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Epiphanny Prince scores 22 as Liberty routs Chicago

From left, New York Liberty's Swin Cash, Tanisha

From left, New York Liberty's Swin Cash, Tanisha Wright, Epiphanny Prince, Tina Charles and Kiah Stokes celebrate on the bench during the fourth quarter of a WNBA basketball game against the Chicago Sky at Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. Credit: Jason DeCrow

For her youth, shared history with Tina Charles and the chance to bring a native New Yorker back home, Epiphanny Prince represented an exciting option for the Liberty, one it felt it had to pursue in the offseason.

But the most compelling aspects about Prince, the primary reasons the Liberty traded Cappie Pondexter to Chicago for her in a summer blockbuster, were on display at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night: her craftiness when attacking the basket, her soft touch, her ability to lead the charge.

Prince had 22 points, three steals and two assists in the Liberty's 84-63 win over her former team on Breast Health Awareness Night. The Sky (14-10) was without MVP candidate Elena Delle Donne, who sat out with an ankle injury.

Prince dropped 30 points against the Sky in Chicago on Friday.

"She's meant the world to this team," said Charles, a New Yorker who battled Prince on the hardwood in high school and college.

As the Liberty has blossomed -- improving to 15-6 with a 2 1/2-game lead over Washington for first place in the Eastern Conference -- so has Prince.

After missing the first 13 games of the season while playing overseas for the Russian national team, Prince averaged just 13 points in her first nine games with the Liberty.

"The other day, I had to scold her to shoot more," Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. "She wasn't going out there and being aggressive."

Prince has averaged 26 points the past two games, shooting 74 percent (20-for-27).

"[Laimbeer's] yelling at me, 'Shoot, shoot, shoot!' I'll think I just threw a good pass, and he's yelling at me to shoot," Prince said with a laugh. "It's great to play for a coach that has that much confidence in you."

The Liberty built a 26-17 lead in the first quarter, thanks in large part to Prince's 10 points and 4-for-5 shooting.

It was a bit odd for the 9,987 in attendance to see Pondexter, 32, in her light-blue Chicago uniform after five years with the Liberty. She scored 23 points and received warm applause from the Garden crowd when introduced.

But that couldn't top the raucous applause generated by Prince at the conclusion of the second quarter. With the shot clock off, Pondexter's pass inside was intercepted by Tanisha Wright, who led a fast break the other way. She hit a cutting Prince for a layup, with the ball still in the air at the buzzer.

"I'm just more comfortable," Prince said. "I'm more comfortable with the system, more comfortable with my teammates and they put confidence in me."

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