in the paint or move outside the lane for the mid range jumper.
Tamika Catchings, Indiana : Scored a team high 19 points and was a matchup problem inside and out down the stretch.
Katie Douglas, Indiana : What's not to like ? A solid 17 point outing from the former Purdue star.
Briann January, Indiana : Scored 13 points but had 9 the crucial fourth quarter.
Jeanette Pohlen, Indiana : Solid 14 points in relied. Included were 4 of 4 from three including a huge trey in the waning seconds that sealed it.
On the final stats was a line that 'jumped off the page'. Listed were team offensive possessions. The numbers...
Again, on the offensive efficiency end the results were
"We beat a very good team tonight. They (NY) have a different style. They are faster, stronger and play so much quicker. Goodness gracious did you see those teams go at it ? Hard to believe this was only the third game of the season." - Fever coach Lin Dunn
The Rock as host.....Overall, a good night. The crowd was just under 8,000 but Whisenant said, "it sounded like 15,000. They were great I'm disappointed we couldn't give them a win."
Concourse had a few Liberty booths and stands as well as a Diabetes prevention booth and one with a few representatives of the Seton Hall women's team.
Liberty had a number of promotions and two dance teams to keep fans entertained during time outs.
PS announcer was a little too 'ambitious' for the Liberty. That's not his fault. Seems to be the norm in NBA arenas these days where management can sometimes forget the game is the attraction.
A few credentialed writers had no seat assigned but the Liberty staff was very flexible and worked things out minus any difficulty.
Only note of contention was press room was minus coffee. Not a big deal but yours truly is a coffee 'fiend'. Went to a Mrs. Field's stand at halftime and bouts a cup for $3.50. Sounds expensive but it's still cheaper than a gallon of gas in NJ.
Fan parking was roughly $12. Not the cheapest but I have seen much worse.
Post game, no security knew where the interview area was. Again patience and helpful Liberty staffers came to the media's assistance.
Overall, for a first time out, not bad at all as the Rock proved a great host. Any kinks will be ironed out very shortly down the road,.