ST. PAUL, Minn. -- And so the second half of the season begins.
Cheryl Reeve and her Minnesota Lynx had just two losses on the season headed into tonight’s matchup.
The New York Liberty lost to the Lynx back in May and had no intentions of a repeat. Despite a furious comeback tonight, the Liberty would stumble and fall 76-75 to the top team in the league.
"We definitely came out with a statement and that was one of the biggest things that Bill (Laimbeer) preached," said Charles. "He wanted us to show forth, especially to the league, that New York Liberty isn’t a team that is still on a roller coaster. We are regaining our identity.”
Tina Charles played well throughout the first half but seemed to be the only one dealing for New York on the floor. She scored 20 points with 10 rebounds — already a double-double before a locker room pep talk.
It was Minnesota’s dangerous duo of Sylvia Fowles and Maya Moore that kept the ball in the Lynx’s control. Moore led the night with 27 points. But they could only tap into a double digit lead over the Liberty and lead by eight at the half.
The Minnesota defense shined in the second. So much so, Charles was unable to drop a bucket in the third quarter. In fact, she only took one shot. It tanked. Rebecca Allen took the torch for Charles on the offense and scored eight.
But Moore responded, picking the pocket and popping a three to stick a 59-52 lead. Then New York cut the deficit to three heading into the fourth.
Epiphanny Prince led the Liberty’s fierce comeback in the remaining minutes of the game. With 1:38 left, Prince sunk a jump shot to tie it up at 74-74. But Lindsay Whalen came back for the Lynx, with a quick pivot, float, and basket to put Minnesota up by two.
"We got a little bit crossed up because we wanted to take the ball out on the other side of the floor," explained Minnesota Head Coach Cheryl Reeve on Whalen's winning shot. "It was designed where Whay was supposed to drive baseline, so I guess she got cut off and she made lemonade."
The defense held on tight. With Prince sent to the line, making one out of two shots, Minnesota stuck to the slimmest of leads to stay on top. New York couldn’t complete their fierce comeback.
The Lynx won it on their last defensive possession. Plus, they tallied another win to their “W” column as they're on track for a record-breaking season.
"We were fortunate to win the game," said Reeve. "That’s a trademark of this team is finding a way to win."
Fowles also recorded her 500th block and then some, becoming only the seventh player to touch the 500 mark in league history.
“It’s a good accomplishment,” Fowles stated. “You have to give credit to my teammates, they swarm those little ones into the paint towards me, so thank you to our guards.”
New York and Minnesota meet again for the third time this season on August 20th in New York. Minnesota faces Atlanta Friday at 7:30 pm EST and New York is set to play Indiana on Friday as well at 7 pm EST.