WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The Liberty went from not playing well enough in losing four close games to really not playing well enough in losing its previous two by double digits. Even its three wins sprinkled among the first nine games had some holes in them.
The Liberty had a chance to start getting it right Tuesday night at Westchester County Center against an Atlanta Dream team that was without injured guards Tiffany Hayes and Brittney Sykes.
The Liberty built a 16-point cushion in the second quarter only to see the Dream tie it in the third. But the Liberty never trailed in the game and outplayed Atlanta in the fourth to secure a 79-72 victory.
“I hope it’s a building block for us,” coach Katie Smith said.
Tina Charles scored 29 points, but she gave a lot of credit to backup point guard Brittany Boyd, who set a Liberty record for most assists at 11 without converting a field goal.
They helped the team withstand a huge 39-point, 14-rebound effort by Angel McCoughtry. So the win moved the Liberty to 4-6 before their trips to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
“It’s very important because we just lost two, and those were big blowout games,” Boyd said. “We needed this game.”
Kiah Stokes and Kia Nurse sandwiched layups around a turnover, and the Liberty was off on an 18-8 run to open the fourth. Boyd dished for five assists on the way to a 68-57 lead.
Atlanta (6-6) didn’t go away. McCoughtry went 19-for-22 at the line, including two makes with 57.8 left to cut it to 74-69. But Bria Hartley nailed two at the line a couple of seconds later. The Dream couldn’t get closer than six from there.
“Just energy,” Boyd said of the difference. “We got up and down the court. We got easy buckets.”
Kia Vaughn had scored off an offensive rebound to put the Liberty up 34-18 with 1:34 remaining in the second quarter. But it was down to 34-24 at halftime.
McCoughtry scored 13 in the third. When Jessica Breland converted a three-point play for Atlanta, it capped a 16-5 burst and the game was tied at 44. The Liberty took a 50-49 lead, heading for the fourth.
Said Charles, “Any win for us right now with the state of what our record is, is an important win for us.”