Han Xu, the 6’9” rookie from China, hasn’t seen a lot of action this season, particularly at the Liberty’s home arena. After a big game in an exhibition vs. the Chinese national team at Barclays Center back in preseason, she had played only 30 minutes at Westchester County Center, as Jackie Powell of High Post Hoops reported, It’s been a disappointment to Han’s fans, who as Powell reported, would often chant, “WE WANT HAN; WE WANT HAN,” or simply: “HAN XU, HAN XU.” .
Now, with the Liberty mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, Coach Katie Smith has finally given the 19-year-old (the WNBA’s youngest player) more time. On Friday night, Han scored 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting, including a 3-of-3 performance from beyond the arc., all of it in 18 minutes. With the Liberty’s superstar big Tina Charles resting, Han was a big part of the offense.
Han Xu's usage rate tonight is Tina Charles-esque. #WNBA— Howard Megdal (@howardmegdal) August 31, 2019
However, the league’s tallest player grabbed only one rebound and Joe Tsai’s team lost to the Connecticut Sun, 94-84, before 1,791 in White Plains.
Smith, who has an aversion to tanking, went with her best players (at least those who weren’t injured or detailed to their national teams) throughout the season and even with her team eliminated, she said her goal for the rest of the season was “Compete, compete every night, every person who’s out there.”
Now, with only three games left in the season, expect Han to see big minutes,,, often paired with 6’5” Amanda Zuhai B ... but would it have been smarter for the team’s long-term goals if Han had spent more time on the court?
Smith told reporters earlier in the week that the Liberty have goals for Han.
“Han’s probably the one that you want to see how she does against people, whether it’s bigger post players or agile post players and see where she fits,” Smith said Tuesday. “And on the offensive end. How she can function, and start learning and keep getting stronger?”
Han wasn’t the only Liberty rookie to get big minutes. France’s Marine Johannes had 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-8 from three. Asia Durr, who was taken second overall in last year’s Draft, missed the game with a nagging groin injury and the Liberty’s superstar, Tina Charles, was rested.
For the Sun, Courtney Williams scored 26 points and Alyssa Thomas added 20 and nine rebounds. Connecticut (22-9) assured itself of finishing no lower than the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. The Sun are a half-game behind Washington (22-8) for the top seed. The Mystics play at Dallas on Saturday night.
The Sun led 50-41 at halftime before New York went on a 21-7 run and lead 61-57 with 2:20 left in the third quarter. Connecticut responded with a 10-0 run to end the quarter and never trailed again.