Laney, Whitcomb rep New York Liberty at the WNBA All-Star Game

The New York Liberty were well-represented at the WNBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas, which saw the league’s brightest stars take down Team USA.

The resurgent New York Liberty were well-represented at the WNBA’s All-Star proceedings at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday night.

Betnijah Laney partook in the winning efforts for the league’s victorious All-Star group, who earned a 93-85 win over the United States Olympic team bound for Tokyo. Laney, the Liberty’s leading scorer at the halfway mark, put up four points, two assists, and a rebound toward the triumph. Meanwhile, Sami Whitcomb put forth a very respectable effort in the WNBA MTN DEW 3-Point contest, earning 26 points through cashing in on the “money” balls worth extra points. It was Whitcomb’s first appearance in the contest, which was won by Allie Quigley of Chicago.

This marked the third time that the league staged a “Team USA vs. WNBA” format, though the first two were not officially considered All-Star Games. New York City hosted the original matchup in 2004 at Radio City Music Hall prior to the Summer Games in Athens, while Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena got the latter in 2010, a non-Olympic year. This marked the WNBA squad’s first win, as they were paced by 26 points in an MVP effort from Arike Ogunbowale of Dallas.

Laney mostly played the backup point guard role behind Courtney Vandersloot, earning nearly 17 minutes of game action. Wednesday marked Laney’s first career appearance in the WNBA All-Star Game. She’s working through her first season in New York after winning the Most Improved Player honor in last year’s bubbled season in Bradenton as a member of the Atlanta Dream.

The well-traveled Laney was particularly enthused by the chemistry she had with the rest of the WNBA squad, as she had worked with several of them in prior professional stops.

“I kind of knew everybody, considering I’ve bounced around quite a bit, so I’ve had experience playing alongside a lot of the people that I was playing with today,” Laney said with a smile. “It just felt like home, it felt it was it was really fun and I really enjoyed having the opportunity to play with them all again. I’m really glad that we came together and got the win tonight.

Laney was far from alone in representing the New York resurgence; teammates Reshanda Gray Michaela Onyenwere sat courtside with assistant coach Jacki Gemelos, whie Sabrina Ionescu watched with Kobe Bryant’s widow Vanessa and her mentor’s surviving daughters. Meanwhile, Rebecca Lobo called the game alongside Ryan Rocco for ESPN. Lobo, an original member of the Liberty, was also honored alongside other members of the 1996 United States women’s basketball contingent, whose gold medal trek from the Atlanta Games celebrates its 25th anniversary.

“I found (the experience) amazing, just for myself to just be here in this moment, you know, after everything,” Laney said after the game. “Then to have the support that I had from the team, from my family, and friends, it was just a really good experience.”

The Rutgers alumna was particularly happy to work with former collegiate and AAU teammate Kahleah Copper.

“It was really fun because this was the only level that we haven’t played on together,” Laney said of the Chicago representative. “To be able to have that opportunity out there today, you know, it was fun. I really enjoyed playing alongside her.”

Whitcomb had her time to shine at halftime, partaking in her first three-point competition. The WNBA’s leader in successful three-point attempts (56) was representing Mary’s Place, a Seattle-based non-profit that “provide(s) safe inclusive shelter and services that support women, children and families on their journey out of homelessness”. The winning shooter would receive $10,000 toward a charity of her choice.

Whitcomb’s work was immediately cut out of for her, as Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones immediately tallied 27 points in the opening round. But Whitcomb came tantalizingly close to passing her, giving a whole new definition to “Moneyball”. Whitcomb sank the money ball shot worth two points toward her tally, as well as one of the “Dew Zone” attempts worth three. With the top half of the four competitors set to advance to a final round, Whitcomb seemed well on her way, soundly beating former Seattle Storm teammate Jewell Loyd (18).

Alas, she was done in on the literal last shot, as Quigley sank her final money ball to tie Jones before winning the contest by a 28-24 margin, appropriately earning her third three-point trophy.

Team USA was paced by 17 points from Brittney Griner of Phoenix. They’ll remain in Las Vegas for further training, which includes exhibitions against Australia and Nigeria, before opening Olympic play on July 27 against the latter (12:40 a.m. ET/tape delay: 4:15 p.m. ET, USA). USA has been paired in a group with Nigeria, France, and host nation Japan.

Other Liberty representation in the Tokyo Games includes Rebecca Allen of Australia and international holdovers Marine Johannes (France) and Han Xu (China).

The Liberty return to action on August 15 against the Minnesota Lynx (7 p.m. ET, YES/Facebook).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: 3 stars from Friday’s loss at Indiana

A hard-luck travel saga brought about by inclement weather gave way to a tough loss for the New York Liberty on Friday in Indianapolis.

Facing an Indiana Fever squad whose jerseys resembled the aesthetic from the Netflix series Stranger Things, the New York Liberty got trapped in the Upside Down before they made it to Hawkins.

Behind 18 points each from Kelsey Mitchell and Danielle Robinson, the Fever (3-16) earned consecutive wins for the first time this season, topping the Liberty by an 82-69 final at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on Friday night. New York (10-10) only arrived in Indianapolis hours before game time, as their Thursday flight out was canceled due to heavy rains. The Liberty scored 28 points in the first quarter in building a five-point lead but struggled from there on out, dropping back to .500 and ending a brief two-game winning streak.

Despite the loss, the Liberty did take two of three meetings from the Fever this season. New York will wrap up its pre-Olympic break slate on Sunday afternoon at home against Connecticut (2 p.m. ET, YES/ESPN3)

ESM has three silver linings in defeat…

3rd Star: Sami Whitcomb

10 points, 5 rebounds

Though it was a tough shooting day for Whitcomb (4-of-11 from the field), she did receive some good news in the midst of the Liberty odyssey. She is set to join Betnijah Laney in Las Vegas for the All-Star Game festivities, competing against former Seattle teammate Jewell Loyd, as well as Jonquel Jones and Allie Quigley, in the exhibition’s three-point competition. Whitcomb leads the league with 55 successful triples.

2nd Star: Kylee Shook

13 points, 6 rebounds

Teaming up with Reshanda Gray to hold notable Liberty killer Teaira McCowan in relative check (6-of-13 FG), Shook earned a new career-best in scoring. If anything, the Liberty’s rebounding efforts against Indiana can be commended. After getting outgained 45-28 on the glass in their first meeting, the Liberty won Friday’s battle by a 38-32 tally. Alas, turnovers proved to be the difference, as New York lost the ball 20 times.

1st Star: Betnijah Laney

23 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists

Laney reached her customary 20 points under less than ideal circumstances, but she did provide a quantum of revenge to one of her many former employers. Though Indiana cracked down on her for the remainder of the game (a task made all the more difficult by the loss of Bec Allen to Australia’s Olympic prep), the Liberty’s early surge was fueled by 13 early points from their All-Star representative. New York is 7-5 when Laney reaches at least 20 points.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: 3 stars from Tuesday’s loss at Atlanta

Courtney Williams’ late teardrop allowed the Atlanta Dream to the season series from the New York Liberty.

Courtney Williams had one more nightmare for the New York Liberty.

Another last-minute shot, a floater with 58 seconds to go, gave the Atlanta Dream the necessary points to escape with a 73-69 victory over New York (8-9) on Tuesday night at Gateway Center Arena.

Williams previously had an overtime triple that gave Atlanta a win in Brooklyn on May 29. She led the Dream (6-9) with 18 points, assisted by 14 from Crystal Bradford off the bench. Atlanta wins the season series 2-1 after splitting a back-to-back set with New York on their home court, coming back from a 23-point loss on Saturday.

3rd Star: Kylee Shook

8 points. 8 rebounds

The Liberty were befallen by a tough offensive rebounding margin, as Atlanta took advantage of second chances in the 12-7 victory. That didn’t stop Shook from continuing her fruitful tallies, as she is now averaging 10 a game over her last three.

2nd Star: Betnijah Laney

16 points, 7 assists, 1 steal

Though her former compatriots in the Peach State had the last laugh, Laney still managed to lead the Liberty in scoring once again, falling just three helpers short of a double-double.

1st Star: Michaela Onyenwere

13 points, 3 rebounds

If anyone’s going to miss playing the Atlanta Dream, it’s probably Onyenwere. She ends her first trio against Atlanta with an average of 20 points, including an infantile career-best 29 back in May. It was her early onslaught from the outside in the third quarter’s opening stages that allowed the Liberty back in the ball game. New York had hit only two from the field in the second quarter but managed to fight back thanks to Onyenwere’s offense. She and Shook likewise united to hold Elizabeth Williams to only a single point, as the Atlanta center missed all six of her attempts from the field. 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Three stars from Saturday’s win at Atlanta

A career-best in scoring for Sami Whitcomb paced the New York Liberty to a win in the first half of an Atlanta doubleheader.

A career-best evening for Sami Whitcomb paced the New York Liberty to a healthy 101-78 victory over the Atlanta Dream on Saturday night at Gateway Center Arena at College Park. The win snaps a two-game losing streak and pushes the Liberty back to the .500 mark (8-8). It’s also the first part of a doubleheader in Georgia, as New York and Atlanta (5-9) will face off again on Tuesday night (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3).

ESM hands out game balls from the most one-sided victory of the Walt Hopkins era…

3rd Star: Michaela Onyenwere

18 points, 2 rebounds

After recovering to have a strong second half in Thursday’s Chicago debacle, Onyenwere kept the good vibes rolling with a 6-of-8 shooting performance from the field. The rookie out of UCLA has become the Liberty’s most potent interior threat in the absence of the injured Natasha Howard and flashed her physicality with eight visits to the foul line, sinking all but one.

2nd Star: Betnijah Laney

28 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds

Laney returned to her customary 20-point showing, but it didn’t come easy. The former Atlanta rep took a hard hit in the second half on what became a flagrant foul, which could’ve been a crushing blow to a team that’s already missing Howard and Rebecca Allen. But much like her hockey brothers and sisters, Laney didn’t miss a shift, instead returning to post her best scoring output since sinking 30 on opening night. She wasn’t the only one returning to scoring landmarks. Sabrina Ionescu put up 10 points in her return to the starting lineup, her first time in double digits since May 24.

1st Star: Sami Whitcomb

28 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists

Whitcomb was strong right from the get-go, making a mark on both her personal and the team’s record books. She tied her personal best in scoring (originally 22 points in a 2017 game against the Liberty) before the first half even let out, breaking it at one of the most crucial points of the game. As the Dream slowly inched their way back in, cutting the New York lead down to four, a crucial, deep three from Whitcomb ignited a 37-20 run to end the game. Whitcomb’s seven successful triples tied a Liberty record last reached by Amanda Zahui B in 2019.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Three stars from Tuesday’s loss vs. Chicago

The New York Liberty’s return to Brooklyn didn’t go as planned, as they ended up on the wrong end of a blowout against the Chicago Sky.

Candace Parker fell just short of Barclays Center’s second WNBA triple-double, putting up 23 points and 12 rebounds to go with six assists. She was one of four Chicago Sky representatives who reached double-figures as they rolled to an 92-72 victory over the New York Liberty. The game was the first of a two-game set between New York (7-7) and Chicago, with the latter scheduled for Thursday night (7 p.m. ET, YES/Twitter). With the win, the Sky (8-7) have now won six in a row.

ESM has game balls for the New York silver linings…

3rd Star: Sabrina Ionescu 

6 points, 7 assists, 8 rebounds

Ionescu slowly started to resemble her dominant self on Tuesday night, looking as fast and athletic as she has been since missing two games with an “overuse” injury. Though New York was drastically outplayed by the resurgent Sky, they were undoubtedly a better team with her on the court. Time will tell if she’s able to resume her starting lineup duties, though Bec Allen has filled in quite efficiently in her place, so there’s no need to rush.

2nd Star: Jazmine Jones

11 points (5-8 FG), 5 rebounds, 2 blocks

Jones did what she did best in an effort to stem the bleeding: providing energy, even if it came in the form of expressing PG-13-displeasure at the officials (who awarded the Liberty only 11 free throws on Tuesday night). The All-Rookie nominee has reached double-figures in three of her last five games after doing so only once in the first nine contests. She also did a solid job of crashing the boards, hauling in five on the defensive end.

1st Star: Betnijah Laney

18 points (7-12 FG), 5 rebounds, 5 assists

Laney fell short of her traditional 20 but rediscovered her shooting touch after the recent four-game road trip brought her back down to earth a little bit. With the WNBA having announced a unique All-Star Game format in Las Vegas (pitting the United States’ womens’ Olympic basketball against a dozen WNBA All-Stars), Laney continues to make her case for a nomination, having missed on last year’s edition with the season confined to the Bradenton bubble.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Liberty: Three stars from Thursday’s loss at Las Vegas

The return of Sabrina Ionescu wasn’t enough for the New York Liberty to avoid another one-sided defeat in Las Vegas.

The best news emerging from Thursday night’s New York Liberty game is likely the fact they probably won’t have to return to Michelob Ultra Arena this season.

Sabrina Ionescu made her return as a reserve, but it wasn’t enough to reverse New York’s fortunes. Six Las Vegas Aces reached double-figures in scoring, paced by 18 from Kelsey Plum in a 103-76 victory. The Liberty (6-6) have now dropped five of their last six games after a 5-1 start. They’re 0-5 all-time in Sin City (since 2018), which hosts one of the WNBA’s original franchises in their third incarnation (previously based in Salt Lake City and San Antonio). Las Vegas (10-3) has swept the three-game season set, also winning by 22 on Tuesday.

ESM has three silver linings from this latest defeat…

3rd Star: Rebecca Allen

14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals

Allen has been filling Ionescu’s role in the starting five and but she continued to make her case for inclusion on the shortlist for Sixth Woman of the Year. Similar to her ten-minute takeover in the teams’ long meeting in Brooklyn earlier this month (14 points in the second quarter), Allen kept the Liberty’s fight going in the fourth quarter, picking up a dozen points to keep things semi-respectable.

2nd Star: Betnijah Laney

20 points, 4 assists

It came in yet another disheartening defeat, but Laney once again earned 20 after missing the mark in Tuesday’s matchup. The return to 20 points comes just in time for the start of All-Star Game voting for a game set to be held in…Las Vegas.

New York is 6-4 when Laney hits her magic 20.

1st Star: Reshanda Gray

17 rebounds, 4 rebounds 

Gray is in the midst of her fourth term in New York, added on a hardship contract with Kiah Stokes competing overseas. As Stokes was not on Turkey’s EuroBasket roster for the upcoming tournament, it stands to reason that Gray’s metropolitan endeavors may be coming to an end.

But after Thursday’s display, it’s hard to justify sending her off into the WNBA wilderness. Not only is Gray a bona fide WNBA veteran that shouldn’t be reduced to hardship contracts for domestic work, but her ability to infiltrate the paint and work with the roll can’t be denied. Gray also became a thorn in the side of Liz Cambage, who voiced her frustrations to the officials to no avail. If anything, Gray continues to build her reputation as a walking, breathing, flesh-and-blood case for WNBA expansion, whether it’s through roster spots or cities.

The Liberty return to action on Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Sparks (4 p.m. ET, ESPN). 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: 3 stars from Tuesday’s loss at Las Vegas

The New York York Liberty’s strong start in Las Vegas couldn’t be sustained, as they fell to the Aces on the road.

A visit to Las Vegas came up snake eyes for the New York Liberty, who were victimized by 32 points off the bench by Kelsey Plum. A stellar performance from Sin City’s reserves, as Dearica Hamby added 16 more en route to the hometown Aces’ 100-78 victory at Michelob Ultra Arena. The Liberty (6-5) got off to a strong start, leading by as much as 11 in the first half, but the Vegas onslaught proved to be too much to handle. New York had one of their own reserves stand out, as Jazmine Jones led the team with 17 points. This was the first part of a two-game set in Las Vegas, with the rematch coming on Thursday night (10 p.m. ET, CBSSN).

ESM has a trio of silver linings from Tuesday’s loss…

3rd Star: Betnijah Laney

15 points, 6 assists 

It was a bit of a frustrating night for Laney, who sank only one of five free throw attempts and also picked up a technical in the second half. But much like the injured Sabrina Ionescu, Laney managed to make a positive impact on the Liberty statsheet. Despite some stingy Vegas defense, Laney sank 7-of-12 from the field and also led the team with six assists.

2nd Star: Jazmine Jones

17 points (6-of 8 FG), 3 assists 

The most frustrating thing about the Twitter confrontation between Jones and Sunday opponent Skylar Diggins-Smith is that most mainstream outlets covering the dispute shrunk the New York’s sophomore’s WNBA impact down to the social media barbs. Jones, however, responded with some immediate energy off the bench, sinking her first four attempts from the field and reached double figures for the second straight contest.

1st Star: Kylee Shook

12 points, 9 rebounds 

If the Liberty emerge from this road trip from one thing, it’s the valuable souvenir of Shook emerging into a reliable shooter and all-around talent. The Shook that has emerged over the last two games looks different from even the one that began the year, as her confidence is apparent all over the court. Tuesday’s proceedings saw Shook put up career-bests in scoring, rebounds, and field goal attempts (11). If Shook keeps building this kind of confidence, the Liberty could well own the most dangerous opening five in the league once Ionescu makes her return.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Liberty: 3 stars from Thursday’s loss vs. Las Vegas

The New York Liberty fought valiantly but a comeback effort fell short against the Aces.

Defending WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson put in 30 points on Thursday night at Barclays Center, as the Las Vegas Aces used a dominant first quarter to earn a 94-82 victory over the New York Liberty. Betnijah Laney reached 20 points for the eighth straight game, leading the Liberty (5-3) with 23 points, while Rebecca Allen (16) and Sami Whitcomb (14) also reached double figures.

Las Vegas (6-4) jumped out to a 30-16 lead at the end of the first quarter and inflated their lead by as much as 19 before the Liberty mounted a comeback that came as close as one. It was another tough from the field for Sabrina Ionescu (2-13 FG), who was limited to five points. She did earn nine assists and rebounds each, but it wasn’t enough to withstand the Vegas storm.

ESM has three stars for the Liberty in their second straight defeat…

3rd Star: Leaonna Odom

7 pts. (3-3 FG)

Odom, sidelined with an Achilles injury over the first eight games of the season, made her 2021 debut on Thursday. One of the Bradenton bubble’s best-kept secrets immediately made her prescience felt with a block on a driving Chelsea Gray to open the second quarter. Odom sank all three of her attempts from the field and several tipped balls ended Vegas possessions. With Natasha Howard’s return still undated, the return of a defensive stud like Odom could help the Liberty tread water in the meantime, helping them regain their defensive swagger.

2nd Star: Betnjiah Laney

23 pts., 5 rebs.

With every tally of at least 20, Laney edges closer to WNBA history. She became the first player since Lauren Jackson (2009) to open a season by reaching the precipice in each of her first eight games. Laney, Jackson, and Sheryl Swoopes are the only players to reach eight, while Cynthia Cooper (9 in 1999) holds the record. With Ionescu in a bit of a rut (which Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins attributed to potential soreness) Bradenton’s Most Improved Player continues to serve as both a reliable scorer and floor general, often working with exclusively second-unit players in the early stages of games. Such endeavors are only adding to her MVP candidacy.

1st Star: Rebecca Allen

16 pts. 2 rebs., 2 stls. 

Blessed with a sense of fearless shooting and tenacious defense, it feels like Allen was tailor-made to play in the system that Hopkins and his assistants have developed. The union was fully realized and on display on Thursday, as she helped the Liberty back into the game with a dominant stretch of 11 consecutive points in the second quarter, an effort reminiscent of her team-record 22-point showing against Minnesota back in White Plains during her last WNBA season in 2019. As the Liberty continue to work through undermanned times on the roster, Allen’s efforts showcase the depth that has built a winning record in the early going. She’ll likely be relied upon further as she regains her shooting touch and Kiah Stokes goes off to compete in Turkey’s international endeavors later this month.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: 3 stars from Monday’s win vs. Dallas

Despite losing Natasha Howard to an injury, the New York Liberty were able to sweep a back-to-back headed into a four-day break.

Forced to play three games in three cities over a four-day span, the New York Liberty learned in the most enjoyable way that two out of three isn’t bad.

Betnijah Laney scored 26 points, while Sabrina Ionescu (15 points, 9 assists) fell just short of a double-double en route to an 88-81 victory on Monday night at Barclays Center. The game was previously scheduled for Tuesday night but moved due to the Brooklyn Nets’ NBA playoff series against the Boston Celtics.

ESM has three heroines from Monday’s game…

3rd Star: DiDi Richards

3 points, 5 assists, 2 steals 

The energetic Richards, chosen in the second round in last month’s draft, has quickly become a fan favorite in New York. She cemented that status on Monday through the basketball’s de facto equivalent of a hockey fight, diving for a loose ball late in the first half that more or less changed the course of the game. At the time of Richards’ gritty display, the lethargic Liberty trailed 39-31. Over the final 1:54, they went on an 8-0 run to create a tie game and go into the half on a good note.

2nd Star: Betnijah Laney

Death. Taxes. Betnijah Laney scoring 20 points in a Liberty uniform.

The trend came to pass once again on Monday, as Laney once again broke the double-decalogue plateau. She likewise dealt the Brooklyn fans an unintentional scare, as she took an elbow to the mouth in the penultimate minute of the ball game while going for a rebound. Fortunately, she returned to the floor and went on to sink several free throws that played a role in securing the win.

1st Star: Natasha Howard

17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists

Time will tell if Howard is able to build on her strong debut. The three-time WNBA champion left Monday’s game with a late knee injury sustained while setting a pick, but she made her prescience felt. What’s impressive about her early showings is that she has yet to partake in a single practice with the team, having only joined the team on Sunday, immediately before this back-to-back.

The Liberty (5-1) return to action on Saturday afternoon against the Atlanta Dream at Barclays Center (2 p.m. ET, YES App/Amazon Prime). 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: 3 stars from Sunday’s win at Chicago

sabrina ionescu, New York Liberty

The New York Liberty got back on the right track with a thrilling, sharp-shooting victory over the Chicago Sky.

Six metropolitan reached double figures, paced by 20 from Betnijah Laney, as the New York Liberty (4-1) recovered from their first loss of the season through a 93-85 victory over the Chicago Sky on Sunday afternoon at Wintrust Arena.

Sabrina Ionescu earned another double-double while Natasha Howard earned 12 points and seven rebounds in her New York debut. Courtney Vandersloot had 15 assists for the Sky (2-1) in defeat.

ESM has the game ball from Sunday’s victory…

3rd Star: Rebecca Allen

13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals

Allen was a latecomer to the Liberty’s proceedings after finishing up her international duties in Spain. She has worked herself into a strong rhythm and contributed a little bit of everything on Sunday, finding a late shooting stroke and stifling Chicago’s comeback effort with strong defense.

The Liberty nearly endured disaster when Allen appeared to be shaken up after a late possession under the basket. Encouraged by teammate Betnijah Laney, Allen remained on the floor and recovered a missed free throw to pick one final and-one basket, delivering the dagger and the final points of the victory.

2nd Star: Betnijah Laney

20 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists

The Most Improved Player is turning the Liberty into a most improved team, as Laney once again reached 20 points, no having done so in each of her first five games in seafoam. She was pleased with the Liberty’s physicality in their Sunday victory as well as their resilience in overcoming Friday’s brutal loss in Washington.

“For us to know that we can play their style of basketball and be successful, I think it really is really good for us and it shows our strength,” Laney said. “We knew what we had to do and we just came out with the same energy (over the first three contests), approaching the games, the same way that we do every time.”

1st Star: Sabrina Ionescu

19 points, 12 assists 

Sunday was a familiar battle for Ionescu, as she went up against former Oregon teammate Ruthy Hebard and their fellow Kelly Graves disciple Vandersloot (who worked with the current Ducks coach at Gonzaga). Ionescu responded with another double-double and got herself involved in several scrums under the basket. She was pleased that the team was able to win a physical battle, especially while embroiled in a three games-in-four days swing that ends tomorrow in Brooklyn against the Dallas Wings (7 p.m. ET, YES).

“It was a dogfight. But we came up and we were ready to play,” Ionescu said. “They’re tough, they’re a physical team, that’s kind of their MO. We knew that going in, and we definitely punched first and continued to punch. You know they were going through some runs, but I think defense is what really stepped up for us in this game and ultimately helped us.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags