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Sabrina Ionescu torches Lynx with near-perfect game, misses historic triple-double while sitting 4th

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Sabrina Ionescu made history as the youngest-ever WNBA player to record a triple-double in 2021.

She was on pace for another milestone on Tuesday. But she played so well through three quarters that she sat the fourth in an 88-69 New York Liberty blowout over the Minnesota Lynx.

Ionescu torched the Lynx in 26 minutes of play, tallying 26 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in the win. She hit 10 of 11 shots from the field and all four of her 3-point attempts, including a heave from halfcourt to beat the halftime buzzer and another contested shot from well beyond the 3-point arc.

But with the Liberty in control of the game, head coach Sandy Brondello opted to bench her star player for the game's final stanza while she was two assists and two rebounds shy of a triple-double. Had she reached the milestone, Ionescu would have become just the fourth player in league history to record multiple triple-doubles, joining Sheryl Swoopes, Courtney Vandersloot and Candace Parker, who recorded the second of her career at 36 years old on May 22. That was the 12th triple-double in WNBA history.

Ionescu is 24. While she didn't hit the milestone on Tuesday, she appears destined to do so sooner rather than later. The No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, Ionescu set the record for NCAA triple-doubles by men or women at Oregon with the 13th of her career as a junior in 2018. By the time she was done, she'd doubled her college triple-double tally to 26.

FILE - New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu (20) looks to pass against the Connecticut Sun in the first half during a WNBA basketball game, Saturday, May 7, 2022, in New York. The New York Liberty are a work in progress. When coach Sandy Brondello took over the team this year she knew that it would take some time for the players to gel on the court. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger, File)
New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger, File)

Ionescu's rookie season was limited to three games after she sustained a Grade 3 ankle sprain that sidelined her for most of the season. She missed out on an All-Star bid in 2021 while averaging 11.7 points, 6.1 assists and 5.7 rebounds in her first full season in the league.

Prior to Monday's big effort, she was averaging 16.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists while shooting 34.3% from 3-point distance through 11 games. With All-Star voting open, Ionescu looks poised to make her debut in the game this season.

For now she's satisfied with a win as the Liberty are off to a 4-8 start.

"Just keep building," Ionescu told YES Network after the game. "Watching a lot of film, continuing to see where I can improve. Obviously not happy with how I played the last game because we didn't win. So trying to figure out a way that I can continue to help this team win games."