McCarville Carves her Name into History Book in Win Over Comets
The New York Liberty faced a daunting task on Tuesday night, as they looked to snap a two-game losing streak against a Houston Comets team that had won eight straight games at home. Adding to the challenge, the Liberty went into the game without leading scorer Shameka Christon, who was out with a strained right hamstring.
What they put together was a relentless team effort to pull out a gutsy 9087 overtime victory. Led by a dominating Janel McCarville, who tied Becky Hammon's Liberty single-game record with 33 points.
"They couldnt (stop me tonight)," said McCarville. "I think my shots were falling. I was able to get to basket pretty easily, finish with contact. We talked a little about how everyone needs to step up their roles and hit big shots when the ball is in their hands. I tried to do that in Meka's absence."
With Christon out, it was clear McCarville had taken it upon herself to snap the Libertys season-high two-game losing streak. Last season's WNBA Most improved player was magnificent on Tuesday, mixing a power game with her improved outside range to shoot 14-for-20 on the night. She also finished the game with four boards, three assists, two steals and four vicious blocks.
Lisa Willis also helped pick up the slack in Christon's absence -- coming off the bench to score career-high 22-points while knocking down five of seven three-pointers.
"I made sure I kept my follow-through," Willis said. "That's what I think about when I shoot the ball."
After racing out to a 10-point lead at halftime, it was far from an easy road to victory for the Libs. Since the Olympic break ended, New York has struggled in the second half of their games, allowing teams to run away to easy victories. While they were unable to keep the Comets down, they did show tremendous heart in refusing to shy away in the face of adversity.
The Liberty struggled to stop perennial All-Star Tina Thompson and dynamic rookie Matee Ajavon, who played last season at Rutgers with New York's own Essence Carson.
Thompson scored a game-high 34 points, while Ajavon netted 16 off the bench. Together, they were unstoppable in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 of the team's 20 points. With Houston down by six with just under a minute to go in the game, they also combined to rally their squad into overtime, helping to tie the game at 76-76.
After seeing a potential win elude them in the fourth quarter, the Liberty refused to wilt in OT. Willis set the tone early, knocking down three free-throws with ease.
"(Assistant Coach) Nick (DiPillo) said I was a very good free-throw shooter, so don't screw it up!" laughed Willis, who also grabbed four boards and had one steal and two blocks in her memorable performance.
McCarville then took over for Willis, scoring eight in the extra frame to boost New York on offense. Still, it was another unexpected hero who played a key role down the stretch.
With the game tied at 85-85 and 46 seconds remaining in OT, Ashley Battle, who was injured earlier in the game, skied out of nowhere for an offensive rebound. She then dished the ball off to Loree Moore, who returned it to Battle for a 23-foot three pointer that deflated Houston one last time.
Moore was another bright spot for New York. One of the best in the game at running an offense, she has struggled of late, causing Head Coach Patty Coyle to give more playing time to rookie Leilani Mitchell. But on Tuesday she was on top of her game, making big plays and big moments. Overall she finished with six boards, five assists and one steal.
Cathrine Kraayeveld also came up huge for the Liberty, scoring 11 points, all in the second half. She also tied Moore for a team-high six boards to go with one assist.
Despite all the contributions, McCarville's historic performance was the difference-maker Tuesday. With the extent of Christon's injury unknown -- and with the team's leading rebounder Tiffany Jackson also sidelined -- McCarville will have an opportunity to shine even brighter in the days ahead.
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