Carson hits key shot as Liberty tops Sky
NEWARK -- Coming out of a timeout with 56.5 seconds remaining and the score tied at 73, Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter tapped teammate Essence Carson on the shoulder. The upcoming play was designed for Pondexter to create a shot, but she wanted Carson to be ready.
So Carson was not surprised when Pondexter's pass from the baseline floated back to her at the top of the key. And Pondexter wasn't surprised when Carson sank the open three-pointer, giving the Liberty the go-ahead bucket in its 80-73 win over Chicago in front of 7,315 at the Prudential Center on Sunday.
"I just treated it like any other shot," Carson said. "No pressure, just shoot it."
The celebration embracing Carson afterward wasn't as subdued. The Liberty (7-5) has won three in a row and five of its last six, holding its opponents to fewer than 75 points in four of them.
The Liberty defense wasn't so tight in the first half, allowing the Sky (6-7) to go ahead by 17 at one point, run up a 49-38 lead and shoot 52.9 percent from the field. But the Liberty upped the intensity and held Chicago to 24 points in the second half.
"We worked harder," coach John Whisenant said. "We never do anything different on defense, we just played harder. It comes down to can our defense execute?"
Carson was the one executing offensively in the second half in her first game back since she injured her right eye in pregame warm-ups July 1. Wearing a pair of black Wiley X goggles -- after practicing with them only once, on Saturday -- she shot 8-for-13 and scored 18 points, 12 in the second half. Pondexter also had 18.
"I didn't want to come in and just shoot the ball," Carson said. "I wanted to come in in rhythm, especially with the team coming off back-to-back wins."
Carson, the team's second-leading scorer, was having vision trouble up until late last week. It wasn't until Friday that she said her eyesight returned to normal.
"I can't even explain it," Carson said. "It wasn't the same. It was blurry, dim. My right eye, it seemed like everything was a different shade."
Getting Carson back let the Liberty creep back into a game that appeared to be edging toward a Sky blowout midway through the second quarter. Said Pondexter, "I think we're starting to get our flow and our understanding of each other within a system."