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: 3 stars from Sunday’s win at Los Angeles

The New York Liberty commemorated their 25th birthday in familiar fashion through a win over the Los Angeles Sparks.

A quarter-century later, some things never change.

The New York Liberty earned a big win to celebrate their 25th birthday, escaping from Los Angeles with a 76-73 victory over the local Sparks at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Sunday’s game was a rematch of the inaugural tilt in WNBA history held on June 21, 1997, which was also won by the Liberty. The Liberty earned their win despite getting charged for 29 turnovers, the second-worst mark in franchise history.

Through their triumph, New York (7-6) is able to come back home with a split of a four-game road trip after dropping consecutive contests in Las Vegas.

ESM distributes the game balls after a big win…

3rd Star: Kylee Shook 

14 points, 7 rebounds

Shook once again took some big steps forward as a second-year pro in the final stage of this road trip. The Louisville alumna admitted that her open looks from deep weren’t going down, so she created her own chances through cuts into the interior. She shot 5-of-7 from the field on Sunday and has reached double figures in three of her last four contests.

“The team learned that we can push through whatever we put our minds to, as long as we stay focused and give it our all,” Shook said of what the team learned on this road trip. “My shots haven’t been falling lately, and I haven’t really had time to practice it, but I just want to make a greater impact than just standing there, whether it’s getting a teammate open, getting a cut, pulling in defense, I can do so much.”

2nd Star: Sami Whitcomb 

17 points, 9 rebounds

The Liberty made the most of second chances, outscoring the Sparks 19-0 off offensive boards. Overall, New York outrebounded Los Angeles (5-7) by a 38-27 margin, with Whitcomb leading the way with a career-best nine. Only one was of the offensive variety, but it was a big one. Whitcomb hauled in a Bec Allen misfire with under three minutes to go in the final frame, then drove to the basket where she met a Karlie Samuelson foul. Two free throws allowed the Liberty to regain the lead.

“This is a massive win today,” Whitcomb noted. “This was really a character-revealing game for us. We knew it was going to be a battle of wills, we knew LA was going to be tough, that they were going to fight and they were going to make it really difficult for us…At the end of a really tough road trip, I’m really proud of this group because we stand together.”

1st Star: Rebecca Allen

19 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 steals, 3 assists

If it was a category on Sunday’s statsheet, Bec Allen probably did it.

The Australian native began the trip by learning she’d officially be representing a Land Down Under this August in Tokyo and ended it by being a woman of many talents in America. Allen helped the Liberty build an early lead through a season-high in scoring before capping things off with her signature defensive flair. Kristi Toliver’s would-be go-ahead triple was swatted away by Allen, who would then sink a pair of free throws to create the eventual final margin. Granted one last chance to avenge Lisa Leslie’s 1997 group, Los Angeles was again thwarted by Allen.

In another case of serendipitous bookending, the similarly named Rebecca Lobo led the Liberty in scoring on that fateful date in the mid-90s. Allen also helped the Liberty secure the first victory on this road trip, earning a steal on the final possession of a three-point win in Phoenix.

“I was really grateful that I have my length in that moment,” Allen said of Sunday’s final stands. Head coach Walt Hopkins referred to her as “a special player on both ends”. After Sunday’s display, the idea of Allen, a New York bench staple since 2016 that has filled in for the injured Sabrina Ionescu, etching her name onto Sixth Woman of the Year shortlist seems more realistic than ever.

Geoff Magliocchett 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: Three stars from Sunday’s win at Phoenix

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

New York Liberty: Three Stars from Saturday’s loss at Connecticut

The New York Liberty were dealt their third straight defeat in Connecticut, as they were unable to stop All-Star Jonquel Jones.

Jonquel Jones tallied a career-best 31 points for the Connecticut Sun, who rolled to an 85-64 victory over the New York Liberty on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Rebecca Allen tallied 14 points to lead the Liberty (5-4) who have now lost three in a row heading into a week-long break. The sour New York feelings further manifested with Betnijah Laney being held to eight points, ending her streak of 20-point game to open the season at eight (tied for second-longest in WNBA history).

ESM has three stars to highlight from another tough New York effort…

Third  Star: Rebecca Allen

14 pts. (5-10 FG), 2 steals, 2 rebs.

Fresh off a season-best 16 against Las Vegas on Thursday, Allen was the only New Yorker who reached double figures in scoring. Between her rediscovered shooting prowess (Saturday was the third time she reached double-figures this season) and tenacious defense that ha assisted a defense sorely missing Natasha Howard, it may be time to put Allen on the Sixth Woman of the Year Award’s shortlist.

Second Star: Michaela Onyenwere

7 pts. (3-4 FG), 4 rebs. 1 blk.

The trial by fire continues for Onyenwere, who has been forced to deal with the powerful interiors of Las Vegas and Connecticut in her first contests after winning the league’s Rookie of the Month Award. Early foul trouble presented an issue in the early going, but Onyenwere still managed to earn some respectable numbers before things got out of hand.

First Star: Jazmine Jones

8 pts, 3 assists, 3 rebs. 

The second-year pro was, alas for New York, overshadowed by Connecticut’s representative of the same surname, but Saturday was a remarkable showcase for the last pick of the 2020 draft’s first-round.

Jones had a starring role in the Bradenton bubble but the spotlight has moved with the return of Sabrina Ionescu and several newcomers. She has kept the energy rolling through energetic bench celebrations and introductions, however, and she finally got to share the power on the court in an extended showing. Contributions all over the court allowed the Liberty to stage a late run on the lead in the first half and even hold a brief lead.

The Liberty return to action on Sunday, June 13 against the Phoenix Mercury (6 p.m. ET, YES). 

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 

New York Liberty: 3 stars from Tuesday’s win vs. Minnesota

Sabrina Ionescu made WNBA history in just her sixth game, as the New York Liberty won their third straight to start the season.

Behind WNBA history from Sabrina Ionescu, the New York Liberty won their third straight game to open the season. The top pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft earned the first triple-double in team history (10th in league history) en route to an 86-75 win over the Minnesota Lynx. New York (3-0) has won their first three games of the season for the first time since 2007.

ESM has three stars from Tuesday’s win…

3rd Star: Betnijah Laney

20 points, 5 assists

Poor Laney had perhaps the quietest 20-point game in team history, but it says something that Tuesday’s output was her lowest-scoring effort of the season. She’s also making the most of her chances, sinking 8-of-12 opportunities. A corner triple from Laney made it 50-47 in the third quarter, giving New York a lead they would never relinquish after trailing at halftime.

2nd Star: Sami Whitcomb

13 points, 8 rebounds

In the lead-up to the Minnesota game, head coach Walt Hopkins referred to her as an “unsung hero” in the Liberty lineup. The two-time champion was anything but unsung on Tuesday, hauling in a career-best eight rebounds and helped man the interior when it looked like Sylvia Fowles was about to take over. Fowles scored 16 points in the first half, but was held to only 10 in the second, part of that tally coming when the outcome was decided. It was in part thanks to the rebounding efforts of Whitcomb, who also sank some clutch triples to permanently give the Liberty the lead.

1st Star: Sabrina Ionescu

26 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds

A kid from Brooklyn who needs no supersoldier serum, Ionescu’s first two outings on Atlantic Avenue have been downright historic. Whether it was through clutch deep shots (one first-half three was taken from the 25th anniversary logo near midcourt) or setting up her teammates down below (namely Kylee Shook), Ionescu made sure the Liberty suffered no hangover from their opening two wins over Indiana. Everyone knew the kind of impact Ionescu could potentially make on both a New York and national landscape, but even the most unapologetic fan of the Oregon Duck couldn’t have seen this coming.

The Liberty return to action on Friday night on the road against the Washington Mystics (7 p.m. ET, YES).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: What’s ahead (week of May 17th)

The New York Liberty look to build on their first 2-0 start since 2016 as they enter the first full week of the 2021 season.

Three days into the 2021 WNBA campaign, the New York Liberty have earned the right to check a box on their season’s to-do list.

The Liberty (2-0) matched their win total from all of the woebegone 2020 season in the Bradenton bubble, sweeping the Indiana Fever in a home-and-home set on Friday and Sunday. Sabrina Ionescu’s game-winning triple in the final seconds allowed them to earn a 90-87 win in their full-time debut at Barclays Center before they held the lead all the way through the rematch at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, a 73-65 triumph.

“It does mean something, going a whole season to get two wins versus coming out the gate the way that they did,” head coach Walt Hopkins said after Sunday’s win. “To have two wins and to come in on a back to back, for them to make the adjustments and to be able to still win on the road, it says a lot about them.”

ESM looks backward and onwards as the Liberty and the WNBA prepare to move forward on their respective 25th anniversary seasons…

Player of the Week: Betnijah Laney

Friday: 30 points (11-of-18 FG, 4-of-5 3-pt. FG), 5 rebounds
Sunday: 20 points, 4 assists

Ionescu might’ve stolen the show with her Friday heroics, but Laney was by far the most consistent shooter the Liberty had to offer. The Rutgers alumna is once again making metropolitan basketball magic, pacing the Liberty in the early going with 25 points a game (second in the league after the first three days of action). Laney is proving that the successful Most Improved Player campaign she staged in the bubble was no fluke.

“I just want to continue to get better. That’s what I’m doing, I take my craft seriously. I’m continuing to build off of last year,” Laney said on Sunday, remarking on her first two games in the New York system. “It’s a pretty free and open offense, which I think works well. For me, it’s a lot similar to the offense that I saw last year (in Atlanta). “y teammates encouraged me and they find me and allow me to, you know, get to my shots and everything.”

Number of the Week: 18

Fresh out of UCLA, Michaela Onyenwere has made an instant impact in the New York lineup. She has appeared in the Liberty’s opening five in each of her first two contests and has tallied double figures in both appearances. The 18 she had on opening night in Brooklyn set a new team record for most points in a freshman debut, breaking a three-year mark held by Kia Nurse.

They Said It

“Simply put, she’s a bucket. In the first game, she did a pull-up and I was like, she is so good. Nobody came, nobody can guard Betnijah. She’s just so versatile, and her pull-up is always on, and even if it’s not, she finds other ways to get to the basket and facilitate…It’s just so cool. She’s definitely a vet that I can look to and ask questions, tell me where I need to be…She’s hard to guard and she’s just all around just a great teammate.”Michaela Onyenwere on Betnijah Laney

“I think already having two and a half games under my belt from last season, I think that was what I needed, being able to see play against some top teams. I think that kind of gave me some confidence coming into this season and just understanding my role on this team, what we’re trying to accomplish, what I can do to help others, and what all of us can build together. So I’m definitely not taking that for granted.”-Sabrina Ionescu on how her brief time last year helped in her 2021

Standings

WLGB
1. Connecticut20
2. LIBERTY20
3. Dallas100.5
4. Chicago100.5
5. Seattle100.5
6. Phoenix111
7. Minnesota011.5
8. Atlanta011.5
9. Las Vegas011.5
10. Washington011.5
11. Los Angeles011.5
12. Indiana022

The Week Ahead

Tuesday vs. Minnesota

(7 p.m. ET, YES App/ESPN3)

The first Walt Hopkins Bowl in Brooklyn stages the head coach and assistant Shelley Patterson against their former colleague and Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve. This game will also mark Minnesota assistant coach and Hall of Famer Katie Smith’s first visit to a New York basketball arena since she was relieved of her duties as Liberty head coach after two seasons in 2019.

The Lynx (0-1) are coming off a narrow loss to Phoenix on Friday night, as Diana Taurasi’s buzzer-beater negated an 18-point showing from Aerial Powers, who made her Great Lakes debut after parts of three seasons in Washington. Minnesota (14-8 last season) swept both matchups from the Liberty last season by a combined 56-point margin.

Friday @ Washington

(7 p.m. ET, YES)

The Liberty will face off against Tina Charles for the first time since the franchise’s all-time leading scorer was dealt for picks that eventually became Jazmine Jones and Michaela Onyenwere. Washington (0-1) played their first game in DC since they clinched the 2019 championship on Saturday, falling to Chicago 70-56. They welcomed in Charles but are still without 2019 MVP Elena Delle Donne, who is recovering from back surgeries.

Last season’s pair in Bradenton was split evenly, with the Liberty earning their first win of the year on August 7. Layshia Clarendon put up 14 points and six assists in the victory.

Sunday @ Chicago

(1 p.m. ET, ESPN)

A battle between New York and Chicago will have a strong Oregon feel to it, as Eugene gamechangers Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard will do battle for the first time. A showdown with the Sky produced the other of the Liberty’s Ionescu-free wins last season, as Clarendon put in 17 points, ending with the game-winning free throws, en route to a 101-99 win. Jocelyn Willoughby shot a perfect 5-for-5 from the field in the same game.

Chicago is one of the WNBA favorites this season with Windy City native Candace Parker in tow. She tallied 16 points and eight rebounds in the opening win over the Mystics, aided by 19 more from Kaleah Cooper.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags