Behind a dominant performance from Brianna Stewart, New York rebounded from a shocking opening night loss to win its second straight. Connecticut, which had won three straight to open the season, suffered its first loss of the season.
The New York Liberty cruised to an 81-65 victory over the 2023 WNBA Connecticut Sun on Monday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. New York, at 2-1, moves into a tie for fourth place, while Connecticut, at 3-1, drops from sole possession of first place to third.
It was a battle of the aces.
Brianna Stewart, who bombed for 45 points in the last game against the Indiana Fever, showed her ace form once again.
She led the team on offense with 21 points, six rebounds, five assists, six steals and four blocked shots, and held Connecticut ace Alyssa Thomas, who had been on a three-game double-double streak since opening night, to five points. All five of Thomas’ points on the night came on free throws, and she missed all five of her field goal attempts.
New York got off to a slow start.
They opened the game with a paint-zone score from Jonquel Jones and a three-pointer from Sabrina Ionescu, but were quickly outscored by Connecticut, who had Tiffany Hayes shooting well early on. Three-pointers from Dwana Bonner and Hayes gave them the lead.
New York, which ended the first quarter on a 17-23 run capped by Stephanie Dolson’s buzzer-beating three-pointer, couldn’t turn the tide in the second quarter, as they locked down Thomas but couldn’t stop her from outside.
New York continued to pull away from Connecticut’s defense and cut in, getting baskets from Kayla Thornton and Courtney Vandersloot to pull within one. They were not so lucky, however, as Bonner’s three-pointer from long range rattled off the rim as time expired, allowing Natasha Heideman to hit a three-pointer to push the lead to eight.
New York allowed six three-pointers in the first half alone and went into the second quarter trailing Connecticut 32-38.
New York’s real comeback came in the second half. Ionescu opened the scoring with a three-pointer, Benaja Rani followed with a steal and a three-pointer from Stewart, and Vandersloot answered with a three-pointer of his own.
Ionescu’s steal and Vandersloot’s layup put New York ahead for good, but Stewart’s 3-pointer and Jonquel Jones’ dunk made the difference.
Thomas, who scored his first points of the night on a free throw with 1:49 left in the third quarter, showed a lapse in concentration as he was unhappy with the officiating, and with 0.6 seconds left in the third quarter, he committed an unnecessary foul on a down low ball contest, giving Stewart two free throws for a team foul.
New York took a 57-51 lead into the third quarter, and the fourth quarter was all New York.
A free throw by Stewart, a paint-zone jumper by Sabali, and a three-pointer by Vandersloot pushed New York’s lead to more than 10 points. With Thomas completely locked down, Connecticut was unable to overcome New York’s momentum, even with Hayes and Bonner splitting time.
While Connecticut’s perimeter went cold in the first half, New York’s perimeter caught fire in the fourth quarter. Three-pointers from Ionescu and Stewart put the game out of reach for New York. Ionescu even hit a game-winning three-pointer with 1:35 left to play, and the game ended in New York’s favor.
New York used the game as a celebration of AAPI Heritage Month. The United States recognizes May as AAPI Heritage Month every year, with AAPI standing for Asian American and Pacific Islander.
For the commemorative game, New York highlighted Chinese player Han Xu, but he didn’t get a chance to play as the game remained close.
With 1:20 left in regulation and the team holding a 15-point lead, Hansch, who took the court to the cheers of the crowd, attempted a 3-pointer on an open look, but it was an airball, and then grabbed an offensive rebound with 32 seconds left in regulation. It was his first rebound and first points in three games this season.
Hansch was selected by New York in the second round, 14th overall, in 2019.
Unlike many players of Asian descent who struggle to find their feet in the WNBA, Hansch has consistently received more than her fair share of playing time since her rookie season.
While some analysts have suggested that the team is focused on rebuilding rather than immediate results due to its mid-to-lower division status, others have pointed out that the team is riding the coattails of Alibaba Vice Chairman Tsai Chung-hsien, who is of Chinese descent (Taiwanese), buying the New York Liberty.
Last year, he played well, averaging 8.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 16.8 minutes in 32 games. He showed the potential and skill to be New York’s primary sixth man.
However, his role diminished dramatically in the offseason, when New York made a major roster overhaul and became a super team. He’s averaged 4.4 minutes in three games, all of which have come in game-winning minutes. She had no points or rebounds before this game.
New York has two defending league MVPs, Brianna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, who have stepped up as starters, as well as veteran center Stephanie Dolson. The game also marked the debut of 6-foot-9 forward Niara Sabaly.스포츠토토
New York’s fifth overall pick in the 2022 first round, Savalie, who has been sidelined with an injury, played 13:50 in the game and had a solid performance with six points and three rebounds. Considering the matchup was against Connecticut’s top big men, it was a satisfying debut.
In New York, where the roster is loaded with long forwards and centers, Hansch’s chances of getting regular minutes are likely to diminish further.