NEWARK, NJ - The result was the same on Friday evening at the Prudential Center.
The New York Liberty did not collapse in the third quarter, which has been the case in the recent past. Regardless, there was a 66-57 setback at the hands of the Washington Mystics.
New York fell behind by 10 after one quarter. They came out strong with the proverbial bounce in their step going on a 12-0 run to open the second stanza. The Liberty held a 34-33 lead at the half and were down a point entering those final 10 minutes. At that point the Mystics imposed their will on the contest, earning a nice road win.
Washington coach Mike Thibault credited the defense with the outcome.
"We made them (Liberty) work," Thibault said. "Our defense was big and it is hard to hold a team to 23 second half points."
Thibault noted the two teams faced each other several times, the last being only 10 days ago resulted in a 93-88 New York victory in D.C.
"As a result, we know each others sets pretty well," the coach continued. "And our defenses resulted in a game that was not aesthetically pleasing."
Style points aside, the Mystics also benefited from the sharp shooting of rookie Tierra Ruffin-Pratt. The rookie guard out of North Carolina finished with a dozen points on 6-for-9 shooting. In the deciding final quarter, she did the most damage scoring 10 points on a perfect five of five shooting from the perimeter.
"They (Liberty) were keying on Ivory (Latta) and Matee (Ajavon)," Thibault observed. "That left Tierra open. It was a case of pick your poison."
In this case New York found no antidote.
Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer again cited turnovers (18 leading to 14 Mystic points) and Washington's ability to get second shots in the stretch. Of further concern were added breakdowns on the defensive end at crunch time.
"They (Washington) broke us down off the dribble," Laimbeer said. "They found open shooters and made us pay."
The offense on New York's end struggled again. Cappie Pondexter led the way with 14 points. Katie Smith found the range in the final quarter finishing with 12. No other Liberty player hit double digits. Matee Ajavon - a former star of Shabazz High School of Newark and Rutgers - made a strong homecoming, pacing all scorers with 16 points. Crystal Langhorne added 14 points, 6 boards for the Mystics.
Walking down the hallway outside the locker room, Washington coach Marianne Stanley reflected post game saying, "Last time here we were in a position to win but lost it the last eight minutes. Tonight our team remembered that and finished strong."
None, arguably, stronger that Ruffin-Pratt with her sucession of outside shots that proved to be daggers to the Liberty.