Liberty bounces back to beat Atlanta; Essence Carson out for season
NEWARK - Sunday's matinee matchup at Prudential Center between the Atlanta Dream and the Liberty had all the makings of a blowout.
Fresh off a 19-point loss to the Dream in Atlanta on Friday night, the Liberty learned Saturday that sixth-year wing player Essence Carson will miss the rest of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during the second quarter Friday. Carson averaged 17.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in the first three games of the season before suffering the injury in the fourth game.
But injuries to key players sometimes can create a rallying point. And that seemed to be the case for the Liberty as Cappie Pondexter and Plenette Pierson each had 17 points in a 76-67 win over the Dream.
"It was great to see our old selves today," said Pondexter, who scored 10 of her 17 points during a 21-6 run in the fourth. "We were all disappointed as a unit in Atlanta. The way we played there, it was no excuse."
It took a group effort by the Liberty (3-2) to dispatch the previously undefeated Dream (4-1) as all but one of the active players on the roster scored.
Kara Braxton had 14 points and five rebounds and Toni Young added eight points off the bench. Sancho Lyttle had 18 points and Angel McCoughtry 15 for the Dream.
Pondexter and Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer noted the play of backup point Leilani Mitchell. The 5-5 guard scored only three points and shot 1-for-8 but had seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in 23 minutes.
"Mitchell came in and gave a great defensive spark," Laimbeer said. "She dug all the loose balls out. She got her hands on everything, deflections. She had seven rebounds. For the smallest player on the floor, that's pretty impressive."
The Liberty entered the fourth quarter trailing 55-51 but went ahead 72-61 on Pondexter's three-pointer with 1:33 left.
"I like to step up when my team needs me," said Pondexter, who had seven points through three quarters before coming up big. "I just kept telling myself that no matter what, everybody struggles and just keep finding a way to get it done."