Ionescu backs up All-Star selection
Point guard helps Liberty to 81-77 victory over Connecticut
Liberty point guard Sabrina Ionescu found out Wednesday afternoon that she was a WNBA All-Star starter.
Then, she went out and continued to play like one.
Ionescu had 11 points, 11 rebounds and six assists as the Liberty held on for an 81-77 victory over the Connecticut Sun in front of 4,652 fans at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasvillle, Conn.
Touted as a potential transformational player upon her selection as the top overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, Ionescu suffered a season-ending ankle injury early in her rookie season and struggled to recapture the form that made her a two-time Wooden Award winner last year.
But the University of Oregon alum and all-time NCAA leader in triple-doubles has shone brightly throughout this campaign, averaging 16.7 points, 6.1 assists and 6.4 rebounds entering the opener of New York’s two-game road trip.
Though she only hit two of the Liberty’s season-high 13 3-pointers in the victory, Ionescu, as she has done throughout the year, filled up the scoresheet.
She blocked a shot, picked up a steal and went 3-for-4 at the free-throw line to give New York (7-10) just enough to prevent a late Connecticut (12-6) rally.
“We’re all very proud to have Sabrina represent our team at All-Star,” said Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello.
“Her development throughout the season has been impressive, and her ability to contribute to all phases of the game is among the very best in this league.”
Stefanie Dolson scored 16 points, Sami Whitcomb and Natasha Howard added 14 apiece and Marine Johannes finished with 11 for the Liberty, who will be in Atlanta on Friday night shooting for their first back-to-back wins on the road this year.
Whitcomb capped a critical 7-0 third-quarter run with a 3-pointer to give New York a 65-54 lead which it never surrendered.
Ionescu did have her streak of 36 consecutive free-throws made miss in the final seconds, but none of it mattered as the Liberty won for the sixth time in nine contests since a season-high seven-game slide.
“We’re off to Atlanta next so we need to put forth our best effort,” said Brondello.
Courtney Williams scored 16 points and Jonquel Jones, Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner each had 12 for Connecticut, which split a pair of games at Downtown’s Barclays Center earlier this season, including New York’s season-opening 81-70 win that included a 25-point effort from Ionescu.
The Liberty won despite not having center Han Xu available due to a non-COVID illness. Rebecca Allen (concussion), Betnijah Laney (knee) and Jocelyn Willoughby (knee) also sat out for New York.
The 2022 WNBA All-Star Game will be held on July 10 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois.
Ionescu will arrive in the Windy City as the youngest player ever to record mulltiple triple-doubles in league history, including one on June 12 in only three quarters vs. Chicago.
The third-year guard is the Liberty’s 16th All-Star, joining Kym Hampton (1999), Rebecca Lobo (1999), Teresa Weatherspoon (1999-2003), Sue Wicks (2000), Vickie Johnson (1999, 2001), Tari Phillips (2000-2003), Becky Hammon (2003, 2005), Ann Wauters (2005), Shameka Christon (2009), Essence Carson (2011), Cappie Pondexter (2011, 2013-2014), Tina Charles (2014-2015, 2017-2019), Sugar Rodgers (2017), Kia Nurse (2019) and Laney (2021).
The league’s head coaches will select the 12 All-Star reserves, who will be announced on June 28.
The 18th WNBA All-Star Game will be broadcast on ABC at 1 p.m. ET.
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