Game Preview: Liberty Return Home to Conclude First Part Of Season With Rematch Against the Sun

By Justin “Say Say” Rivers

Betnijah Laney and the New York Liberty (10-10, 3rd in Eastern Conference) return to Brooklyn to take on Jonquel Jones and the Connecticut Sun (13-6, 1st in Eastern Conference) in their final game before the Olympic break.

Last game, the Liberty went out to the Hoosier state to take on the Indiana Fever. New York started out the game hot with a 28-point opening quarter, in which they shot 60% from the field. In that quarter, they outscored the Fever in points in the paint, second-chance points, and fastbreak points. In the end, the team had four double-digit scorers in Reshanda Gray, Kylee Shook, Sami Whitcomb, and Betnijah Laney. Plus, the team out-rebounded and out-assisted the opposition, while also making more threes.

2021 All-Star Betnijah Laney once again paced the Liberty offense, scoring a game-high 23 points and pulling down a season-high eight rebounds. With her 13-point, 5-for-9 shooting first quarter, she started off the contest on fire, too.

Kylee Shook had a career night for New York. The 6-foot-4 forward dropped a career-high 13 points, made a career-high three triples on 3-for-4 shooting from deep, and dished out a career-high four assists. Reshanda Gray had her third-straight double-digit scoring game for New York. Additionally, Sami Whitcomb had her 15th game of two or more made three-pointers and her 15th game of five or more rebounds this season.

CATCH SAMI IN SIN CITY, TOO!

On Friday, the WNBA announced that the Liberty’s Sami Whitcomb has been selected to participate in the WNBA Mountain Dew 3-Point Contest at halftime of the 2021 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game, which will take place this Wednesday, July 14th, at Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on ESPN. For the two-time WNBA Champion, this will be her first-ever appearance in the three-point shootout. See the following press release for more information on the competition: Liberty’s Sami Whitcomb to Compete In WNBA MTN DEW® 3-PT Contest at AT&T WNBA 2021 All-Star Game.

This season, Whitcomb has undoubtedly been the league’s best three-point markswoman, while playing for the team that leads the league in total three-point field goals, two-point field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage, and true shooting percentage. She also ranks in the league’s top-3 in three-point shooting percentage. Her 55 made three-pointers lead the WNBA in the category; plus, she is top-5 in three-point shooting percentage.

For the Liberty this season, the 5-foot-10, long-range three-point sniper has played in and started all 20 of the Liberty’s games. She is New York’s second-leading scorer at 12.6 points per game and their top rebounder at 5.7 rebounds per game. She is also the team-leader in all of the following advanced statistics: total win shares, offensive win shares, defensive win shares, player efficiency rating, and offensive rating.

She has been incredible this season, and her inclusion in the WNBA Mountain Dew 3-Point Contest should have been a no-brainer.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY …

Sunday’s showdown will mark the second regular-season meeting of 2021 between these two squads. In their first matchup on June 5th in Connecticut, the Sun came away with an 85-64 victory behind a 31-point, 13-rebound game from Jonquel Jones. This contest also marked the tailend of the Liberty’s only three-game skid of the season.

For New York, Rebecca Allen led the way with a team-high 14 points on an efficient 5-for-10 shooting from the field. As the only double-digit scorer for the Liberty, the 6-foot-2 Aussie and Olympian from Wangretta, Australia also drained four of her seven attempted three-pointers. Ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Allen departed to join the Australian women’s national basketball team prior to the team’s recent one-game road trip to Indy.

Although, in their prior meeting, Betnijah Laney was held to a season-low eight-point night that snapped her eight-game streak of scoring 20 or more points to begin the season, she was still able to get teammates involved as a playmaker with her team-high six assists. Laney has been a double-digit scorer in every other game this season, and has scored 20 or more points in 12 of the team’s 20 games this season. Thus, Sunday provides her – who, as a top-5 scorer and top-10 assist-woman this season, is one of only two players in the league averaging 19-plus points and 5-plus assists – a prime opportunity to put in a better showing against the top team in the conference before heading into the break and making her All-Star debut in Vegas this week.

After Sunday’s game in Brooklyn, New York will head into the Olympic break with one last regular-season meeting against Connecticut remaining in September in the penultimate game of their 2021 regular season schedule.