West Coast Road Trip Opens Saturday at Phoenix on MSG

NEW YORK, N.Y. – JULY 17, 2015 – Two of the hottest teams in the WNBA will match up on Saturday night at the US Airways Center when the Liberty open a three-game West Coast road swing against the surging Phoenix Mercury at 7 p.m. (PT). The game will be broadcast locally on MSG Network.

ALL-TIME: New York leads, 21-17
2015 SEASON: New York, 1-0
LAST MEETING: NYL 68, PHX 57 (June 11, 2015)

After picking up a 64-57 win over Connecticut on Thursday night, wrapping up a two-game homestand with a pair of wins, New York moved into a tie with Chicago for first place in the East. Winners of five of its last six, the Liberty is 9-5 overall, and four games above. 500 for the first time since the end of the 2011 season.

Phoenix is also on an upswing. Energized by the return of All-Star center Brittney Griner, the Mercury have won six in a row, also sitting at 9-5 overall, and a game and a half game back of league leading Minnesota.

This will be the second meeting of the season between New York and Phoenix, after the Liberty picked up a 68-57 win at Madison Square Garden back on June 11, holding the short-handed Mercury to just 29.2 percent from the floor.


Although Phoenix does welcome back Griner, and her 18.4 points and 3.9 blocks per game, New York was missing a key contributor as well during that first meeting, as guard Epiphanny Prince had yet to join the team.

Since Prince did first put on a Liberty uniform for a win at Washington on July 9, New York has gone 3-1 and she has scored in double figures in every game, averaging 12.3 ppg.

Much of the New York spotlight has been shining on Prince and recently announced 2015 All-Star starter Tina Charles, who has been red hot, scoring 20-plus points in four of the last five games, but rookie center Kiah Stokes stole the show in the win over the Sun on Thursday, and her head-to-head with Griner may be the highlight of Saturday night’s game.

Griner and Stokes rank first and second in the league in blocks, and after Stokes’ Liberty franchise record eight last night, more than any other WNBA player including Griner has posted this season, she is averaging 2.6 per game.

Winners of five of its last six games, the New York Liberty has tied the Chicago Sky for 1st place in the Eastern Conference standings, and at 9-5 overall, New York is four games about .500 for the first time since the end of the 2011 regular season when the team finished with a record of 19-15. The Liberty have thrived at Madison Square Garden, posting a 6-2 record so far this season on its home court, and New York is posting some of the strongest defensive numbers in the league, limiting foes to just 36.6 percent shooting, which leads the league, and 71.5 points per game, ranked second in the WNBA.

Liberty rookie Kiah Stokes was a shot-blocking machine in the team’s 64-57 win over Connecticut on July 16, as she came off the bench to record a franchise single-game record eight blocks, which are also the most for any WNBA player this season. Five of those swatted shots came in the fourth quarter, when New York limited the Sun to just 3-of-16 shooting. The previous Libety single-game record for blocked shots was six, set by Shameka Christon at Phoenix on July 16, 2006. In a short period of time, Stokes has established herself as a premier defender in the WNBA, ranking second in the league with 2.6 blocks per game while displaying the ability to guard nearly any player on the floor. Her shot blocking is just getting better, over the last seven games she is averaging 3.7 blocks per game.

For the second time in her career, New York star center Tina Charles has been voted by the fans to represented the Eastern Conference as a starter in the WNBA All-Star Game. Charles, who leads the Liberty in scoring and rebounding, and is amongst the league leaders in both categories, finished third in the East front-court players to secure her fourth-straight trip to the All-Star game (2011, 2013, 2014, 2015). She has turned in an impressive campaign for New York, averaging 16.4 ppg, which ranks 8th in the league and 8.9 rpg, good for fifth. Charles has five 20-plus point games this season and six double-doubles.

The New York Liberty defeated the San Antonio Stars, 84-68, Wednesday afternoon at Madison Square Garden in front of 18,617 people, the largest crowd to watch a Liberty game at The Garden since 2002. It was the sixth-largest crowd to ever see a Liberty regular season game at Madison Square Garden, and the most fans since the team drew 19,563 against the Charlotte Sting on August 11, 2002.

New York will not return to Madison Square Garden, where it is 6-2 so far this season, until Sunday, Aug. 2, playing four-straight games on the road, which includes three during one trip out to the Pacific time zone. Starting with Saturday, July 18, at Phoenix, the Liberty will play three games in five days. After Saturday night’s game the Liberty will fly up to Seattle to tangle with the Storm, which is the front end of a back-to-back with the LA Sparks, who New York will face the next day at the Staples Center. The All-Star break means a week between games, but then it is back on the road to face the Indiana Fever on July 29.