Sun, Rebecca Allen stun the Liberty in Game one of the WNBA Semis, 78-63

The Connecticut Sun handed the New York Liberty an unlikely loss in Game one of the Semifinals on the road. Their prolific defense held the Liberty to a season low 63 points in front of their home fans at the Barclays Center

Photo Credit: Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

"What we did in the [pre] season doesn't matter," Sabrina Ionescu told reporters. "Now it's zero-zero, and we have to make sure that, you know, we take that into consideration-- It's anyone's game and we have to go out there and take it, it's not going to be handed to us." "We know how Connecticut is going to play, and obviously they're going to take it to another level, and so we have to as well," Ionescu told reporters pregame.

New York Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello described game one as the "worst game of the season." "We [The Liberty] will be better next game. I'm 100 percent sure of that. We've got great players, and we will have to respond in the right way. It's a great challenge for us," Brondello told the media post-game.

Despite sweeping the Sun, the Liberty were held to a season low 63 points, on 33.8 percent field goal and 29.6 three-point percentage. Contrary to their dominant performance in the paint against the Washington Mystics, they were outrebounded by the Sun 35-30, and were held to 22 points in the paint. With the presence on of Jonquel Jones, the Liberty were held to just four points down low in the second half.

Rebecca Allen impresses against her former team

After a 25-21 first quarter lead, the Liberty commanded a 40-37 halftime edge over the Sun. Despite keeping the score adjacent, New York fell completely fell apart in the second half. It was at this time where the Connecticut Sun "took their game to another level." Despite losing Jonquel Jones in the offseason, and Brionna Jones to injury, Connecticut found a way to break through the Liberty. Rebecca Allen, in her first WNBA semifinals, had her best playoff game of her career, with 18 points, two blocks, two steals, seven rebounds. The former Liberty forward shot 77.8 percent from the field, and 66.7 percent from the three-point line. The Sun, with who had a top defense all year, certainly did not disappoint in game one.

The Sun set the tone after their 11-3 run in the first quarter, led by Rebecca Allen. In the offseason, Allen, along with the 2023 No. 6 pick were acquired by the Connecticut Sun in the Jonquel Jones trade. In the acquisition, Kayla Thornton was shipped to New York, and Tyasha Harris to Connecticut. Poised with confidence, Allen set the tone with a reverse layup over Sabrina Ionescu. She later pulled a contested 26 three-point jumper over Breanna Stewart, with the help of Alyssa Thomas's screen.

With 6:44 left to go in the first quarter, it was clear the Connecticut Sun were prepared for this moment. With Allen on Sabrina, her steal turned into bold faced three-pointer in the hand of Ionescu. Feeling her stride, No. 9 pulled a contested three-pointer in front of Marine Johannès during the third quarter.

The Connecticut Sun have trust in their entire team

Despite a 10-2 run by the New York Liberty in the second, the Connecticut Sun outscored the New York Liberty 28-15 in the third quarter. They shot an incredible 44 percent from the three and held the Liberty to 33 percent field goal shooting. The creating of mismatches, especially with Bonner and Vandersloot down below, opened up three-point opportunities for the Sun.

The Sun, led by head coach Stephanie White, utilized other players besides Thomas, who scored zero points in the third. Prior to getting into foul trouble, Tiffany Hayes finished with six points, along with Allen and Hiedeman. Connecticut, a team that often relies too heavily on DeWanna Bonner and Alyssa Thomas, turned to their starters and role players for production. Ultimately, this matchup game down to confidence, the Sun were able to hit tough shots as a team.

The backcourt tandem between Tiffany Hayes and Natisha Hiedeman combined for 24 points, six assists, and nine rebounds. Between Hayes, Heideman and Allen, all three players set the tone for Connecticut to thrive down the stretch. All five Connecticut Sun starters finished positive on the court, contrary to their last matchup against New York.

The Sun had a colossal third quarter

It's clear the Connecticut Sun capitalized on their defensive stops. Allen continued her dominant three point shooting this quarter, along with Hiedeman in the corner over Ionescu. From there, Connecticut went on a 12-3 run. The defensive pressure from White's squad forced New York to turn the ball over four times in this quarter, and 14 as a team. As a result, the Sun capitalized with 7 fast break points, and held New York to zero throughout the entire matchup.

"We came out really slow in the first quarter and then the third quarter. It's been happening in the last few games, and I think it's mindset. Frustration sets in, we don't execute, and we all know we are better than that," said coach Brondello.

New York cut the deficit to five points, followed by Kayla Thorntons three-pointer. Even with the slightest momentum, the Liberty couldn't get stops on defense. With DeWanna Bonner doubled by Vandersloot and Thornton, Rebecca Allen was ready to strike beyond distance again, this time in the corner over Jonquel Jones. Alyssa Thomas the point forward position, was able to find teammates in the low post with back door cuts. With one second remaining in the third, Bonner hit a buzzer beating mid-range shot over Breanna Stewart. From there on out, the Sun remained poised with confidence and determination. Bonner finished the game with 20 points, three blocks, one steal, and seven rebounds.

The Liberty couldn't find their stride on offense

Throughout the month of August, the Liberty ranked first in both offensive rating and net rating. Multiple Liberty players have stated the playoffs are a different time, and this matchup proved just that. Jonquel Jones finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and two blocks. With New York scoring 18 points in the paint first half, the Connecticut Sun were able to adjust to that defensively. With ten first half points, the Sun limited Jones to four second half of the game. Though the Liberty defeated the Mystics with paint presence, the Sun figured out a way to negate that.

Even with Jones's strength and size, you could visibly see multiple orange jerseys that surrounded her the second half the game.

New York is confident they will play better

The Liberty offense overall looked stale and out of rhythm. Though Breanna Stewart finished with a team high 19 points and six rebounds, Stewart shot 7-25, and 0-8 from the three. With the perimeter heavily guarded, Connecticut forced New York to take unwanted shots. Betnijah Laney, an incredible x-factor in their starting lineup, finished with just three points on 1-9 shooting. Laney saw some looks in the paint and couldn't finish in several of them. In the fourth quarter, the Liberty struggled to score on turnovers, especially with Hiedeman's block over Breanna Stewart with eight minutes to go.

"That's what makes it tough is her [Alyssa Thomas] ability to guard multiple positions, and you know, they knew where I was all night. Credit to them, but we'll be back," said Stewart post-game.

With Ty Harris sent to the Suns bench with five personal fouls, New York still couldn't take advantage. Ionescu, who finished with 12 points, was 4-14 from the field, and was guarded heavily with her every move.

Breanna Stewart expresses frustration

"They were being aggressive, you know, blowing things up for us, but I don't think we handled it well," Stewart told the press. " We didn't stay poised or composed. We had the ability to the second and third side, and we just didn't do that today. So, it's a little bit frustrating to drop this one at home."

Their offensive seemed uncharacteristic, as they shot just 13.6 percent, and 10 percent from the three in the final quarter. New York was held to just eight points in the final ten minutes. This game was a struggle, not just by Stewart, but along with the entire team.

After a sloppy game one, the New York Liberty (0-1, 0-1 Home) will matchup against the Connecticut Sun (1-0, 1-0 Away) for game two of the WNBA semifinals. With one more home matchup, the two teams will play on Tuesday, at the Barclays Center.

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Sara Jane Gamelli is a full-time Sportswriter at BallisLife, and a Sports Content Creator on Twitch and TikTok. She has a focus on the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Basketball, and the NFL. Sara Jane currently resides in Connecticut with her Cat and Dog. SJ has her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut in Economics, with a minor in business administration.


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