The league’s second-highest scorer will try to deliver again in the place where she started her WNBA career.
Pondexter and the Liberty look to extend the Phoenix Mercury’s team-record losing streak to nine Thursday night when the clubs meet for the first time in 2012.
Loser of four of five heading into Tuesday’s game at Chicago, New York (8-13) won 77-67 to move within one-half game of the Sky for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Pondexter, the first two-time Ms. Illinois basketball while at Marshall High School, scored 25 points to bump her average to 20.3.
“Obviously it’s important because you have a buildup of excitement from being home, but more importantly we needed this win to inch closer to the playoffs,” she said after New York improved to 1-1 on its five-game trip.
Pondexter, who won WNBA titles with the Mercury in 2007 and 2009, returns to Phoenix for the third time since being dealt to New York in a three-team swap in 2010 that brought Candice Dupree to the Mercury.
In New York’s last game in the desert, Pondexter scored 17 of her 25 points in the final 6:32 of a 74-70 victory Aug. 23.
It was a far better result than in her first trip to Phoenix as a visiting player, as she was ejected in the third quarter of a 97-82 loss July 3, 2010, for smacking Penny Taylor in the face on a layup attempt.
The Mercury (4-17) have been dealing with plenty of frustration as they’ve gone winless since June 29 and are one game ahead of Tulsa - owner of the league’s worst record.
Phoenix is coming off the most lopsided defeat in team history, 89-47 to San Antonio on Sunday that also established a team mark for consecutive defeats.
“Today we got embarrassed pretty much,” said guard Alexis Hornbuckle, who finished with a team-high 11 points in the club’s lowest-scoring game of the year.
The Mercury, scoring nearly 15 fewer points per game than in 2011 when they led the league with 89.0, could get a lift if Diana Taurasi can play for the first time since May 26. The team’s official Twitter account said that Taurasi, who has missed the bulk of the season with a hip injury, would return this week following a dental procedure Friday.
Taurasi, who helped lead the United States to the gold medal in London with a team-best 12.4 points per game, missed the Liberty’s last visit due to back spasms.
The Mercury’s DeWanna Bonner is third in the league with 19.6 points a contest but is coming off her two lowest-scoring games of the season, recording 10- and seven-point efforts while going a combined 7 of 34 from the field.
The Mercury have dropped a franchise-worst five straight at home.