Two games in the books for the Liberty, count them both in the win column.
Tina Charles and Sugar Rodgers led the way for the Liberty, each finishing with 24 points, as they rolled to a 79-71 win over the Dallas Wings on Sunday night in the home opener at Madison Square Garden.
Rodgers followed up her 19-point performance on Saturday night in the season opener against Washington with another outstanding game. The former Georgetown Hoya was on fire from downtown, she finished 6 for 7 from behind the three-point line.
Courtney Paris finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds, for the Wings. Odyssey Sims and Theresa Plaisance finished with 14 pts, each, to lead all Dallas scorers.
The Liberty improved to 2-0 on the season, the Wings dropped to 1-1.
The energy, inside Madison Square Garden was electric. Members from the cast of Hamilton performed an amazing rendition of the National Anthem to get the evening started right. R&B Singer Montell Jordan was on hand for a fun halftime performance of his hit song “This is How We Do It”.
The Liberty, fueled by Tina Charles, raced out to an 8-0 lead and forced Dallas to take a quick timeout. The Wings, still without Skylar Diggins, struggled early to find their shot. Dallas didn’t find their way onto the scoreboard until the 6:04 mark in the first quarter when Paris converted on a layup.
Both teams came into tonight on the second game of a back-to-back; however, it did not appear to affect the Liberty at all. The Wings slowly began to find their offense while the Liberty, sparked by Rodgers, kept them at arm’s length with the three-point shot. Rodgers was 4-of-4 from long-range in the first half, with the Liberty’s other three-ball coming from Shoni Schimmel. New York took a 41-34 lead over the Wings into halftime.
Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer spoke on the impact of Sugar Rodgers in the first two games of this season.
“She put a lot of work in with Spoon (Teresa Weatherspoon),” said Laimbeer. “Spoon gets a tremendous amount of credit for getting her to this point, mentally and skill wise. Learning new moves, how to get open, but also working on her mindset — how to be a scorer, not a chucker like she was at Georgetown or her first couple of years in the league, just throwing things up there. The best way to describe it, in basketball terms, is the game has slowed down for her and she’s taking advantage of it right now.”
In the second half, Dallas came out with a more aggressive approach and managed to even the score at 43 with the help of a 9-2 run. However, the Liberty were able to regain the momentum shortly thereafter. Charles made her presence felt in the paint while Rodgers continued to hit the outside shot. New York would increase their lead to as much as 15 in the fourth quarter, en route to putting Dallas away.
The Liberty outrebounded the Wings 37-34, including seven rebounds from Rodgers in the backcourt. Laimbeer, afterwards, mentioned there’s still room for improvement in that area. Last night, following their win over the Mystics, Charles also placed an emphasis on improved rebounding and cutting back on turnovers.
Charles finished with a team-high 11 rebounds tonight, afterwards she made sure to give her backcourts a nod of approval.
“I think we did good,” Charles told me after the game. “I think we were able to contain Paris a little bit, she definitely made her presence felt down there. I think we did really good. I think our guards did a great job by getting to the rebounds before their guards, that really helped us.”
Skylar Diggins was a DNP – coach’s decision tonight. Diggins is still making her way back from tearing her ACL, last June. Dallas, understandably so, will take their time with one of the star players of the WNBA.
Swin Cash, along with Epiphanny Prince, received a loud ovation from the home crowd when shown on the large screen seated at the Garden. Cash was recently waived by the Liberty,;however, reports are beginning to surface this was a salary-cap move which could ultimately lead to the four-time All-Star and WNBA fan favorite returning to New York’s roster soon. Prince, still recovering from knee surgery, was a key player in the Liberty’s successful 2015 season.