Battle of the East: New York heads to Chicago to take on Sky

ROSEMONT, ILL. – AUGUST 6, 2015 – The top two teams in the Eastern Conference will go head-to-head as the Liberty travels to the windy city to take on the Sky on Friday night at 8:30 PM (ET) on MSG Network.

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NEW YORK GAME NOTES: CLICK HERE
ALL-TIME: New York leads, 19-18
2015 SEASON: NY, 1-0
LAST MEETING: NYL 89, CHI 81 (June 30, 2015)

The last time these two teams met, the Liberty put together an all around team effort to take down the then first-place team in the East. Tina Charles scored a game high 26 points, tied with Elena Delle Donne. Candice Wiggins was on fire – going 5-for-5 from 3-point range with 15 points, Sugar Rodgers added 11 points and Kiah Stokes also had 11 and 10 rebounds for her first-career double-double.

New York held Chicago to 39.4 percent shooting from the field, and the Liberty continues to lead the league in opponent field goal percentage, limiting foes to 38.0 percent.

Since that win, New York has lost just twice in 10 games, embarked on a five-game win streak, its longest since 2010, and took over first place in the Eastern Conference standings.

New York is coming off a strong showing in a home win over the Seattle on Sunday, in which the Liberty outscored the Storm 24-9 in the third quarter, and Charles scored a game high 29 points to lead all scorers. She was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month earlier in the week, for a span where she averaged 19.9 points and 9.5 rebounds. But Tina deferred the credit for the award to the team as a whole saying, “My teammates did a great job. I was just following their lead.”‘

With that nod, Tina Charles inches her name closer into the MVP conversation but her main competition remains Delle Donne. She leads the league with 24.3 points per game, and she and Charles are tied for third rebounding with 9.2 per contest.

This will be the first time Liberty guard Epiphanny Prince will face her former team. Acquired in a trade for Cappie Pondexter during the offseason, Prince spent her first two professional seasons in Chicago, appearing in two All-Star games while eclipsing 2,000-career points.

She missed the first 10 games of the 2015 season to compete in the Eurobasket Women 2015 Tournament, but has been on fire since entering the Liberty lineup at Washington on July 9. Prince has scored in double figures in all nine games, posting season highs of 17 at Phoenix and Indiana.

Her presence has also unquestionably had a positive impact on Tina Charles’ ability to lead New York offensively. Over the last nine games, in which the Liberty has gone 7-2, Charles has averaged 20.9 ppg while shooting 50.3 percent from the field, jumps from her 15.1 ppg average and .387 field goal percentage prior to Prince’s season debut.

A team effort is exactly what New York will need on Thursday. Chicago is coming off a dominating win at home over the Indiana Fever on Tuesday night, 106-82. Delle Donne scored just 19 in that win, but was one of six players to score in double figures for the Sky, which completed the season sweep of Indiana in the process.

TINA CHARLES PLAYER OF THE WEEK/MONTH OF JULY
All-Star center Tina Charles has enjoyed an eventful week in terms of racking up WNBA accolades as she was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Aug. 3, and followed that up with her fifth-career Player of the Month award just 24 hours later. Charles was tabbed as the East’s top player for July after leading the Liberty to a 6-2 record, while averaging 19.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game; New York went 4-2 on the road during the stretch. It is the second time she has been named Player of the Month as a member of the Liberty. In two games the week prior to her Player of the Week nod, she posted 18 points and eight boards at Indiana, then erupted for 29 points in a win over Seattle. She has won Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks.

FINDING SUCCESS AGAINST THE SKY
When New York picked up its 89-81 win at Chicago back on June 30, it snapped a 10-game losing streak in the series and was the first for the Liberty over the Sky since August 21, 2012. Tina Charles (26 points, 11 rebounds) and Kiah Stokes (11 points, 10 rebounds) both posted double-doubles for New York and Candice Wiggins burned Chicago to the tune of 15 points, shooting 5-for-5 from 3-point range.

LIBERTY SEASON HEADLINES

  • New York started the year with a 12-5 record, its best start to a season since 2001.
  • The Liberty posted a five-game winning streak during the month  of July, its longest stretch of consecutive wins since 2010.
  • The 2010 season was also the last time New York won three-straight games on the road.
  • New York swept the season series with Phoenix for the first time since 2012 and both games from Los Angeles for the first time since 2010.
  • The Liberty is 7-1 against the Western Conference this season.
  • New York is 7-2 at Madison Square Garden.

PRINCE FACTOR
Although she missed the first 10 games of the season due to obligations to compete internationally, since rejoining the Liberty at the end of June, guard Epiphanny Prince has had no trouble fitting in, helping lead New York to a 7-2 mark since she made her debut at Washington on July 9. She has scored in double figures in all nine games this season, posting season-highs of 17 at Phoenix and Indiana, while averaging 13.0 points per game. Her ability to create for others has also played a key role, as she has four-plus assists in six games and is averaging 3.1 assists per game. With 1.8 steals per game she paced the Liberty overall, and has led the team in steals four times. Tina Charles has also seen her production take off. Over the last nine game she is averaging 20.9 ppg while shooting 50.3 percent from the field, during the first 10 games of the season she averaged 15.1 ppg, shooting 38.7 percent.

NEED FOR PROTECTING THE ROCK
New York is 7-0 this season when it wins the turnover battle, something it has been doing more often since committing 18.5 turnovers per game over the first eight games of the season. The Liberty was 4-4 during that stretch then cut its turnovers down to 13.0 per game over the ensuing nine games, posting an 8-1 record. After 21 turnovers in a loss at Indiana on July 29, New York was back on track with just 10 in a lopsided 78-62 win over Seattle on August 2, outscoring the Storm 27-7 in points off turnovers.