Essence Carson doesn't consider herself to be a morning person. The Liberty's 11 a.m. tipoff Wednesday only helped her make sure of that.
"If I could sleep in," Carson said with a laugh, "I would."
Thankfully for the Liberty, she got up. The 6-foot Rutgers alumnus scored a season-high 16 points, shooting 7-for-12 in an 84-68 win over the San Antonio Stars (3-11). The Liberty (8-5) trails the first-place Chicago Sky by half a game in the Eastern Conference.
"We're playing good basketball," Carson said. "Coming together well."
Up and down the roster, the early start was panned as a disruption of routine. In that sense, being able to fight off yawns and still post a 47.9 percent clip from the field as a team was challenging.
"It's extremely hard," said Tina Charles, who had 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks after arriving at 7:45 a.m. to receive extra treatment. "Literally rolling out of bed you have to be here. It was tough."
But at least it was loud.
Camp Day at Madison Square Garden attracted 18,617 fans (the largest Liberty crowd since 2002), the majority of whom were under the supervision of their counselors. "Oohs" and "aahs" were replaced by a continuous high-pitch shrill. There was also the humming of thousands of teal thundersticks clapping together from start to finish.
"We do it for the kids," said Charles, who earlier this week was named a starter for the Eastern Conference in next week's WNBA All-Star Game. "It's good for them to be able to come out and see us."
With the Liberty giving them plenty to cheer about -- it never trailed and led by as 20 in the fourth quarter -- it felt more like a Taylor Swift concert than a sporting event.
"When I came out at halftime, it was full," Charles said. "That was pretty cool."
Charles rose swiftly. She scored nine points in the paint in the game's opening five minutes. The Liberty outscored San Antonio 38-26 down low.
"That's our M.O.," coach Bill Laimbeer said. "Our disparity in points in the paint . . . We take great pride in that. That's who we are."
That's what makes the addition of Epiphanny Prince even more beneficial.
Prince, who played in her first home game as a member of the Liberty after competing with the Russian national team as it vied and came up short for a spot in the 2016 Olympics, is an established perimeter threat. But her ability to take it inside and draw contact plays perfectly into the Liberty's identity. She had 13 points. shooting 5-for-9.
"I got the jitters out and just had fun out there," said Prince, who went to Bergtraum High School in New York City. "It was more fun that we got the win."