Newark, NJ - This was not pretty. Still, one has yet to meet a coach who would 'throw one back" because it desperately lacked artistic beauty. Translated, it's a win, take it, put in in the W column, and move on. The New York Liberty outlasted the Washington Mystics 75-71 at the Prudential Center on Thursday. The tempo-free stats and notes to follow.
NY Liberty 71
NY Liberty 106
The Four Factors:
eFG FT Rate OREB Pct TO Rate
Wash. 55 14 35 25
NY Liberty 52 14 28 20
Liberty coach John Whisenant praised the New York defense. A 55% eFG mark is not what you want. On the other hand, forcing the opposition to cough the ball up on one quarter of their possessions is desirable. What Whisenant elaborated on was defense when it counted. "We were lethargic defensively, especially the first half," he admitted. "Down the stretch when we had to respond on the defensive end, we did." A main reason this very 'losable' game wound up in a victory.
A quarter-by-quarter breakdown by offensive efficiency follows:
1 2 3 4
Wash. 88 111 105 88
NY Liberty 84 94 117 129
Down three entering the final ten minutes, the Liberty responded with a 22-15 final quarter advantage. The defense was solid but the offense came alive as well. The first quarter was quite unbearable. Not only were the efficiencies lacking but turnovers were the norm. The TO rate at the quarter :
NY Liberty 26%
The layoff following the all star break and injuries that affected practices took a toll on the Liberty in the first half. "We were rusty and it showed,"' Whisenant noted. The coach pointed out the Liberty assisted on 5 of their 14 first half field goals and made NO trips to the line, a certain display of offensive stagnation. The final twenty minutes saw his club assist on 11 of their 16 field goals and shoot 9-of-13 from the charity stripe. The Liberty assisted on 69% of their second half field goals after intermission in contrast to a 36% showing the first half.
In pre-game notes we discussed Matee Ajavon, the Mystic guard who starred at Newark's Shabazz High School and Rutgers. Ajavon's return to Brick City was less than memorable. She scored 7 points while handing out one assist and committing three turnovers. However, another New Jersey native caught everyone's attention and admiration. Crystal Langhorne, a former standout at Willingboro High School (in South Jersey) and Maryland, paced the Mystics with 18 points, adding a game high 9 rebounds, four on the offensive glass.
The Liberty's Cappie Pondexter led all scorers with 19 points while sharp-shooting Kelly Miller chipped in with 17 points for the Mystics (7-of-9 from the floor). Kia Vaughn gave New York some inside presence with 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Courtside seating afforded another close up near the visitors' bench. Actually, third quarter I gave up the prime position to meet and join Swish Appeal colleague, Queenie, and her husband and get acquainted while sharing some insight. From an officiating perspective near the Mystics' sideline, you can see Trudi Lacey of Washington would be great to work for. She questioned a few things, especially a charge against her club with 32 seconds to go that wiped out a go-ahead basket, but was always open to dialogue. Again, as officials that is virtually all we ask for.
The Win Scores (of note):
Kelly Miller 9 - A shooter (7 -of-9 and 1-for-1 from the floor), Miller is a guard capable of a solid WS, providing she's hitting.
Crystal Langorne 8 - Only setbacks, 2-of-6 from the line and 4 TOs. Other than that, a solid outing.
Plenette Pierson 5.5 - If she didn't miss a breakaway layup in the third quarter, she would have had Langhorne type numbers. Still, not bad thanks to a well rounded 13 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 rejections.
Cappie Pondexter -2 - Cappie got scoring honors but Win Score frowns on 8-of-18 shooting and four turnovers.
Can't forget a vital stat...Washington is now 3-13 while the Liberty improve to 10-7. A tough test with Phoenix awaits Saturday evening at the Rock.
Congratulations to Sue Wicks on her Ring of Honor selection. Seemed like not that long ago we were touting her as the 'Wicked Wicks of the East' during her Rutgers days. The only time Wicks was wicked was to the opposition. She's a class act, had a great career and very deserving of any accolades coming her way.