Liberty use 3-pointers to outlast Sun 81-77
Mohegan — Natisha Hiedeman and Courtney Williams are two of the more colorful characters on the Connecticut Sun, both quick with a smile or a quip.
It spoke volumes, then, when the two trudged slowly into the media room following Wednesday night’s game looking like they both endured dental surgery.
The Sun played their second straight clunker and lost 81-77 to the New York Liberty before 4,652 at Mohegan Sun Arena. They fell behind early in the first half because they couldn’t stop the Liberty from raining down threes, nor could they string together enough offensive runs.
“We’re going to look in the mirror each and every one of us and see how we can be better and how we can improve individually,” Hiedeman said.
Sabrina Ionescu had 11 points, 11 rebounds and six assists for the Liberty (7-10) and old UConn favorite Stefanie Dolson scored 16 with six rebounds and four assists. Reserve Sami Whitcomb made four 3-pointers and scored 14 and Natasha Howard also scored 14.
Jonquel Jones had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Sun (12-6) and Williams had 16 points and seven rebounds. DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones both scored 12, too.
“Disappointing tonight,” Connecticut head coach Curt Miller said. “(The Liberty) just had us on our heels with their offensive aggression and ball movement and tempo all night. And while we outscored them the second, third and fourth quarters and a second half where we held them to 30 points, then we couldn’t find an offensive groove enough to make up for a disappointing first quarter defensively.”
New York’s record isn’t exactly indicative of its talent as its dealt with both injuries and late arrivals.
The Liberty were without four players on Wednesday — Rebecca Allen (concussion protocol), Betnijah Laney (knee), Jocelyn Willoughby (knee) and Han Xu (non-COVID illness). Laney, Xu and Allen are among the team’s top six scorers.
New York doesn’t lack shooters, however, one of which was French wing Marine Johannès who joined the team in June. She scored nine of her 11 points in the first quarter, including making three 3-pointers.
“We were behind actions with Johannes all night,” Miller said. “It was Johannes that kept creating separation and disadvantages for us and they found those and they moved the ball and they shared the ball.
“The ball didn’t stick for them and you felt it. It felt like we were always behind actions because of it.”
The Liberty spent the first half making threes while Connecticut scored two at a time. They shot 10-of-20 from behind in the arc in the first 20 minutes. They finished making 40.6 percent (13-of-32).
The Sun shot 41.9 percent from the floor.
Connecticut opened the second quarter with an 11-0 run to take a 28-27 lead with over six minutes left in the half.
The Liberty didn’t trail for long as they hit the Sun with a volley of threes. Howard made the first, followed by Crystal Dangerfield and Whitcomb, to put them back ahead, 36-30, with over five minutes remaining.
New York never trailed again.
Brionna Jones’ layup cut the Sun’s deficit to 38-34. The Liberty answered with more threes. Ionescu made the first and Whitcomb added two more as New York took their biggest lead of the game, 47-34, with 2:48 left in the half.
The Liberty started the game strong as they shot a robust 61.1 percent in the first quarter to go ahead, 27-17.
Connecticut did itself no favors by missing 13 of 21 shots (38.1 percent) in the first quarter.
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