The Washington Mystics defeated the Liberty 82-55 Friday night at Madison Square Garden. Although the game did not have significance in terms of standings, the two teams could see each other in the first round of playoffs. The Mystics lead the series between the two teams 3-1, and the win against the Liberty could be a confidence boost for Washington moving into postseason play.
The Liberty had playoffs on their mind as several key players saw fewer minutes than normal for resting purposes. Coach Bill Laimbeer was also testing different combinations among players, with rookie Erica Wheeler receiving playing time that was promising for the Liberty. Wheeler, a former Rutgers University standout, scored a quick eight points in the first half and finished the game with 10 points.
New York used the roster hardship provision to add Wheeler. Wheeler was signed after Brittany Boyd was sidelined due to a fractured left wrist just two games before.
The New York Liberty's defense had no response to Washington's offense. The Mystics hit seven shots behind the arc in the first half alone, and finished the two-quarters shooting 53 percent from the field. They lead 47-34 at half time, and the Liberty didn't take the lead in he second half. Washington outscored New York all four quarters.
Tierra Ruffin-Pratt led Washington with 15 points, and Emma Meesseman seconded that effort with 14 points and eight rebounds. Ally Malott added twelve points to the winning effort, and Kia Vaughn almost had a double-double appearance with nine points and nine rebounds.
Avery Warley-Talbert led the Liberty in scoring for the first time this season with 12 points. Epiphanny Prince finished with 9 points for New York. It was only the second time in 23 games Prince didn't reach double figures.
New York and Washington will play their last regular season games September 13. The Liberty will travel to Indiana, and Washington faces Atlanta at home.