UNCASVILLE, CONN. – AUGUST 14, 2015 – All-star Tina Charles scored a season-high 31 points as the New York Liberty won its fourth game in a row, picking up a 90-78 victory over the Connecticut Sun (12-11) on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.
With the win, New York improved to 16-6 overall, surpassing last season’s win total in the process. The 16 wins are the most for the Liberty since it went 19-15 in 2011. New York now leads Chicago, Washington and Indiana by three games in the Eastern Conference standings.
Epiphanny Prince added 23 for New York, making it the first time this season she and Charles scored 20-plus points in the same game. For Prince, it was her third-straight 20-plus point performance and she is now averaging 25.0 points per game over that stretch.
Charles answered her worst offensive game of the season with one of the best of her career. She scored just four points on 2-of-10 shooting in the Liberty’s win over the Chicago Sky on Tuesday night, but was nearly unstoppable against the Sun.
Slicing through the paint for easy finishes and hitting a variety of mid-range and long jumpers, Charles shot 14-of-21, matching a career-best for made field goals, and also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
Alex Bentley hit a floater in the paint on the first offensive set of the game, but New York answered with a 9-0 run over the next 2:01 to seize control early.
Swin Cash completed a 3-point play to make it 7-2, then drained a 12-foot base line jumper on the very next possession to complete the run and hand the early advantage to New York.
Turnovers plagued the Sun in the first quarter, as it gave the ball away six times leading to nine Liberty points, enabling New York to take a 24-23 lead through the first 10 minutes of action.
Connecticut responded with six unanswered to open the second quarter, leading 29-24 after Kelly Faris found Shekinna Stricklen for an open two. From there Charles caught fire.
She found her way into the paint on consecutive possession, taking a pass from Tanisha Wright to give the lead back to New York, 31-30, then hauled in a sharp entry pass from Prince 30 seconds later to extend the lead to three.
It was Charles once again, drilling a turnaround jumper, to give New York a seven-point lead. The resilient Sun rattled off five-straight to pull within two on a Kelsey Bone layup, but would not get any closer.
Out of a timeout Candice Wiggins drained a corner three, and Charles capped a 7-0 Liberty spurt with a put back after a Brittany Boyd steal to make it 47-38, and the lead stood at 47-40 at the half.
When it was able to take care of the basketball in the first half, Connecticut’s offense was rolling. The Sun shot 55.6 percent against a Liberty team that was limited foes to just 36.7 percent from the floor over the last three games. But those turnovers continued to prove costly, with 11 giveaways leading directly to 15 points for New York.
The back-and forth continued into the third quarter. Connecticut closed the gap to 53-51 with a pair of Jennifer Lacy free throws only to see the Liberty pull away once again.
Charles drove to the rim for two, hitting 20 points for the eighth time this season while giving New York a 59-53 lead. Connecticut was back within 61-58 as Chelsea Gray dialed up a 3-pointer from way beyond the arc, only to see Prince answer with a trey on the other end.
After seeing its lead hit nine on a couple of occasions, New York finally extended to double digits for the first time as Prince hit Charles in the corner for a 15-foot jumper. That is where the advantage remained heading into the final period, as Brittany Boyd sprinted down the court in under six seconds after a pair of free throw makes, getting a finger roll to drop to make it 72-62.
Connecticut did manage to draw within five, 81-76 approaching three minutes to play in the game, but Prince hit a long pull-up jumper and Cash delivered the dagger 42 seconds later to extend the lead back to nine with fewer than two minutes to play.
New York returns to action tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden when it hosts the Tulsa Shock at 7 p.m.
NEW YORK LIBERTY POSTGAME NOTES
- Tina Charles answered her lowest scoring game of the season with one of the best of her career, finishing with a season-high 31 points, one shy of her career high. She matched a career high with 14 field goals.
- It was the first time this season both Charles and Epiphanny Prince (23) were over 20 points in the same game
- Prince topped 20 points for the third-straight game and is averaging 25.0 ppg over the last three games.
- New York is 10-2 since Prince made her season debut at Washington on July 9, she has scored in double figures in all 12 games
- New York has won four in a row, its second-longest winning streak of the season
- The Sun shot 50.9 percent from the field the most for a Liberty foe this season, but turned the ball over 18 times, leading to 26 New York points
- New York scored a season-high 90 points.
- New York committed a season-low seven turnovers.
- The Liberty improved to 14-0 when leading at the end of the third quarter
- Swin Cash scored in double figures with 10 points for the first time since opening night when she had 15
- The Liberty had its second most assists of the season with 24 (had 26 at Chicago on 6/30)
- Epiphanny Prince matched her career high 6 steals, which she also had vs. the Liberty on 6/18/14
- Tanisha Wright had nine assists, the most for a Liberty player this season.