Ionescu showing off generational talent
Posts second triple-double of season as Liberty beat Aces
Hailed as a generational talent and transformational player, New York Liberty point guard Sabrina Ionescu is living up to the hype that followed her to Downtown Brooklyn three seasons ago.
The All-Star point guard and reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Month had 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists Wednesday night in Las Vegas, posting her second triple-double of the season and third of her career to lift the Liberty over the Aces, 116-107, at Michelob ULTRA Arena.
The 8,405 fans on hand in Sin City that came to see Western Conference-leading Vegas (15-7) hand New York (9-12) its third consecutive defeat, instead watched Ionescu light up the scoreboard.
“Sabrina .. I mean what can you say,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello gushed. “She works so hard. She’s one of the most tough-minded players that I know. We put a lot on her shoulders but she’s ready to take that over.”
The former two-time Wooden Award winner and NCAA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles buried 10-of-13 shots, including a blistering 7-of-8 performance from 3-point range.
She also nailed all four of her free throws to help the Liberty improve to 8-5 since a 1-7 start threatened to derail their season.
Ionescu, who tends to deflect personal praise, rolled to her third career triple-double, but insisted that the win and her teammates’ contributions overshadowed her best overall game as a professional.
“I was just trying to do everything I (could) to help this team win,” she noted. “My teammates kept getting me the ball. We came out with a win and were happy to get that.”
The Liberty have to be happy that they got Ionescu with the first overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
Though she only played three games in her rookie year due to an ankle injury and was clearly at less than full strength for most of last season, the Walnut Creek, Calif., native is living up to her previous billing just in time to help New York climb the standings.
The Liberty are just one-half game behind Atlanta (10-12) for the eighth seed in the playoffs and will be right back at it Thursday night in Phoenix hoping to resume their ascent.
They also established a new franchise record for points and tied a WNBA record with 35 assists.
“We just keep believing,” said Ionescu, who will be a first-time starter at the WNBA All-Star Game in Chicago Sunday alongside Liberty forward Natasha Howard.
Han Xu scored 24 points, hitting all but one of her 12 shots, including a pair from beyond the arc, and Howard added 18 points for New York, which will host Vegas for two games at the Barclays Center from July 12-14 after the All-Star break.
A’ja Wilson had 29 points and Jackie Young finished with 24 for the Aces, who held a 10-point advantage late in the third quarter before the Liberty came storming back to take the lead for good, 90-89, on Howard’s nifty hook shot with 7:10 remaining in regulation.
Ionescu drilled a 28-footer with 2:26 to go to give New York a 107-98 cushion before feeding Marine Johannes for another long 3-ball to get her 10th assist in her latest historic effort.
She is now tied with Candace Parker for the most career triple-doubles in WNBA history.
“We gotta keep getting better along the way,” Ionescu added.
She’s certainly doing so herself, helping her teammates do the same and showing the league that this type of talent comes along once in a generation and can help transform a franchise which is still seeking its first title.
GIVE ME LIBERTY: Stefanie Dolson and Johannes had 11 points each in Wednesday’s victory, giving the Liberty give players in double figures in scoring. … New York averted its first three-game losing streak since dropping a season-high seven in a row from May 11-29. …The Liberty will host their first-ever Battle of the Boroughs and Sneakerhead Night on Saturday, July 23, when the team takes on the reigning WNBA Champion Chicago Sky at 7 p.m. ET. The team is also partnering with Soles4Souls, a nonprofit dedicated to turning unwanted clothing and shoes into opportunity, on a sneaker drive, according to a team-issued release. Fans can bring new or gently used sneakers to Barclays Center and donate at a Soles4Souls donation box on the concourse. All donors will receive two complimentary tickets to the Sunday, July 31 game against Phoenix. “Partnering with Soles4Souls on our first-ever sneaker drive will allow us to have impact that reaches far beyond New York,” said Liberty CEO Keia Clarke. “We encourage fans to take advantage of this initiative and make a difference while also supporting a cause that Brittney Griner cares about very deeply.”
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