Liberty block 10 shots, Kiah Stokes with franchise record 8
Behind a dominant defensive performance which included a franchise single-game record eight blocks from rookie Kiah Stokes, the New York Liberty (9-5) defeated the Connecticut Sun 64-57 on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden to move into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference standings.
On a night where All-Star starter Tina Charles poured in 22 points with 12 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season and the 103rd of her career, it was Stokes that stole the show, putting together a highlight reel of swatted shots which solidified her spot as one of, if not the premier, interior defender in the WNBA. “She is only 22 and can provide the kind of energy that we need. Liberty head coach Bill Limber said about his rookie center after the game. “She anchors our defense. The kid can guard everybody in the gym. She can guard guards and she has this year. If there’s a better defender in this league, I don’t see it. There may be some as good as her but not any better.”
Five of those blocks came during the third quarter, and two of them were on the same offensive possession for the Sun (7-6). It was with a little over six minutes remaining in the game that the normally stoic Stokes let out a yell after sending a Jasmine Thomas shot into the stands. Although she didn’t know it at the time, that play tied the Liberty single-game block record, although there would be two more to come.
At that point New York led by six, reversing its fortunes thanks to a big third quarter that saw the team turn a five-point halftime deficit into a 3-point lead thanks to an 8-0 run to start the period, capped off by an Epiphanny Prince 3-point play where she found a way to get a finger role to drop as she drew hard contact going toward the rim.
The Liberty would outscore Connecticut 24-17 in the third, with nine points coming from Charles.
The two-point lead heading into the fourth ballooned to six thanks to two more buckets from Charles, who shot 7-of-13 from the field to top 20 points for the fifth time this season and the fourth time over the last five games.
New York led by as many as eight down the stretch, but never really had that lead threatened by the Sun as the Liberty clamped down on defense, limiting Connecticut to just 18.8 (3-of-16) from the field in the fourth quarter.
For the game, Connecticut shot just 30.0 percent and New York lowered its league-leading opponent field goal percentage down to 36.6 percent.
The largest lead of the game for either team actually belonged to the Sun, who after a sluggish start came out on fire to start the second quarter.
Connecticut would hit five of its first six attempts, including all four shots from 3-point range, to open up a 25-16 lead fewer than 2:30 into the period.
New York closed to within five at the half, using a big 3-pointer from Epiphanny Prince to chop the Sun’s lead down to six (29-23) followed by makes from Stokes and Charles.
New York will see its next four games come on the road, with a Western Conference road trip preceding the All-Star break.
The Liberty head out to Phoenix on Saturday, July 18, then to Seattle (July 21) and Los Angeles (July 22).
Saturday’s game against the Mercury will be broadcast on MSG. Tipoff is scheduled for 10 p.m. (ET).
Story courtesy of NY Liberty press release