The one stat Seattle could be proud of — forcing 22 turnovers — was one it couldn’t manage to capitalize on.
The New York Liberty was averaging a league-high 13.8 turnovers coming into Friday night’s game against Seattle. Against a defensive-minded team like the Storm, it should have been a gift.
Instead, the Storm shot 33.8 percent from the field, turning most of the Liberty’s giveaways into mere do-overs as New York claimed a 67-62 victory before 7,687 fans at KeyArena.
“It’s hard when you feel like you’re open and shoot and it just doesn’t go in,” Storm forward Camille Little said. “We’re all professionals. Those are shots we can make. It was just one of those nights.”
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New York’s defensive strategy played a role, too.
“It’s the most frustrating thing as a coach that you can ever go through — to see the players turn the ball over,” said New York coach Bill Laimbeer, whose team’s turnovers only led to 13 points for Seattle. “But our defense, again, is carrying us at the moment. Hopefully it doesn’t catch up to us too badly at some point.”
Storm coach Brian Agler said the Liberty intentionally gave open looks early in the shot clock, enticing his team to shoot quickly. When Seattle missed — as it did often — New York collected the rebound.
The Liberty outrebounded the Storm 46-26 overall.
“It was hard for us to not fall into the trap of taking things early,” Agler said. “That’s what they wanted us to do and we ended up shooting the ball poorly.”
Little connected on two free throws to begin a 6-0 run that pulled the Storm within 52-51 following her lay-in with 6:04 remaining.
But New York guards Cappie Pondexter and Katie Smith quickly responded to keep the Liberty ahead.
Then, trailing 60-55 with under two minutes to play, Storm guard Temeka Johnson flung a long pass to Shekinna Stricklen, who made the lay-in against Leilani Mitchell, a Kennewick High product, and an ensuing free throw after a foul. But Pondexter answered again with a jumper with 50.7 seconds to play that started a 6-0 Liberty run to help close out the game.
Pondexter finished with a season-high 23 points to help the Liberty improve to 5-4.
It’s the first time since 2002 that New York has won in Seattle.
Johnson led the Storm with 22 points while Little added 12 points and five rebounds for Seattle (4-5). The team departs Saturday for a four-game road trip, ending at New York on July 9.
“We just need to stay hungry, clean up what we need to clean up,” said Johnson, whose team is 1 for 35 from three-point range in its past two games at KeyArena. “We know there is a lot of basketball left. This group was put together for a reason and we’re up for that challenge.”
New York played without veteran post Plenette Pierson (leg).
Stricklen announced she will donate $25 to the Pat Summitt Foundation for every three-pointer she makes this season. Stricklen played for Summitt at Tennessee from 2008-12. Stricken has made seven three-pointers in eight games played and is shooting .226 for the season from behind the arc.
In August 2011, Summitt, who has the most wins among NCAA coaches, announced she has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The Pat Summitt Foundation was founded in November 2011, providing grants to nonprofits that provide education, awareness, support and research for those affected by the disease.