ROSEMONT, ILL. – Epiphanny Prince exploded for a season-high 30 points as the New York Liberty picked up a 77-63 win of the Chicago Sky to build a two-game cushion in the Eastern Conference standings on Friday night at Allstate Arena.
Prince, who was playing her first game against the team in with which she spent her first five WNBA seasons after being traded to New York during the offseason in exchange for Cappie Pondexter, took control of the game from the very start. She made her first three long-range attempts, and finished with four triples overall. Prince had seven points in the opening quarter and 15 in the first half.
With the Mystics falling to the Connecticut Sun earlier on Friday, New York was able to take a two-game lead over Chicago and Washington for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Just as impressive was New York’s defensive intensity. The Liberty held Chicago to 29.9 percent shooting from the field, a season low for the highest scoring team in the league. It marked the second time this year New York, which leads the league in defensive field goal percentage, has held a team under 30-percent from the field on the road.
Elena Delle Donne, who entered the game averaging a 24.3 ppg, finished with 17 points and was 4-of-12 from the field. Delle Donne and Cappie Pondexter combined to hit just six field goals.
Tina Charles posted her ninth double-double of the season, as the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for July, scored 18 points with 12 rebounds. The Liberty saw 22 points come from the bench, including nine from Sugar Rodgers and seven for Brittany Boyd.
Charles set the tone early, sinking back-to-back buckets, the second a turn around over Delle Donne that gave her nine points, and the Liberty a 17-11 lead.
With 7:46 remaining in the second quarter, Courtney Vandersloot nailed a 3-point basket to give the Sky a 24-23 lead, but it would not last, as the Liberty rattled off a run of 10 unanswered starting with a Rodgers trey.
From that point, the Sky went more than three minutes without scoring and almost seven minutes without a field goal as the Liberty steadily added to its lead. Following that Vandersloot make, Chicago would score just eight points the rest of the period with only one make from the field.
Prince was able to push the New York advantage to double digits for the first time as she knocked down a triple at 3:12 to make it 39-28, leading to a Chicago timeout. On the first Liberty possession after the break she struck again, another trey, and the New York lead soared to 14. Prince hit her first three attempts from distance and shot 6-of-8 from the field in the first half.
Chicago meanwhile was held to 35.7 shooting (10-of-28) in the first, with Delle Donne and Pondexter combining for only four field goals.
Twice in the third quarter the Sky were able to pull within seven points, but New York had an answer each time.
A pair of Delle Donne free throws trimmed the Liberty lead to 46-39 fewer than three minutes into the period, but Prince found Kiah Stokes for a layup to end the run.
With just over a minute to play, Allie Quigley was good on a pull up jumper, only to see Prince strike again, draining a step-back to make it 60-51 heading into the final quarter.
Boyd’s layup at 9:06 in the fourth make it 62-51 and the Liberty lead would not dip down to single digits the rest of the way. New York led by as many as 19 down the stretch.
New York returns to action on Tuesday, August 11, when it hosts Chicago at Madison Square Garden. It will be Breast Health Awareness night at The Garden, with the exterior of the building shining pink for the first time. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
New York Liberty Postgame Notes
- New York has won back-to-back games against the Sky for the first time since 2012. The Liberty had lost 10 straight against Chicago heading into this season and is 2-0 against them this year.
- Epiphanny Prince finished with 30 points on 11-of-14 shooting; her previous season high was 17 points. It was her first game against her former team, she spent her first five WNBA seasons in Chicago and was traded to New York for Cappie Pondexter in the offseason.
- New York limited Elena Delle Donne and Pondexter to just six field goals combined.
- The Liberty held Chicago to a season-low 29.9 percent from the field, the Sky’s previous season low of 31.5 percent came at Indiana on June 14.
- It is the third time New York, which entered the day leading the league in opponent field goal percentage at .380, held a team under 30.0 percent from the field and the second time on the road.
- New York opened up a two-game lead over Chicago and Washington in the East standings.
- The Liberty outrebounded Chicago 43-33 and held a 28-22 edge in points in the paint.
- Elena Delle Donne had just 17 points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field. She has scored four or fewer field goals in just three games this season.