New York Liberty: Three stars from Sunday’s win at Phoenix

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The New York Liberty earned a huge win sans Sabrina Ionescu, topping the Phoenix Mercury in a gutsy road performance.

The New York Liberty earned a gutsy win without the services of Sabrina Ionescu on Sunday night.

Betnijah Laney took over in a performance that left her three rebounds away from a triple-double, while Jazmine Jones came through big in the fourth quarter to steal an 85-83 win over the Phoenix Mercury at Phoenix Suns Arena. The Liberty (6-4) ended a three-game losing streak and overcame a combined 50-point effort from Brittney Griner (27) and Skylar Diggins-Smith. New York jumped out to a 17-point lead despite losing Ionescu to an ankle injury, though head coach Walt Hopkins claimed the top pick of the 2020 draft “just needed a rest”.



ESM awards the game balls from Sunday’s big win…

3rd Star: Kylee Shook

10 points, 5 rebounds

Shook’s trial by fire in the defensive paint, as she was tasked with posting up on Griner. She was praised for making things difficult for the fearsome interior threat and Shook also started to capitalize on her open three-point looks. A pair of early triples allowed her to come one point short of her infantile career-best.

“There’s no question in my mind Kylee can knock down threes at a really high rate,” Hopkins said of Shook. “She’s one of our best shooters, every day in practice. She’s been like that since the preseason, but for her to get a couple to go down and get that confidence was great. I think that the growth for her is continuing to understand how to be physical without fouling, and how to use her strength and her size.”

2nd Star: Jazmine Jones

16 points, 7 rebounds

Sunday was deja vu all over again for Jones, who previously rose to the occasion for an Ionescu-less Liberty in the Bradenton bubble last season. Having earned extra minutes, Jones overcame a first half where she struggled to cash in on open looks (shooting 1-of-7 from the field) to come up huge in the final frame, tallying all but two of her points in the last ten minutes, hitting five of her six attempts. The biggest bucket came in the game’s penultimate minute, when a triple gave the Liberty a two-possession lead that made things that more difficult for the Mercury on their final possessions.

“Jaz really put us on her back in the fourth quarter,” Hopkins said of Jones. “She kept the offense going, played some great defense. The spark that she is is really remarkable.”

1st Star: Betnijah Laney

23 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds

After a one-game pause, Laney’s 20-point endeavors carried on in the desert on Sunday. With the Liberty citing their starts as a major area of concern, Laney made sure that wasn’t an issue, earning 17 points in the first half to help New York build its lead. While the Mercury mostly held her in check in the latter frames, Laney came up with some clutch baskets in the dying stages, including the de facto game-winning jumper with 34 seconds to go.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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