Brittany Boyd sets up Liberty offense. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose of Hoops)
By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)
New York City - The Connecticut Sun entered Madison Square Garden with a 6-15 record, a bit deceptive, as the Sun have won three of their last five. Included was an overtime victory over Minnesota and road conquest of Indiana. The Liberty, at 16-7, had a four-game win streak snapped at Minnesota two nights earlier. Taking care of business on this sultry Sunday was, one would ascertain, job one for New York.
It was far from easy, and the Liberty were challenged. In the end, they did what elite teams did, finding a way to win as they posted an 83-76 victory. New York is now 17-7, while the Sun fall to 6-16.
First quarter: The first four minutes see the Sun get off to a good start, essential away from home. The score is 9-6 in their favor. Of greater significance is the fact they are establishing an inside game, with three of four field goals in the paint. In a fairly even quarter, Connecticut continues to scrap inside, with Alyssa Thomas doing some damage. Late in the quarter, Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer goes with a three-guard offense with Brittany Boyd, Shavonte Zellous and Sugar Rodgers. The trio allows New York to close the quarter on a positive note.
Score: New York 21, Connecticut 15
Second quarter: The first two minutes do not give us a field goal, instead yielding a plethora of whistles. Both teams are struggling to get into a flow early on. The Sun take advantage of Liberty miscues and errors of ball handling commission by turning them into transition opportunities. Tanisha Wright’s 15-footer at the 4:35 mark is the first New York field goal this quarter. The Liberty finish the quarter with four field goals, none in the paint, and are fortunate to be down just a bucket at intermission.
Score: Connecticut 39, New York 36
Offensive efficiency: Connecticut 91, New York 86
Third quarter: Connecticut gets out with another good start to win the first four minutes by an 8-6 count. The Liberty trail by four with a lot of time remaining. The danger here is letting the underdog Sun, on the road no less, keep hanging around. Outside of the latter part of quarter number one, the Liberty have not sustained a solid run. No sooner than I get done writing this and the Liberty put a run together. The reinsertion of Boyd in the lineup was a big factor.
Score: New York 55, Connecticut 53
Fourth quarter: The Liberty open the final stanza with that previously mentioned momentum. I am not a big plus/minus stats person, but this got my attention. The stat sheet at the end of the third quarter had Boyd as the game leader with a plus-12. Not surprised one bit. In fact, Boyd is running the offense for most of this fourth quarter. With three minutes to go, the Liberty lead 74-69. As has been said previously, championship contender teams close these games out. Jasmine Thomas has played well from the guard spot, Chiney Ogwumike is an effective scorer and rebounder. In the stretch, their teammates have not responded or provided support.
Final score: New York 83, Connecticut 76
Possessions: Connecticut 83, New York 84
Offensive efficiency: Connecticut 92, New York 99
eFG%: Connecticut 37, New York 48
Free Throw Rate: Connecticut 32, New York 42
Offensive Rebound%: Connecticut 26, New York 25
Turnover Rate: Connecticut 13, New York 19
Leading scorers and EF:
Connecticut: Chiney Ogwumike 18 points, EF 27
New York: Swin Cash 16 points, EF 24
What Connecticut did well: Get to the line. Coach Curt Miller wanted good ball movement to give the Sun a shot that was in each player’s range and could draw fouls. They definitely did the latter, attempting 26 free throws.
What the Liberty did well: Find a way to win. At times it can sound trite, but that was the case. Laimbeer admitted his team was a bit lethargic and in need of a soon-approaching rest. On a day they were challenged by an improved Connecticut team, the Liberty dug deep and found a way to get the win.
Notes of numeric consequence: Numbers can lie. The Liberty turnover rate was 19 percent, a borderline but acceptable mark. The damage was done as those errors led to 27 Sun points.
The Liberty attempted four three-pointers, hitting two. The Sun attempted 19, canning five for a 26 percent rate. Ogwumike and Tina Charles shared rebounding honors with 10 each.
Back to plus/minus, Charles and Cash led the way with at plus-15 while Boyd finished at plus-14. Numbers aside, the feeling here is Boyd (eight points, three rebounds, two assists and three steals in 29 minutes) sparked this win with her play off the bench.
The Liberty enjoyed a 36-28 advantage on points in the paint. Both teams were tied with 13 second chance points. The Sun held a 17-9 edge in fast break points, most coming off those Liberty turnovers.
Ogwumike (18 points) and Jasmine Thomas (16) combined for 34 of the Sun’s 76 points. As noted, they were the prime and only consistent threat for Connecticut.
“She’s a good player, coming off knee injury and hitting stride. We did not have energy. We weren’t executing, let them back in, didn’t run offense and they got the lead. Great contributor, played hard, gave us energy. She’s (Brittany Boyd) growing as a basketball player, finds her teammates and they trust her a lot more. Every team is going to be tested. I told our team they are playing better and will not be easy. We had a gutsy win and found the way to win. Tomorrow we take off, and Tuesday it’s on the road. The schedule has been brutal last month and credit our players for weathering it. The next few games are very important for our seeding. Cash was a big part of our win tonight. She made some very big plays for us and knew tonight was her time. We are not a three-point shooting team. Pound the ball in the paint is our game.”- Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer
“They are aggressive. They have probably the best defensive field goal percentage in the league. We wanted to move our players and move the ball to get in the paint. I believe in the three-point shot, but I don’t think we are a good outside shooting team. Too many times, we rushed a possession by firing a three.” - Connecticut coach Curt Miller