Before Friday night's game, Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer called his team "fragile at times." He wondered aloud why his group's energy level has been so inconsistent this season.
"We've been a fragile team in a lot of ways," Laimbeer said. "I don't really know why. We need to find out tonight if we're capable of making a push for the playoffs."
Most popular sports stories
Laimbeer got the answer he wanted as the Liberty beat the Connecticut Sun, 71-66, at Madison Square Garden.
Tina Charles had 15 points and 14 rebounds, Avery Warley-Talbert added 11 points and 11 rebounds and Sugar Rodgers had 12 points off the bench. Katie Douglas' 26 points led the Sun.
Cappie Pondexter nailed a critical jumper from the left wing with 32.4 seconds left to give the Liberty a 67-63 lead.
"We needed this one badly. This is our season right now," Laimbeer said. "Our hearts were tested tonight."
The Liberty (13-16) moved into fourth place in the Eastern Conference with five games left. The top four teams in each conference make the playoffs.
"It wasn't like a Game 7, but it's pretty much like a Game 5 or a Game 6 for us -- it's a game we pretty much needed and one we thought we should have been able to get," Laimbeer said.
It didn't come as easy as Laimbeer would've liked, however. The Liberty led by 16 in the second quarter and had a 33-25 lead at the half. Then, in what has become typical for the Liberty this season, turnovers piled up, and the Sun capitalized.
The Sun (11-20), which was without leading scorer Chiney Ogwumike (dental procedure), outscored the Liberty 23-13 in the third quarter and went ahead 48-46. But Anna Cruz's three-point play with eight minutes left gave the Liberty a 53-50 lead it never relinquished.