When Epiphanny Prince and Kia Vaughn took a timeout from the Liberty at the start of the month to go overseas for the EuroBasket tournament, coach Bill Laimbeer said he assumed his team would take its lumps but could still claim some games.
Surprisingly, it only experienced one lump to go with five victories.
And Friday night Prince and Vaughn returned, on Pride Night at Madison Square Garden, ready to help against Connecticut, the team that administered that lump last week.
This time, the Sun dropped the Liberty into a 21-point hole late in the third quarter. But the home team went on a wondrous run and ultimately tied the game with 1:06 left.
Courtney Williams snapped the tie with a jumper and Connecticut went on to administer another lump with a 94-89 win, its fifth straight and sixth in seven games after an 0-4 start.
“They’re a great team, so they made their run,” Williams said. “We knew they were going to make their run. So we had to withstand it, and we did. And we got some big buckets down the stretch.”
Jasmine Thomas paced Connecticut (6-5) with 23 points. Tina Charles led the Liberty (7-5) with 20 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Shavonte Zellous added 18 points, Prince contributed 14 off the bench and Bria Hartley and Sugar Rodgers each had 13, although Rodgers fell on her back and is being evaluated, according to Laimbeer.
The Liberty lamented its 16 turnovers that led to 28 points and allowing 21 second-chance points.
“We have to value the basketball more,” Laimbeer said.
The Sun opened up its 21-point advantage with 1:59 left in the third. But the Liberty outscored Connecticut, 37-16, to tie it at 86.
That’s when Williams pulled up from 10 feet on the right baseline and gave the Sun the lead with 54.3 seconds left.
Prince, admittedly tired after arriving from Europe Thursday night, missed a jumper. Then Thomas buried a three to make it 91-86 with 24.2 seconds remaining.
Charles missed a three, and Shekinna Stricklen countered with a free throw.
Zellous hit a three, and it was 92-89 with 4.9 seconds left. Jonquel Jones made two free throws with 3.7 remaining for the final margin.
“It’s really tough, especially on your homecourt,” Charles said. “But the Connecticut Sun is playing great basketball.”
The Liberty is three games into a span that has the team away for six of seven and 11 of 15. The next four are on the road. There are just three Garden games in the next 45 days through Aug. 7.
“It’s going to be really tough,” Prince said, “but it’ll be a good test for us.”