Liberty look to end slump in Brooklyn

Seven-game losing streak can end Wednesday vs. Indiana

May 31, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere knows the New York Liberty are desperate for a win, be it here in Downtown Brooklyn or somewhere on the road.

That pursuit begins at Barclays Center Wednesday night, when the struggling Liberty try to end a season-high seven-game losing streak against the visiting Indiana Fever.

“That’s the battle right now,” Onyenwere admitted moments after New York’s 92-61 loss to the Seattle Storm on Sunday in front of 10,228 fans at Climate Pledge Arena.

“We’ve lost seven in a row: that’s tough as a competitor and athlete… we just have to figure it out, whether it’s Xs and Os, us, work ethic.”

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Whatever it is, the Liberty (1-7) haven’t found the right formula since opening the campaign with a narrow home win over Connecticut on May 7.

The three weeks since have produced no wins and four double digit defeats to go with a couple of overtime losses.

On Sunday, 6-foot-10 center Han Xu did her best to keep New York afloat, scoring a career-high 13 points and grabbing eight rebounds. She also scored seven points in a row in the first quarter.

Reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere believes the Liberty have to battle through injuries and poor shooting. AP Photo by Adam Hunger

Natasha Howard added 10 points and Onyenwere finished with nine for the Liberty, who managed to make just 2-of-18 shots in the second quarter while being outscored 26-8 during that dismal stretch.

“We’re a way better team than what we’re showing. We don’t know how to fight through fatigue when things aren’t going well,” noted Liberty first-year head coach Sandy Brondello, who watched her team put forth a much better effort in Friday night’s 79-71 OT loss in Seattle.

“We’re going to keep competing,” she insisted.

Battling through adversity would be easier if New York had its full complement of players.

The Liberty were without All-Star Betnijah Laney (knee), forward Lorela Cubaj (concussion) and guards Jocelyn Willoughby (knee) and DiDi Richards (hamstring) during Sunday’s defeat.

“I wish they were all coming back because we need some toughness. … We’re going to have to find a way,” said Brondello.

Jewell Loyd poured in a game-high 22 points for Seattle (5-3), which limited Liberty point guard Sabrina Ionescu to six points on 3-of-9 shooting.

Making matters worse, New York allowed the Storm, who shoot a league-worst 39 percent from the floor to hit nearly half their attempts in the series finale.

“It has to be a mental, team shift,” Onyenwere said.

“Sometimes we’re not going to have a good shooting night. We have to hang our hat on our defense.”

All-Star Betnijah Laney is just one of several key players missing for the Liberty as they prepare to host Indiana Wednesday. AP Photo by John Minchillo

GIVE ME LIBERTY: The Liberty shot just above 33 percent and committed 17 turnovers Sunday. … New York lost here to Indiana on May 13, 92-86 in OT. … After hosting the Fever on Wednesday, the Liberty will head to Washington, D.C., to visit the Mystics (6-3). The team will be back in Brooklyn on Sunday to host Minnesota for the opener of a two-game series. The Liberty will complete the set against the Lynx (2-7) here on Tuesday.

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