New York – Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker combined for 42 points to lead the Los Angeles Sparks past the New York Liberty Tuesday, 90-75, and snap a two-game road losing streak.
Reigning league MVP Ogwumike had 22 points and Parker netted 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to hand the Liberty their second straight loss, despite 25 points from Tina Charles and 21 from Epiphanny Prince.
Charles came out on fire, hitting her first five shots and scoring the first 11 points for New York. She finished the quarter with 14 of their 21 points, while team defense held the Sparks to a season-low 16 points.
“She really got it going,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said of Charles. “She scored facing the basket, she scored with her back to the basket….she got off to a hot start.”
Los Angeles got into an offensive rhythm in the second period, as they used their size advantage in the back court to overpower and attack the Liberty guards. Charles picked up three fouls by the break, as both teams repeatedly went to the free throw line.
While the first half was all Charles, the second half belonged to Ogwumike and Parker. Ogwumike scored 20 of her points in the third and fourth quarters.
“We needed a win on this trip and this was a way to get it,” Parker said. “I think our defense got back on track in this game.”
The Sparks’ defense was exemplified by their lockdown play on Charles. After netting 19 of her team’s first half points, Charles was held to just six in the final two quarters. Los Angeles took a three-point lead into the fourth period and then completely dominated the frame by outscoring the hosts, 24-11.
“We had to adjust when it came to personnel and schemes,” Ogwumike said. “We were able to sustain the defensive intensity throughout the game.”
New York guard Sugar Rodgers said her team was outplayed in the second half.
“We played hard in the first half. We didn’t show up in the second half,” Rodgers said. “(The Sparks) got physical and we didn’t match their intensity coming out.”
The Sparks’ defensive adjustments seemed to get to the Liberty not just physically but mentally, as the intense coverage of Charles was matched by the hounding perimeter defense of Alana Beard, who caused endless disruptions in New York’s passing lanes. Beard finished with a game-high four steals.
“I give LA a lot of credit,” Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. “They did all the right plays in the second half and we didn’t.”
New York will lose Prince and Kia Vaughn for about ten games while both complete in the Eurobasket Tournament. They will sign Notre Dame guard Lindsey Allen, who was cut in training camp, to help in the interim.
“We knew this was coming,” Laimbeer said of the departures. “The league doesn’t stop. It is what it is. We have to dig deeper work harder and smarter.”
The Sparks return home to host the Chicago Sky Tuesday.