Liberty top Fever to end seven-game slide

Post first win since Opening Night at Barclays Center

June 2, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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First, the Liberty got the bad news about All-Star Betnijah Laney on Wednesday.

Then, they went out and grabbed their first victory since Opening Night.

Sabrina Ionescu scored 23 points and Rebecca Allen had 17 as New York snapped a season-high seven-game losing streak with a stirring 87-74 triumph over the visiting Indiana Fever in front of 4,079 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

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Laney, sidelined since May 17 with a knee injury, will miss at last the next eight weeks while recovering from a successful arthroscopic partial meniscectomy repair on her right knee, which was performed at Hospital for Special Surgery.

“To win in this league, you need your superstars to be great,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello said wistfully during a pregame presser. “So it’s unfortunate. In the meantime, we need to dig deep.”

The Liberty (2-7) did just that.

After being outscored 33-17 in the second quarter and facing an eighth consecutive defeat, New York went on a 13-0 run in the third period, capped by Natasha Howard’s 3-pointer that gave the Liberty a 53-52 advantage.

Allen drilled a shot from beyond the arc later in the half that capped a 12-0 burst, giving New York a 77-68 cushion.

The Fever couldn’t make a run thereafter, going 0-for-14 from the floor to start the fourth quarter and making just 1-of-16 attempts in the final 10 minutes.

Head coach Sandy Brondello asked her team to be resilient in the face of losing All-Star Betnijah Laney (right) for the next eight weeks. AP Photo by John Minchillo

Howard and Stefanie Dolson scored 16 points apiece for the Liberty, who hadn’t won since edging Connecticut here, 81-79, in the May opener.

And much like that contest, which saw Ionescu put up 25 points, the Liberty’s star point guard was up to the task.
She buried 6-of-11 shots, including a trio of 3-pointers, and knocked down all eight of her free-throw attempts.

Ionescu also ripped down seven boards and blocked a shot in 30 minutes of court time.

Kelsey Mitchell had 17 points and Victoria Vivians added 14 for Indiana (3-9), which has lost seven of eight games since eking out a 92-86 triumph in Brooklyn on May 13.

Without Laney, as well as injured regulars DiDi Richards and Jocelyn Willoughby, the Liberty will need every player on the roster to step up until they have a more representative edition of last year’s playoff team.

“It would be nice to get DiDi back and Joc(elyn Willoughby) is obviously a few weeks after that,” Brondello said.

“We need to get out there and compete and control what we can. We have to be resilient.”

They certainly were Wednesday and will certainly have to up their collective game again Friday night in Washington, D.C., when they visit the division-leading Mystics (7-3).

DiDi Richards hopes to rejoin her Liberty teammates soon after sitting out with a hamstring injury. AP Photo by Adam Hunger

GIVE ME LIBERTY: After visiting the Mystics, the Liberty will return to Brooklyn to host the Minnesota Lynx Sunday in the opener of a two-game series. New York will host the series finale here Tuesday before heading out on to Indiana next Friday night. … Richards (hamstring) and Willoughby (knee) may return over the next two weeks while Laney can still get back in time for New York’s potential playoff run in August. … The Liberty outrebounded the Fever, 39-33, Wednesday.

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