Liberty manages to hold off Connecticut

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Connecticut Sun's Chiney Ogwumike (13) shoots against Liberty's Alex Montgomery during the first quarter of a WNBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden, Sunday, June 29, 2014.(Credit: Jason DeCrow)

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Shortly after Sunday's game, Bill Laimbeer was asked how he's doing.

"Getting grayer," he said.

And that was after a win!

The Liberty held on to beat the Connecticut Sun, 67-65, at Madison Square Garden, but there were two lessons that Laimbeer wanted his team to take away from the victory.

On the white board in the locker room, he wrote, "Play smart" and "Value 2 points."

"We played hard enough," he said. "We executed a game plan that was a solid game plan to get a win, and we almost shot ourselves in the foot."

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Tina Charles, surrounded by three defenders, hit a hook shot, was fouled and converted the three-point play to open a 61-52 lead with 7:21 left. Cappie Pondexter then dribbled through traffic for a layup to increase the lead to 11 with 6:52 to play.

But that was the last field goal for the Liberty, which had two costly turnovers in a 20-second span and allowed two offensive rebounds on one possession while clinging to a one-point lead.

The Sun went on a 13-3 run capped by a layup by Chiney Ogwumike, who was fouled. She could have tied it at 66 with 2:21 left but missed the free throw.

The Sun's Katie Douglas missed a three-pointer with 5.8 seconds left, and after Anna Cruz hit the second of two free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining to give the Liberty (5-11) a two-point lead, Douglas missed a desperation shot from near midcourt with four-tenths of a second left.

Pondexter, who was held scoreless Friday, had 14 points. She tipped away a pass and raced down the court for a layup at the buzzer to give the Liberty a 54-47 lead heading into the fourth.

"I made a few changes in the way I attack," she said. "I came in with a fresh mind and the mentality that we were going to win today no matter what."

Charles also had 14 points and Plenette Pierson added 12. Ogwumike led Connecticut (8-8) with 22 points and 17 rebounds. Alex Bentley scored 18 points.

With two games left on its five-game homestand, the Liberty plans to focus on protecting the ball and boxing out.

"There's still room for improvement," Charles said. "We still have developing players. We just have to play smart, as it says on the board."

And value two points. For the sake of their coach's graying hair.

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