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Liberty Suffers An Epiphan(n)y

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Epiphanny Prince's 26 points led the Chicago Sky over the New York Liberty 73-64. Sylvia Fowles chipped in 10 points and 12 rebounds for the Sky. Cappie Pondexter led the Liberty with 22 points, seven assists, and six rebounds.

For inexplicable benchings, the putting of feet in mouths, college loyalty, shaking my head, and the shouldering of burdens, join your intrepid and really cranky blogger after the jump.

Blessed be the name of the air conditioning. We overdid it a little on the timing, and we're at the Prudential Center at 2:18. There's some goings-on going on, but I only know that because it has to do with one of my mom's friends. The Usual Suspects are starting to drift in, while some of the others are hanging out outside. Why, I don't know. The sun is beating down out there like nobody's business. (If you want to make a Tina Charles and Asjha Jones reference, I'm not going to stop you.)

The Sky are pretty good with autographs. I think Swin Cash is starting to get jaded and cynical about giving autographs, and with everything I've seen on eBay, I can't blame her. Carolyn Swords still has to get the hang of it, though. You shouldn't be less of a challenge than the stars on your team. Kym Hampton messed with Sylvia Fowles a little, imitating a starstruck fangirl. I thought it was cute; the husband felt it was mocking the fans.

If you objected to the playing of "Radio Gaga" at this game, it's probably my mother's fault. She's the one in the Ashley Battle jersey, you can take it up with her. Of course, if you object to the playing of Queen, you have no taste in music and likely no soul, and I do not wish to associate with you.

The arena is still done up in Devils gear. Red Alert banners are hung in seemingly random places, and the NBC Sports studio is still in place. They also added extra Devils art during the playoffs. I just love this feeling of being a tenant.

The biddy game isn't completely awful. There was at least one basket.

How do you do a military appreciation day and not have a color guard? Or a military performer for the anthem? At least there was only one gods-awful camo uniform.

We can't stop Sylvia Fowles. I do wish Swin Cash would stop fouling people, though. Has anyone seen Leilani Mitchell's shot? I'm worried about Plenette's knee. 38-27, we're jacking threes, and the refs are really letting them play.

There are some things I don't expect from Nicole Powell. Saying multi-tieredly stupid things is one of them. Anything along the lines of "I know we all love a man in uniform" during a military salute at a WNBA game is not a good plan. (I don't have the exact phrasing handy, but it was definitely first-person plural and definitely included "love a man in uniform".) First of all, the odds are pretty good that a significant portion of the audience, be they gay women or straight men, would prefer a woman in uniform. Second, as my husband (who used to work with an Army-sponsored event) pointed out, in what universe is it appropriate to insert a come-on into a salute to the troops?

It really amazes me that I saw better defense played on Carolyn Swords, in college, by three undersized posts who never sniffed the WNBA than I do when she's with the Sky and being defended by WNBA players who are roughly her size. I mean, really, Kara. Really, Kia. Tamera Young going coast to coast and firing off a no-look pass to her for the lay-up was the icing on the cake of fail. She's not on par with their other posts, but that's a heck of a par. Sonja Petrovic shows promise, but she didn't look great. Forcing a jumper in double-coverage is not a good plan, even when you're a shooter. I like the way she moves, though. Very slinky. Le'Coe Willingham used someone's trading card to prove to Sylvia Fowles that she used to be much thicker. Other than that, I didn't think she was a factor in the game. Young has interestingly quick hands, but that funky wind-up in her shot gets me every time. I'm sorry, Tamera. It's distracting! I like that she's not afraid to go to the floor.

Swin Cash definitely channeled her inner Bad Girl today. I swear I thought I saw her throw a roll-block on DeMya Walker that probably got her calls from the Bears, the Seahawks, the Lions, and the Steelers. She always seemed to be in the thick of things. Things happen around her, though I can't put my finger on it. Ruth Riley had the elbows out today. I'm surprised, because I thought she abandoned them a long time ago, but they were out on screens. She and DeMya got into it hot and heavy late in the game. She also brought out the little outside jumper that has been murdering us since she was with the Miami Sol and Tamika Bleeping Whitmore was the player who couldn't guard it. She set screens and got out of everyone's way. Courtney Vandersloot looked in over her head today. She did well against Leilani Mitchell, but that's about it. I'm surprised she only got tagged with two turnovers, but that's as much to do with the Liberty's inability to grab loose balls. I'm also surprised that the Liberty lost this badly with the guards not looking for Sylvia Fowles. She had a double-double either in the first half or very early in the second. I think she was part of why we shot so many threes in the first half, and why we were playing a zone defense for stretches. There was a moment where I was a little freaked out for her, because having Kia Vaughn sit on your leg is presumably not a pleasant experience, but after a couple of seconds of hopping, she seemed to be fine. I hope she is.

And then there was Epiphanny Prince, who played unconscious offense. No one could stop her. Everyone tried, from Leilani to Kia and everyone in between. I don't know that she had much of an influence on the game otherwise, but when you score 26 points and your team wins, you don't need to fill much else in the box score. It did bother me that she was still chucking in the last minute with her team up double figures, and it definitely bothered me that on the Sky's next-to-last possession, she held the ball for twenty seconds; the only time another Chicago player touched it was when Cash pulled down the offensive rebound from Prince's shot. You have teammates, Piph. This Fowles kid is pretty good.

Kara Braxton appears to get less competent every game. Whether it's being out-played by Swords or being generally useless on both ends of the floor, she looked like a waste of everything out there. I can't even joke about her huge tracts of land anymore, and I don't even want to bring up her badly colored weave (Kara, if I can see it's a weave from the nineteenth row, because the coloring is so badly off, you might want to find a new salon). It's sad and pathetic. Nicole Powell had a couple of quick threes where we thought she was going to find her groove and be the Nicole Powell who ruined us in Sacramento, but then she got scared to shoot her shot and became a defensive liability, and we were back to the defective Nicole that Chicago clearly arranged for us to have when they stole Shameka Christon from us. Kelly Miller played briefly, and while she was better than Leilani against Vandersloot, that was the only thing she brought to the table. I'm really tired of her inability to shoot. She's approaching Teresa Weatherspoon shooting issues here, except without any of Spoon's other qualities (like great defense, passion, court vision, and a personality). DeMya Walker brought the physicality and one spectacular dive that had us chanting "TEN! TEN! TEN!". She was going at it with Riley like Riley said something bad about her momma.

Plenette Pierson still isn't back to a hundred percent (the word from one of our sources is that it's an upper calf injury), and I'm worried about her both physically and mentally. I wouldn't be surprised if she gets reported with a neck or head injury in the next couple of days after running headlong into Vandersloot, and I question the thought process that went into trying to set that hard screen in the first place. She didn't seem to be in good temper all night. A lot of times she was doing a lot of talking with interestingly intense facial expressions. Maybe I'm overreacting, or reading too much into things I can't hear since I'm in the nineteenth row, but I don't like the body language. We're going to need her to be at full strength and sound of mind if we're going to make anything out of this schitzophrenic season.

Meanwhile... Essence Carson didn't play as much in the first half as we're used to, mostly because Nicole was not being her usual waste of space. In the second half, she started going into more of the rotations and seemed to be a bit of a sparkplug. I'd like for her to be more careful with her ballhandling, since Vandersloot was hounding her hard all night. I'd also like for her block on Fowles to have been counted as a block, since it was pretty awesome, but I'm not the official scorer. Leilani Mitchell regressed very, very badly to the start of the season. Her shooting was off, she was taking her shots too deep, she was ineffective on defense, and she was pounding the ball into the ground way too long on possessions, especially in the second half. It was not pretty, and her only saving grace was her hustle. (That, and Kelly was worse.) Kia Vaughn was solid, with a lot of help from the rim. No joke, I think all of her first six or seven points went in courtesy of the rim. I'd have liked to see her be more aggressive against Fowles, but I understand why she wouldn't be. Cappie Pondexter tried to do everything, and she's going to kill herself trying. Whiz ran her into the ground because our regular point guards were Bad and Worst, shifting her around both the point and the shooting guard. I think all her free throws came on and-1s. She looked like a star... but she looked like a star the way she did in 2009, the way Hammon did in 2006, like the Star of Bethlehem on a Christmas card: alone with nothing around her.

The officiating tightened up in the second half, but it still threatened to turn into a scrum. Humphries, Mauer, and Bonner have all been in the league a long time. If you've got two of the original Bad Girls (Riley and Braxton), along with two more Shock alumnae (Pierson and Cash) and DeMya Walker, you need to set the tone early before someone's face gets rearranged, or Riley is going to end up elbowing Braxton in her... huge tracts of land... or almost nailing DeMya in the face with an elbow (and I think Zachara is sick of seeing her mother writhe in pain on the floor, so good thing that didn't happen), or Cash is going to throw a roll-block. I know it's not fair to judge players on prior reputations, but sometimes you have to show a little common sense.

I think we scared Melissa, the poor unlucky soul, with our complaints about people coming in late. Season ticket reps, I understand that you have no control over arena personnel, believe me; what we're hoping is that you can pass the word along to people at the arena who do have control and suggest that if people are wandering in during the second quarter, that they be asked to wait for a stoppage of play. And that once they are in the aisle, they don't decide to stand there and dither, or chat with friends while standing, or argue over who gets what seats. And the complaint she got first- that the Pru Center food service personnel weren't wearing hairnets or other sanitary protection- was a lot more important.

Do not cheer loudly for members of the opposing team if you're sitting next to hardcore fans in the section behind the home bench. I don't care if you're a Rutgers fan who wants to cheer for Prince. Our Girls Syndrome is cute, but it's detrimental to the long-term health of the league. At least these RU fans remembered to cheer for Cappie, Essence, and Kia. We've dealt with a few who cheered for Prince, or Ajavon, or Sutton-Brown, and not bothered cheering for the Liberty's RU alumnae.

(The fans in question ended up moving down a few rows. If we scared them off, I can't find it in myself to care.)

Apparently there is a group of fans in the endcourt section closest to the Liberty bench that's chanting for Alex Montgomery to get into the game every game. I haven't heard them, but it's cute that they care.

I don't know what to think about this team anymore. I really don't. I don't want Cappie to have to carry them. That doesn't end well.