By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor
Courtesy photo/Washington Mystics
WASHINGTON — From the opening tip against the Washington Mystics, New York Liberty was in control of the game.
New York guard Kia Nurse netted 17 points while Amanda Zahui B recorded 14 points and 14 rebounds. Layshia Clarendon tallied 14 points and six assists to help her team secure a 74-66 win over Washington on Friday evening.
As Washington falls to 3-3 after dropping its third-straight game, the Liberty (1-5) notched its first victory of the season.
Following the game, Washington Mystics Head Coach Mike Thibault said it was among the most embarrassing losses he suffered since coming to Washington eight years ago.
“This is my eighth year in D.C. Probably, in many ways, that was one of the most embarrassing losses, if not the most embarrassing loss since I’ve been in D.C.,” Thibault said.
“This is not the same team that showed up to play the first couple of games that we were here. Teams are scouting us, they’re doing things, but that doesn’t represent who we are as a Mystics organization, and that was embarrassing.”
Thibault said he was frustrated with the lack of urgency, adding, “tonight our basketball IQ was really bad.”
Entering the matchup, the Mystics were 6-0 against the Liberty over the past two seasons. This time around, New York established and maintained a lead for the majority of the game to clinch the big win.
On the first possession of the night, Nurse pitched the ball to Zahui B for a 3-pointer on the left wing. From there, the Liberty posted a strong enough offensive effort to stay in control despite trailing momentarily (10-9) when Emma Meesseman fed Myisha Hines-Allen for a layup about midway through the first.
The score tied three times, but New York made sure they held it down defensively to prevent Washington from building a lead. New York also enjoyed a 38-26 rebounding advantage, including six offensive boards to keep the Mystics at bay, particularly late in the game.
New York extended its lead to double-digits, 32-21, when Zahui B knocked down another three just under the second quarter’s halfway mark. The 6-foot-4 center nailed another triple to give the Liberty a 40-31 lead at halftime.
Aerial Powers and Hines-Allen helped the Mystics trim their deficit toward the end of the third before Zahui B put in a buzzer-beating lay-in to make it 57-50 entering the fourth quarter. Nurse came up big for New York in the fourth en route to the win.
For the second time this season, Powers led Washington offensively, finishing with 20 points to go with a game-high four steals. Hines-Allen finished with 12 points and eight rebounds while Meesseman scored 17.
“We have to find our identity. We played good the first few games, but it’s like we’re losing sight of who we are,” Powers said after the loss.
“The ball is not moving like it usually is, and defensively, we’re just missing assignments. So it is the most embarrassing game probably that we’ve ever (played). We should have beat them. We’ll just have to figure out who we are and come out better for the next few games.”
The Mystics have a day to regroup and prepare for their next matchup, which will be a rematch against the Fever on Sunday at 7 p.m.