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Liberty drop last game before Olympic Break in loss to Sun, 71-54

Connecticut Sun v New York Liberty Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images

After the travel woes and ESPY’s, the New York Liberty returned to Brooklyn Sunday and in the last game before the WNBA’s Olympic break, the Liberty lost to the Connecticut Sun for the second time this season, 71-54.

The Liberty’s point total was by far the lowest total scored by New York this year. Their second lowest was 64 points, also to the Connecticut Sun. The Liberty now fall under .500 with a 10-11 record at the Olympic break while the Sun won their 14th game against six losses.

The Liberty’s top three scorers -- Betnijah Laney, Sabrina Ionescu, and Sami Whitcomb — all struggled. The trio averages a combined 42 points, but on Sunday they scored 3, 5, and 0 respectively against the Sun. Head coach Walt Hopkins was clearly annoyed postgame explaining how Connecticut’s defense thwarted his team at every turn.

“They pressured, the same stuff they did last game. They played their defense and they executed their identity far better than we countered it. We had a game plan to attack the pressure, and we just didn’t execute it,” said of the league’s top team.

The silver lining to Sunday’s matchup was another career performance by Kylee Shook, the Libs’ 6’5” big. After posting a new career high of 13 points against the Fever on Friday, Shook followed it up with a 16-point outing against the Sun. She shot 4-of-5 from downtown and 6-of-8 from the field in totality.

Shook showed promise from behind the arc last year, but only converted on 17.6 percent of her attempts. It’s been a much improved jump-shooting year for the second year center, and her 3-point shooting percentage has improved to 37.7 percent. Postgame, Hopkins commented on his starting center’s up-and-down growth as a deep shooter:

“She worked on it a lot in the offseason. We got some good time together. A big thing for her is confidence. There are games where she shoots it like she feels like she’s supposed to, and not hungry for it.”

On her third stint with the team this season, another New York big, Reshanda Gray, is also making her mark. Gray has impressed with her energy and passion on and off the court every time she’s been with the Liberty, but Sunday, she showed off a rarely-seen 3-point shot against the Sun, going 2-for-2. She had previously hit only one long ball in her career.

“She’s made a few little tweaks. I can tell you it wasn’t part of the game plan, for her to knock down 2-of-2 from three.” Hopkins said on the pleasant surprise.

Sunday’s game against Connecticut was the first time New York featured a Shook-Gray frontcourt, presumably to match up with the Sun’s lengthy players.

New York’s big offseason acquisition, Natasha Howard, played a mere two games in the first half of the season due to overseas commitments, then an MCL sprain. There was a chance that Howard could have made a return before the Olympic break, but Hopkins said pre-game that the team’s medical staff decided against it. She is set to return when the Liberty return to action on August 15th against the Lynx.

Here are the game highlights...

The first half of the WNBA regular season may be over, but the Liberty aren’t done just yet. Forward Betnijah Laney was named to her first All-Star game this year, which will take place this Wednesday, July 14. Sami Whitcomb, who is among league leaders in 3-point shooting, will participate in the 3-point shootout. It takes place during halftime of the All-Star game.

Liberty wing Rebecca Allen will represent Australia in the Olympics, but no other New York players will be making the trip to Tokyo this summer.