Liberty’s Veteran Lineup Proves It Can Go The Distance

 

By Chris Kwiecinski

 

Two cliches come to mind when discussing age: “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and “the best teacher is experience.”

After a 97-94 win over the Sky on Sunday, the Liberty can use the one about experience if they so desire.

You would be hard pressed to find a starting five in the WNBA that has as much experience as the Liberty. Of all of their starters - Shavonte Zellous, Tina Charles, Kia Vaughn, Epiphanny Prince and Bria Hartley - Hartley is the only one that isn’t a nine-year WNBA veteran.

Instead, Hartley is only a five-year veteran. The Liberty need to have some young legs on the floor, no?

New York was led by Charles, a five-time WNBA All-Star forward, who dropped 28 points on the Sky. Prince was the only one of the Liberty’s starting five that didn’t score in double figures, but she still had eight points on 2 of 10 shooting.

“We’re not old by too many standards, but they’re kind of in their prime,” Liberty head coach Katie Smith said. “This is what they do. They get into a routine just like all these teams.”

It does help when players like rookie Kia Nurse are coming off the bench, which can spell veterans in games like Sunday’s, which went into overtime and had 10 lead changes. Smith specifically pointed to Nurse as a player who offers multiple advantages off the bench.

“She gives you that boost of energy and takes good shots,” Smith said. “She’s flying around, she plays D, she basically does whatever’s needed.”

“Whatever’s needed” also included a questionable flop in the first half, where Nurse drew a flagrant foul call on the Sky’s Jamierra Faulkner.

A breakthrough game like this was a major win for the Liberty. Especially as New York snaps a five-game skid with Sunday’s win; during that skid the team was quickly losing ground in the playoff standings and on tiebreakers.

An interesting point of note was New York’s lineup had an 0-4 record until beating the Sky on Sunday. One of the major differences could be how the Liberty approached the game.

“This is basically like a playoff series,” said Charles, who shot 50 percent from the floor. “I think we came in with that mindset wanting to get this win. Katie made it aware to us that the series against them was 0-2 and so we wanted to try and tie the series and this is a great step towards that.”

At this point, Smith might have to stick with that motivation to get her players on the right track. The Liberty are in that big of a hole now with a 5-11 record and they can’t afford many more losing streaks if they want a shot at making the playoffs.

However, if it’s the long haul the Liberty are concerned about, they proved, even if for a night, they can go the distance against a younger, more athletic team.

“They take care of their bodies, they’re professionals,” Smith said of her team. “We have a day off tomorrow to get back after it on Tuesday.”