Breanna Stewart, Sabrina Ionescu lift Liberty past Sun

Breanna Stewart posted 18 points, 14 rebounds and a pair of huge blocks in crunch time as the visiting New York Liberty regained sole possession of first place in the WNBA by beating the Connecticut Sun 71-68 on Wednesday in Uncasville, Conn.

Sabrina Ionescu had 21 points, five rebounds and five assists, including the game-sealing basket in the final seconds, while Courtney Vandersloot scored 11 for New York (18-4).

DeWanna Bonner finished with 22 points and nine rebounds to lead the Sun (17-5), whose three-game winning streak was snapped. Brionna Jones tallied 17 points and eight boards and Tyasha Harris scored 11 points.

After trailing by as many as 14 in the first half, Connecticut finally caught up and tied the game at 63 with five minutes to go on a bucket from Harris. Jonquel Jones drove for a Liberty layup, but Bonner responded by draining a 3-pointer at the 3:48 mark for the Sun’s first lead since 5-4.

A few lead changes later, Ionescu hit a jumper with 1:58 left to make it 69-68 New York. Stewart then used both hands to block a transition layup by DiJonai Carrington from behind.

The Sun got another chance after an empty Liberty possession, and this time, Stewart rejected Bonner’s go-ahead attempt. Ionescu took the rebound, bled the clock at the other hand and beat Alyssa Thomas for a layup with 4.1 seconds left.

Ionescu sealed it by blocking Harris’ 3-point attempt to tie at the buzzer.

The Liberty rode a highly efficient first quarter to a 29-19 lead and expanded it to 35-21 during the second quarter on Ionescu’s long 2-pointer.

It was 39-28 when the Sun embarked on a 10-0 run to end the half. Carrington ignited it with a 3-pointer and an old-fashioned three-point play 25 seconds apart. Brionna Jones took care of the other four points, including a layup off an inbounds play with three seconds left to make the score 39-38 New York at intermission.

The Liberty scored the first nine points of the third quarter, capped by Vandersloot’s 3-pointer, prompting a Connecticut timeout. Harris scored the next five points for the Sun.

The Sun used an eight-point run to draw as close as 53-51, but the Liberty made them settle for a 59-54 margin after three quarters. New York reserves Kennedy Burke and Kayla Thornton made tough shots in the final minute and change.

The Liberty held out Betnijah Laney-Hamilton due to knee swelling.

–Field Level Media