New York Liberty lose 2019 opener in heartbreaking fashion (Highlights)

A back-and-forth thriller didn’t go the New York Liberty’s way, as rookie Teaira McCowan‘s buzzer beater offset a Tina Charles double-double.

Friday night’s game at Westchester County Center could go down as one of the best games of the WNBA season. Unfortunately for the New York Liberty, they were the required loser.

Tina Charles’ double-double was offset by literal last-second heroics. Teaira McCown, making her professional debut, sank a game-winning shot as time expired, giving her Indiana Fever an 81-80 victory. It was the regular season opener for both squads.

“You just got to hold your heads up high, it came down to the wire,” Charles said after the game. “(Candice) Dupree made a really tough pass, credit to McCowan finishing it.”

McCowan’s shot was the climax of an opening night thriller in White Plains. She proved to be a thorn in the Liberty’s side all night, coming off the bench to score 11 points and tally six rebounds. The Baylor alumna was taken third in April’s WNBA Draft.

Candice Dupree drove and kicked the ball to me. She always tells me in practice ‘you’re a big, always keep your hands ready’,” McCowan said in the aftermath of her heroics. “I knew when she drove the ball and dish it off to me I had a small amount of time go up so I went up and it went in.”

The shot doomed the Liberty (0-1) to their 14th consecutive regular-season loss, dating back to last year. They had jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the first quarter before Indiana staged a comeback once McCowan got into the game. The Fever (1-0) went on to build a lead that would grow as high as 12 in the third quarter.

A 20-2 Liberty run set the stage for a dramatic final stanza. The run was officially ignited by a three-pointer from Bria Hartley that put them up 58-56. Hartley had missed the entire New York preseason due to international commitments in Turkey, but returned to score seven off the bench.

Hartley wasn’t the only non-Charles New Yorker to come up big. Reshanda Gray, who earned a roster spot with a strong preseason, reached 10 points and eight rebounds. Six of her tallies came on second-chance opportunities. Kia Nurse added 12 points, while second overall pick Asia Durr put in eight more. Rebecca Allen, in the starting five for the first time since 2016, grabbed three huge rebounds and hit a tying triple in the final two minutes.

“I thought we started the game well, (but) the sense of urgency wasn’t strong enough until the middle of the third,” head coach Katie Smith said. “(My message is) stay positive. Lots of positive things. (But) turnovers, can’t turn it over 16 times. We can’t put them to the line 28 times.”

The true New York savior was Charles, who seemed to will the Liberty back into contention. She was poised to be the heroine before McCowan’s score, as she sank a pair of free throws with seven seconds remaining. Charles’ day finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds, each game-highs.

“She was demanding, it was tough,” Smith said of Charles’ game. “I thought she was aggressive. The boards were probably most impressive for me.”

“We came out and played hard. We jumped on them but then we died down a bit,” Charles analyzed. “The turnovers hurt us; I think they had 16 points off turnovers. Then us just boxing out,  McCowan did a really good job of getting offensive rebounds. Bria Hartley gave us a great spark and Reshanda Gray played great.”

Tiffany Mitchell led the Fever with 22 points.

Despite the loss, there was an aura of positivity in the Liberty locker room. The team will get another shot the Fever next Saturday, June 1, as a rematch is scheduled at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (7:00 p.m. ET, WNBA League Pass/WDNY).

Asked if progress was being made in her new setting, Durr replied: “most definitely”.

“You can’t really hope for it all right now. This is a process. We have to continue to play hard, play strong, play as a team,” the rookie said after her debut. “Of course, we wanted to win, but I feel pretty good. Sucks to lose, but it’s a long road ahead…we’re going to see what we can do better and take it one step at a time.”

“To lose in that last half-second is heartbreaking but I can only see us building from here,” Allen concurred. “We know how to win. We’ve experienced it. I think it’s just turning this one-point loss the other way around. We’ve done it before, we know how to do it. It’s just making it happen.”

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