Brooklyn Boro

Liberty look to snap three-game skid

Visit Phoenix Sunday in search of first win since May 24

June 10, 2021 John Torenli, Sports Editor

It was just three weeks ago that the New York Liberty were being lauded for their fast start to the season after a dismal 2-20 finish last year.

Following a home win over Dallas at Downtown’s Barclays Center on May 24, Brooklyn’s WNBA franchise was 5-1 and in serious contention for the best record in the league.

Three gruesome losses later, including last Saturday’s 85-64 drubbing at the hands of the Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, the Liberty (5-4) will simply be trying to stay above the .500 mark when they visit the Phoenix Mercury Sunday evening.

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Sabrina Ionescu, projected to be the savior of this newly relocated franchise, managed just five points on 2-of-8 shooting in the loss to the Sun, marking the fourth time this season she has failed to reach double-digits in scoring.

New York has dropped all four of those contests, meaning they are a perfect 5-0 when the former first overall pick puts up at least 10 points.

Though Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins has hinted that Ionescu is struggling due to a lack of mobility, the former two-time Wooden Award winner as the best collegiate player in the nation is still lacing them up and trying to lead her team to victory.

That could be the result of Ionescu trying to make up for lost time after she was limited to only three appearances last year due to an ankle injury which forced her to miss the remainder of the COVID-abbreviated campaign.

Or it could simply be the rest of the league catching up with her and the Liberty, who are 0-1 on their five-game road trip and will now try to muster up a winning effort against a Phoenix team that boasts an identical record but has won three of its last four contests.

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But this breakthrough season, which follows consecutive last-place finishes, hasn’t just been built on the shoulders of Ionescu, who is averaging 13.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and a team-best 7.1 assists per game.

Betnijah Laney, signed prior to the season after winning Most Improved Player honors with Atlanta in 2020, paces New York with 20.9 points per game.

She was limited to eight points on 4-of-12 shooting in the loss to Dallas last weekend, marking the first time she has failed to score at least 20 points this season.

Betnijah Laney scored at least 20 points in each of her first eight games with the Liberty before being held to eight in last weekend’s loss to Connecticut. AP Photo by Adam Hunger

The Liberty also boast another first-round pick in Michaela Onyenwere, who ranked just behind Ionescu with 11.4 points per game and was named the WNBA Rookie of the Month earlier this week.

Hopkins, who took home Coach of the Month honors following the Liberty’s fantastic start, may have to go back to preseason mode, when he was downplaying New York’s revamped roster and the return of Ionescu.

“You’re gonna hear me as a broken record all year talk about focusing on our day-to-day and our controllables,” he insisted.

“You won’t hear me too often acknowledge expectations as being something that we’re focused on here.”

Whether they are focused on them or not, the Liberty raised expectations here in Brooklyn by winning five of their first six games.

Now, they have to get back to their winning ways knowing they won’t be back at Barclays until June 22.

Following their game with the Mercury on Sunday, the Liberty will play consecutive games in Las Vegas from June 15-17 before wrapping up their extended trip in Los Angeles on June 20.

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The St. Francis Brooklyn men’s swimming and diving team received the Northeast Conference Winter Team Sportsmanship Award this week. Photo courtesy of SFC Brooklyn Athletics

In local college sports news, the St. Francis College Brooklyn men’s swimming and diving team earned the Northeast Conference Winter Team Sportsmanship Award this week for the first time in progam history.

“I am very proud of the men’s team for earning the NEC Winter Team Sportsmanship Award. It is always a great honor to be recognized by our peers throughout the conference,” said SFC men’s swimming and diving head coach Brian Guidera.

“Our guys are always excited for meetday and no matter what the result is, they keep a positive demeanor, which is something we take pride in.”

The award is designed to acknowledge the team in each conference sport that most closely demonstrates good sportsmanship based on the NEC Principles of Sportsmanship and Standards of Conduct.

Voting is conducted at the conclusion of each season by each team and head coach.

“The NEC has been built on the bedrock principle that teams compete with respect and integrity, and pursue victory with honor,” said NEC commissioner Noreen Morris.

“The teams being recognized by their peers this week stood out from the pack and clearly demonstrated that our actions on the playing field align with our core values. Congratulations to all our Team Sportsmanship honorees!”


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