Liberty forward Breanna Stewart (30) drives to the basket against...

Liberty forward Breanna Stewart (30) drives to the basket against Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas (25) during the first half at Barclays Center on Saturday, May 27, 2023. Credit: Noah K. Murray

Sandy Brondello didn’t like the view inside Barclays Center during the first half of Saturday’s matinee.

“I thought we were sleeping in the first half, to be quite honest,” the Liberty coach said. “That’s what I told them at halftime: ‘We’re a way better team than what we’re playing.’ ”

The Liberty trailed by six at the intermission, then woke up at both ends and beat Connecticut, 81-65.

“We just got a little bit more aggressive,” Brondello said. “ . . . We have a veteran team, an experienced team. We can make adjustments.”

Two of the Big 3 imports were at the forefront.

Breanna Stewart scored 15 of her 21 points in the second half and finished with six steals. Courtney Vandersloot scored 12 of her 18 in the second half and finished with 10 assists. Sabrina Ionescu added 17 points.

There’s a lot of firepower here, but the Liberty (2-1) also held the Sun to 13 points in the third quarter and 14 in the fourth.

“If we’re getting stops, I think we’re going to be really tough to beat,” Vandersloot said.

Connecticut entered the game at 3-0 after reaching the WNBA Finals last season, but the Sun have been overshadowed by the hype over the Liberty and defending champion Las Vegas.

“I think when you look at this group, and honestly when you look at this franchise, we’re used to being the underdog,” Connecticut coach Stephanie White said.

The underdog led 38-32 at halftime, but the Liberty opened the third quarter with an 11-3 burst. Stewart hit a three-pointer and Vandersloot followed with another for a 43-41 edge.

The Sun, who were topped by Tiffany Hayes’ 16 points, went ahead 45-44, but Vandersloot drove for two to give the Liberty the lead for good.

Vandersloot soon drove for two more to make it 50-45. The margin swelled to 16 in the fourth.

“I think Slooty going downhill, that really got us going,” Brondello said. “She got some easy baskets. . . . She’s obviously one of the smartest guards in the history of the game.”

Notes & quotes: Jonquel Jones, the Liberty’s other marquee newcomer, scored seven points in her first game against her former team. The forward-center wanted a trade to the Liberty. “I just knew it was time to change,” Jones said. “It’s been a great decision so far.” . . . Forward Nyara Sabally, the Liberty’s 2022 first-round pick, finally made her debut after knee problems and looked promising, contributing six points and three rebounds in 13:50.



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