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Liberty Survive Shock, Snap Losing Streak

There’s nothing like a Thursday afternoon matinee to loosen up tight shooting fingers and wake a struggling defense. It also doesn’t hurt that your opponent is the bottom feeder of the Western Conference.

The Liberty sweated out a 94-82 win over Tulsa this afternoon in a game aired over the Internet on the WNBA’s brilliant LiveAccess broadcast. It was a much-needed victory for New York, which had lost four straight before visiting the Shock in Oklahoma.

What plagued the Liberty during their losing streak – crunch-time shooting, rebounding and defense – were areas that earned sterling marks for most of the game against Tulsa. I say “most of the game” because of a dreadful third quarter in which the Shock scored 31 points and trimmed a 14-point deficit in half and cut it to one point in the fourth.

But let’s focus on the positives, shall we? I’ve been writing too many negative pieces or posts that plainly ask “What in the world is happening to this team”.

I want to spotlight Kia Vaughn, a New York City girl who attended Rutgers. She played magnificently while matched up against Shock’s 6-8 center Liz Cambage.

Albeit undersized, Vaughn played a spirited game and helped the Liberty build its largest lead of the game in the first half. And it was Vaughn’s steady and confident shot that kept the Tulsa defense honest in the third quarter.

Vaughn scored a team-high 24 points on 12-of-14 shooting. She also had 12 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.

Vaughn played a critical role during a 12-5 fourth-quarter run that finally put the Shock away. During that stretch, Cappie Pondexter, Essence Carson and Plenette Pierson each came up with clutch buckets. More proof of clutch: Pondexter (23 points, 10 assists), Carson, Pierson and Nicole Powell, in addition to Vaughn, each scored in double figures. Wow, using the terms Liberty and clutch in a positive sense was an anomaly throughout the past couple of weeks.

Next, I direct the spotlight on Carson. A New Jersey native and Rutgers grad, Carson continues to offer quality minutes even after she was bumped out of the starting lineup. She gives the Liberty offensive firepower off the bench and plays the two spot well while Pondexter moves to the point. Though she was held below her season scoring average, she was a calming influence on the floor when the Libs made the crucial run.

That, of course, brings us back to Pondexter. The ultimate clutch performer, she came through when the Libs needed her the most. Ahead by 76-75, Pondexter drained a 3-pointer with 4:31 remaining in the final quarter to essentially put the Shock away.

Here’s more evidence that the Liberty made the grade: New York out rebounded Tulsa, 35-25 (11-4 on the offensive boards) and they shot 42 percent from behind the 3-point arc.

But more needs to be seen from the Liberty if they’re going to rejoin the hunt for the playoffs. At 3-4, New York will play four of its next five games against teams with a .500 record or better. They can’t play Tulsa all the time.

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