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Liberty host Storm after historic quarter

Shoot for third straight win as four-game stand continues

July 25, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Ten near-perfect minutes was all it took for the Eastern Conference-leading New York Liberty to open their season-high, four-game homestand with a victory Sunday in Downtown Brooklyn.

New York will shoot for its third straight win Tuesday night against visiting Seattle after using a WNBA record-setting 44-point first quarter to vanquish the Indiana Fever, 101-83, in front of 7,371 fans at Barclays Center.

The Liberty (16-5) remained percentage points ahead of Connecticut (17-6) in the East by blowing out the Fever by a 44-17 count in the first 10 minutes of regulation.

“We’ve been talking about just getting more ball movement and not forcing the early one if it’s not a great shot,” New York head coach Sandy Brondello said of the highest-scoring quarter in WNBA history.

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“This team is just buying in to how we want to play,” she added. “Forty-four! I mean, I was obviously a spectator after a while.”

By halftime, it was a 68-46 cushion and the Liberty only needed 33 points to eclipse the century mark in scoring for a franchise-record fourth time this season.

“Any time we can move the ball side-to-side and get everybody involved it causes teams to have to play us honestly, and gives us all space to do what we have to do,” said New York forward Jonquel Jones, who finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds before Brondello got her reserves in.

Victoria Vivians had 16 points and Erica Wheeler added 15 for the Fever (6-16), who got beat out of the gate en route to their ninth loss in 10 games.

“If this was a three-quarter game we win by nine,” Indiana coach Christie Sides lamented after the Fever fell to 0-3 vs. New York this year. “You got to show me you’re ready to play every night. Forty-four points is ridiculous.”

All-time WNBA assists leader Courtney Vandersloot had 10 of New York’s 29 helpers Sunday vs. Indiana. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

Betnijah Laney led the Liberty’s eye-popping 54 percent shooting from the field, including 50 percent (17-of-34) from 3-point range. She scored a season-high 22 points while missing only four of her 13 attempts.

“Just continuing to stay aggressive, stay confident,” she said of her 69 percent effort from the floor, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. “Just moving forward, me continuing to do that will help us get to our ultimate goal.”

Even the Liberty bench accounted for 29 points on a night the Fever were held to 19 points or fewer in all but one quarter.

“We have a deep bench. For them to come out and do what they did, it shows how strong we are as a unit,” added Laney.

Marine Johannes and Kayla Thornton spearheaded the “Bench Mob” with 12 and 10 points, respectively.

New York’s All-Star trio of Sabrina Ionescu, Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot combined for 32 points, 11 rebounds and 19 of the Liberty’s 29 assists.

Unlike their thrilling 95-87 overtime win at Indiana before the All-Star break, during which the Liberty squandered an 18-point, fourth-quarter advantage, New York managed to close the game out sans any late-game collapses.

“We’ve had some big leads and we got a bit complacent,” Brondello sad. “But this wasn’t going to happen today. This team was locked in.”

The Liberty hope to remain so when they host Seattle here for the second time this season and shoot for a four-game season-series sweep.

The struggling Storm (4-18) have lost a season-high nine in a row, including an 80-76 setback here on July 8, when former Seattle superstar Stewart scored 25 points.

The Storm are coming off Saturday’s 90-75 loss in Chicago as reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player and All-Star Game MVP Jewell Loyd was held to a season low-tying 12 points.

Loyd is averaging a league-high 24.3 points per game while Stewart, her fiercest competition for this year’s MVP, is putting up 22.7 per contest.

Stewart won 2018 season MVP honors and two WNBA Finals MVPs during her six-year reign in Seattle.

She and her teammates will continue to chase the first-ever title in the history of her new franchise Tuesday.

Sabrina Ionescu and the Liberty put up a WNBA record 44 points in the first quarter here Sunday vs. the Indiana Fever. Photo by Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

GIVE ME LIBERTY: The Liberty fell one shy of the WNBA record with their 17 made 3-pointers Sunday. … New York’s 68 first-half points were the most by any team in a half this year. … After hosting the Storm Tuesday, the Liberty will welcome Atlanta here Thursday before closing out the stand Friday vs. Minnesota.

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