Seattle – You wouldn’t have known anything was amiss from the way the crowd responded to Natasha Howard on Sunday afternoon.
There was nary a boo to be heard at Alaska Airlines Arena as the sixth-year forward was introduced for Seattle, just two days after allegations of domestic abuse were made against her on social media, with the team releasing a statement Saturday saying it was aware of the matter and is looking into the claims.
Though Howard’s name dominated headlines over the weekend, the team seemed unaffected by the tempest surrounding the organization, as the Storm cruised to a 78-69 win over the Liberty in a game that was all but over by the closing moments of the third quarter.
Howard had perhaps her strongest start of the year, going 4-of-5 from the field with 10 of her 14 points in the first quarter.
“She’s an All-Star,” said head coach Dan Hughes, when asked about her performance. “I think that’s what that says.”
But it was Crystal Langhorne’s sharpshooting that stole the show, leading Seattle (10-8) with game-high 19 points — hitting a career-high four 3-pointers.
Langhorne’s newfound affinity for the three comes after Hughes encouraged her last season to consider expanding her long-range game, as a player already comfortable shooting jumpers from distance.
“This offseason I really wanted to get into it,” she said.
And get into it she has, with Langhorne surpassing the number of 3-pointers made in her career entering this season (eight) in just 18 games.
For Hughes, getting that kind of contribution from Langhorne and the rest of the bench was a focus during the team’s week-long break after their July 5 loss to Atlanta. Sunday was the second straight game a bench player led the team in scoring (Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis finished with 18 points Friday against Dallas).
“We wanted to build chemistry with players coming off the bench, and I think those are some good examples of what went on,” he said.
While Jordin Canada didn’t hit double figures in any category, as she did two nights before, she filled the stat line with one of her most balanced outings of the year, finishing just shy of a triple-double with nine points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.
But neither she nor her coach knew how close she was when she sat with 2:26 to play, with Hughes admitting he’s “the worst coach at knowing those things,” while suggesting he may have left her in longer otherwise.
Not that they necessarily needed her in those final minutes.
Seattle led by seven after one, and took a 43-30 lead into the break after a late New York run. The Liberty didn’t get their deficit within single digits until their final offensive possession of the night, as the Storm pushed the advantage to as many as 27 in the third, while New York chipped away down the stretch with the result already in hand.
“We didn’t show up,” said Liberty head coach Katie Smith. “We knew what we were going to see and we know how they play. We didn’t handle their pressure and turned the ball over too much. We gave them offensive rebounds and basically spotted them 10 points to start the game. It went downhill from there.”
Kia Nurse had a team-high 19 points for New York (7-10) in the losing effort.
Seattle now heads to Minnesota for a Tuesday night matchup with the Lynx, while the Liberty return home for a Wednesday afternoon tilt with the Sparks.
- Attendance: 6,733
- The season series between the Storm and Liberty is now tied at a game apiece. New York won the first matchup between the two teams on July 3, 84-83, and they’ll meet again on Aug. 11 in the Liberty’s lone game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn this season.
- It wasn’t until the 3:40 mark of the third quarter that Seattle would shoot its first free throws of the afternoon. The Storm would end the night outshot by New York at the line 26-6.
- Seattle’s first-round pick, Ezi Magbegor, was on hand for Sunday’s game, fresh off winning a gold medal at the World University Games for Australia. The 19-year-old is expected to report to the team for the 2020 season.
- Faces in the crowd: UW alumnus and Philadelphia 76ers draft pick Matisse Thybulle, and former WNBAer turned 76ers assistant coach Lindsey Harding were also in attendance.