The New York Liberty believe they need to gain 11 wins after the Olympic break to reach the playoffs, but getting one at Mohegan Sun Arena figures to be a tall task.
The Liberty suffered the worst loss in franchise history the last time they were there, but they should be buoyed by having beaten the Connecticut Sun two days prior to Saturday night's rematch.
These teams returned to action after the hiatus Thursday, and New York (7-12) ended Connecticut's five-game win streak with a 79-66 victory. The Liberty, who led by as many as 19 points, are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and have 15 games left to chase down one of the East's four playoff spots.
"If we win 11 games we give ourselves a chance to make a playoff push," said Cappie Pondexter, who scored a game-high 24 points. "It's attainable. Right now we got 10 to go. I really feel we have a chance to win some games on the road."
New York is kicking off a five-game road trip in Connecticut (15-5), which saw its lead over Indiana for the East's best record cut to three games Thursday. The Sun fell to 12-2 against conference foes after committing 17 turnovers that led to 19 points.
"We struggled tonight," coach Mike Thibault said. "We shot terrible in the second half and we turned it over."
The Sun figure to have a good chance to get back on track as winners of seven of their last eight at home against the Liberty, including a 97-55 rout June 15. Connecticut set a league record with a 34-point halftime lead.
New York's worst-ever defeat came with owner James Dolan sitting courtside in a performance Pondexter called "embarrassing." She had a season-low six points in that game but is averaging 20.2 to rank second in the league.
The Liberty also fell 92-77 at Connecticut on May 20, and have been outscored by 66 points over their last seven quarters at Mohegan Sun. They are 3-6 on the road.
The Sun have the only two Olympians from either team, and that may have negatively affected them Thursday. Top scorer Tina Charles was held to four points on 1-of-7 shooting after averaging 21.3 points on 59.6 percent shooting in Connecticut's three victories in the season series.
"We did a good job keeping her out of (the scoring), and to do that we had to do relays because that's a physically wearing effort," Liberty coach John Whisenant said.
Connecticut forward Asjha Jones sat out Thursday due to a strained left Achilles' tendon - an injury she was dealing with before the break. Jones played sparingly in the London Games.
Practicing without Charles and Jones has been difficult for the Sun.
"It didn't help our team in the sense of having a rhythm because you're practicing every day without your two starting post players," Thibault said.
New York forward Plenette Pierson returned and scored 16 points after missing the last eight games due to a left knee strain.
- Mohegan Sun Arena
- Connecticut Sun
- New York