The first half of the season is in the books, and the Liberty have exceeded the expectations of many, entering the second half of the season one and a half games out of first place.
Many of the analysts, after the loss of center Janel McCarville and forward Taj Williams-Franklin, picked the Liberty to finish near the bottom of the league, something the players took notice of at the beginning of the year. The team voiced its displeasure and believed it would do better, evidenced by the 9-7 record they have posted 16 games into the season.
However, there is room for improvement, as the team is still a work in progress.
The defense has steadily refined from the beginning of the season, allowing opponents to score 73.6 points per game the past ten games. Keeping the score low though isnt the main objective of the defense according to head coach John Whisenant. One of the intentions is to keep opponents to a low shooting percentage, because if the team you are facing usually averages few possessions a game, the score average becomes less significant. The team is currently the second best team in terms of defending the three-pointer, allowing opponents to only shoot 31.2% from beyond the arc, but are fifth worst in field goal percentage as a whole, allowing opponents to shoot 43.6%.
Weve got to quit having our lulls at points in the game, Whisenant said. We need a little good luck where we dont have injury, and we have to fight through those tough spots.
When watching the defense in action, observers can tell that the white line principles are beginning to sink in with the players. Players are beginning to trust each other, and Whisenant believes are beginning to trust him too.
Whisenant stressed that the Libs will look to become more dependent in the second half on rookie guards Sydney Colson and Alex Montgomery. Whisenant believes both are talented guards and can help give veterans Leilani Mitchell, Cappie Pondexter and Essence Carson longer breaks on the bench with the hopes of the team not missing a beat offensively and defensively. Making the jump from college to the WNBA is a tall task, but Whisenant said he has faith the women will be able to contribute more in the second half.
One of the last things the team will continue to improve upon and what Whisenant has stressed in practice will be their trips to the free throw line. To Whisenant, less free throws means the team is taking too many jump shots. When the team is taking too many jump shots and the other team is shooting 10 or 11 free throws, those differences can catch up to the team during the game.
When we are consistently shooting 10 less free throws then our opponent, thats a sign that we arent aggressive going to the basket, Whisenant said.Thats a sign that were shooting too many jump shots. We need to go to the basket.
The second half of the season and the quest for a playoff berth will begin at home tomorrow against the Washington Mystics at 7:00pm at the Prudential Center.