The WNBA moved the three-point line back, but that had little effect on Kara Lawson and the Connecticut Sun.
Last season's Eastern Conference regular season champions bent but never broke against the New York Liberty in an 81-69 win on Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena to begin the 2013 season. Connecticut was far from overwhelming shooting the ball, making 31 of 78 shots from the floor with only 16 points in the paint, despite the presence of 2012 WNBA MVP Tina Charles. But the Sun hit 10 of 26 shots from beyond the arc, allowing them to gain momentum and pull away from the Liberty.
This season, the WNBA moved the three-point line back to the international distance of 22'1-3/4", which made some believe that perimeter shooting would become a struggle. But with Connecticut, which has multiple players who play overseas in the offseason, the change appears to be a non-factor.
However, it was Lawson, who does not play overseas due to her commitment with ESPN as a college basketball analyst during the WNBA's offseason, who led the way on Saturday, scoring 23 points while shooting 5-9 from behind the three-point line.
"You would think Kara might be the one [to struggle] since she didn't play overseas," Coach Anne Donovan said. "But we shot the ball pretty well out there, didn't we?"
How does Lawson maintain the sweet stroke from beyond the arc despite not playing on a regular basis during the WNBA's offseason? The former Tennessee star revealed that she always finds a gym to play in.
"If I'm doing a team's game, whether it's men's or women's, whatever game I'm doing, if I'm wherever, I call up the coaches, and I say, ‘Can I get in your practice facility?' I've never been told no," Lawson said. "People are fantastic, men's program, women's program, wherever."
On the defensive side of the ball, Connecticut struggled at times in the first half, allowing New York to shoot 50 percent from the field en route to 42 points. In the second half, Connecticut only allowed New York to shoot 29.3 percent en route to 27 points.
A big boost for Connecticut was their ability to win the battle on the boards in the second half. After being outrebounded 20-15 in the first half, the Sun turned it around in the second half with a 27-17 advantage.
"The effort that we had the second half defensively, the ball did not drop that much in the first half, so we talked about getting more O-glass in the second half and trying to get shots to fall that way, and I thought we really focused in and did that," Donovan said.
Donovan also praised rookie Kelly Faris for what she can bring to the table, but feels that she left the former UConn guard out on the floor too long in her debut, even though she only played seven minutes and 37 seconds on the night.
"[Faris] hasn't really been with us very much, so she's still trying to get her cardio, her conditioning up, and she did a great job," Donovan said. "She just changes defensively. It changes the look that [Allison Hightower] gives us, Tan [White] gives us, even Kalana [Greene] gives us, so I like what she does defensively. It gives me one more style defensive player to put out there."