Behind a dominant performance from Brianna Stewart, New York bounced back from a shock opening day loss to win their second straight. Connecticut suffered its first loss of the season after opening with three straight wins.
The New York Liberty cruised to an 81-65 victory over the Connecticut Sun of the 2023 WNBA at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on 28 February (ET). New York, at 2-1, moves into a tie for fourth place, while Connecticut, at 3-1, drops from sole possession of first place to third.
It was a battle of the aces.
Brianna Stewart, who bombed for 45 points in the last game against the Indiana Fever, showed her ace form once again.안전놀이터
She led the team on offence with 21 points, six rebounds, five assists, six steals and four blocked shots, and held Connecticut ace Alyssa Thomas, who had been on a three-game double-double streak since opening night, to five points. All five of Thomas’ points on the night came on free throws, and she missed all five of her field goal attempts.
New York got off to a slow start.
They opened the game with a paint-zone score from Jonquel Jones and a three-pointer from Sabrina Ionescu, but were outscored by Connecticut, whose Tiffany Hayes shot well early on. Three-pointers from Dwana Bonner and Hayes gave them the lead.
After a first-quarter buzzer-beater by Stephanie Dolson ended the first quarter at 17-23, New York locked down Thomas but couldn’t stop her from outside and couldn’t turn the tide in the second quarter.
New York continued to draw Connecticut’s defence and cut in, getting baskets from Kayla Thornton and Courtney Vandersloot to pull within one. They were not so lucky, however, as Bonner’s three-pointer from long range rattled off the rim as time expired, allowing Natasha Heideman to hit a three-pointer to push the lead to eight.
New York allowed six three-pointers in the first half alone and went into the second quarter trailing Connecticut 32-38.
New York’s real comeback came in the second half. Ionescu opened the scoring with a three-pointer, Benaja Ranney followed with a steal and a three-pointer from Stewart, and Vandersloot answered with a three-pointer of her own.
A steal by Ionescu and a steal by Vandersloot gave New York the lead for good, but a three-pointer by Stewart and a basket by Jonquel Jones made the difference.
Thomas, who scored his first points of the night on a free throw with 1:49 left in the third quarter, showed a lapse in concentration as he was unhappy with the officiating and committed a needless foul on a down low ball contest with 0.6 seconds left in the third quarter, giving Stewart two free throws for a team foul.
New York took a 57-51 lead into the third quarter, and the ensuing fourth quarter was a one-sided affair.
A free throw by Stewart, a paint-zone jumper by Sabali, and a three-pointer by Vandersloot pushed New York’s lead to more than 10 points. With Thomas completely locked down, Connecticut was unable to overcome New York’s momentum, despite Hayes and Bonner splitting time.
While Connecticut’s perimeter went cold in the first half, New York’s perimeter caught fire in the fourth quarter. After three-pointers from Ionescu and Stewart, New York broke the Connecticut run. Ionescu even hit the game-winning three-pointer with 1:35 to play, and the game ended in New York’s favour.
New York used the game to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month. The United States recognises May as AAPI Heritage Month every year, with AAPI standing for Asian American and Pacific Islander.
For the commemorative game, New York put the spotlight on Chinese player Han Shu, but he didn’t get a chance to play as the game remained close.
With 1:20 left in regulation and his team holding a 15-point lead, Hansch, who took the court to the cheers of the crowd, attempted a three-pointer on an open look but it was an airball, then grabbed an offensive rebound and scored under the basket with 32 seconds left in regulation. It was his first rebound and first points in three games this season.
Hansch was selected by New York in the second round, 14th overall, in 2019.
Unlike many players of Asian descent who struggle to find their feet in the WNBA, Hansch has consistently received more than her fair share of playing time since her rookie season.
While some analysts have suggested that New York’s mid-to-lower division status has led to a focus on rebuilding rather than immediate results, others have suggested that the team is riding the coattails of Alibaba Vice Chairman Tsai Chung-hsien, who is of Chinese descent (Taiwanese), buying the New York Liberty.
Last year, he played well, averaging 8.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 16.8 minutes in 32 games. He showed the potential and skill to be New York’s primary sixth man.
However, his role diminished dramatically in the off-season, when New York made a major rebuild and became a super team. In three games, he’s averaged 4.4 minutes, and all of those minutes have come in game-winning situations. She had no points or rebounds before this game.
New York has two defending league MVPs, Brianna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, who have stepped up as starters, as well as veteran centre Stephanie Dolson. The game also marked the debut of 6-foot-9 forward Niara Sabali.
New York’s fifth overall pick in the 2022 first round, Savalie, who has been sidelined with an injury, played 13:50 in the game and had a solid performance with six points and three rebounds. Considering the matchup was against Connecticut’s top big men, it’s a satisfying debut.
In New York, where the roster is loaded with long forwards and centres, Hansch’s chances of getting regular minutes are likely to diminish further.