NEW YORK, N.Y. – JUNE 28, 2015 – Behind a career-high 23 points from Sugar Rodgers the Liberty outlasted the Los Angeles Sparks, 79-70, on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Rodgers scored seven of her points in the fourth quarter, which included a huge 3-point basket with fewer than five minutes to play to break a 63-63 tie and spark what turned into a game-changing 9-1 New York run.
A few minutes of the first quarter non-withstanding, New York (5-4) had led the entire game until the Sparks (0-7) started the final period on a 6-2 run, knotting things up at 59-59 on a Kristi Tolliver 3-pointer.
Tolliver, who was making her season debut, finished with a game-high 30 points, the most for an individual against the Liberty this season.
Los Angeles would tie the game three times in the fourth quarter, but each time the Liberty was able to answer. First it was Tina Charles, burying a 19-footer, two of her 16 points to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.
Following another Tolliver bucket, she scored LA’s first eight points in the fourth, Tanisha Wright calmly hit a mid-range jumper, then Nneka Ogwumike drove to the basket to make it 63-63.
Neither team scored for the next two minutes, then Rodgers came up huge, drilling a 3-pointer from the left side, her third triple of the day, matching a career-high from deep and propelling New York to what would be a nine-point win.
From there Charles took over, scoring on the break with a feed from Wright to push the Liberty cushion back to five, and converting a six-foot bank shot at 3:17 to make it 70-64
Rodgers continued her hot streak, scoring in double figures for the fourth-straight game, and since being inserted into the starting lineup three games ago, is averaging 17.3 ppg while shooting 50.0 percent (15-of-30) from the field.
She also started fast, netting eight points in the first quarter to lead New York to a 23-22 lead through 10 minutes of play.
After trailing 9-5 early on, the Liberty used an 8-0 run, powered by five points from Rodgers, to take a lead that they never fully relinquished. New York hit eight of its first 11 shots in the game and were 8-of-12 from the field in the first quarter, but Los Angeles shot 4-of-8 from 3-point range to stay close.
From there, New York’s lead never expanded past five points until that critical run late in the fourth as the Liberty outscored the Sparks 16-7 over the final 4:33.
New York was outrebounded 33-31, but continued its dominance in interior scoring, where it held a 32-18 advantage in the paint.
Ogwumike recorded a double-double for Los Angeles, with 13 points and 16 rebounds, but was just 2-of-12 from the field.
New York returns to action on Tuesday, June 30, when it heads to the Windy City to face the Chicago Sky. The matchup will be nationally televised on ESPN2, with tipoff coming at 8 p.m. (ET).
New York Liberty Notes
- Rodgers’ 23 points are the most for a Liberty player this season.
- Kristi Toliver had a career high 30 points – most points by a player against the Liberty this season.
- Kiah Stokes had 4 blocks for the second-consecutive game, and now has 19 blocks on the season.
- Tanisha Wright’s 7 assists are the most by a Liberty player this season.
- After struggling with a season-high 26 turnovers at Tulsa, New York posted its fewest turnovers of the season with 9.
- New York, which leads the league in defensive field goal percentage, held Los Angeles to just 36.7 percent shooting, the seventh team to fail to shoot 40.0 percent of better from the field against the Liberty this year.
- The Liberty improved to 5-0 this season when holding a lead heding into the fourth quarter.
- New York is now 4-2 at Madison Square Garden this season.
- It was the first time New York outscored an opponent in the second half (38-32) since its win over Phoenix on June 11.