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Underachieving Liberty looking to right ship

The Liberty's Tina Charles controls the play against

The Liberty's Tina Charles controls the play against the Mercury at the Westchester County Center on Tuesday. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Tina Charles sat in the Liberty locker room Tuesday night at Westchester County Center after seeing another loss thrown on the mounting pile — this time by 14 points against Phoenix. Her frustration began seeping through.

“I’m just tired of losing,” the five-time WNBA All-Star forward said. “You don’t want to get used to it, definitely when you have a really good team.”

Then she hit a clutch bank shot to tie the game with 7.4 seconds left at Washington Thursday night, only to see the Mystics win, 80-77, on a three-pointer that beat the buzzer. Even though the Liberty played better, it was still left with its fourth straight loss, sixth in the last seven games and 10th in the first 14 games.

So Charles’ “really good team” has been underachieving. It’s a team that features the same core from a third straight first-place finish in the Eastern Conference to go with a few nice additions.

But the Liberty showed up at the County Center to try to start a winning run against Chicago Friday night, knowing that only Indiana had a worse record in the 12-team league.

There are only 34 games. The Liberty began the night three games from the eighth and final playoff spot.

The first four losses were close, all by six points or fewer. The next five, though, came by 10 points or more. The Liberty then went back to losing close. That buzzer-beating three by Washington took its place with a buzzer-beating three by Connecticut.

The Liberty began play Friday ranked 11th in scoring at 75.6 points per game. It was 10th in overall field-goal percentage (.422) and three-point percentage (.313). It was 10th in offensive rebounding (8.1) and defensive rebounding (24.6). It was ninth in opponents’ field-goal percentage (.431).

Opponents had also made more free throws (241) than the Liberty had attempted (203).

“Everybody’s better [this season],” first-year coach Katie Smith said.

A consistent second scoring option would help Charles, who was averaging 19.4 points but drawing extra attention. Perhaps Epiphanny Prince could be an answer. The ninth-year shooting guard missed the first seven games with a concussion, then totaled 23 points the first five games she played. But she erupted for 21 against the Mystics.

“Katie and her coaching staff basically have all been on me to be more aggressive and stop passing up shots,” Prince said, “and that is what I tried to focus on.”

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