Betnijah Laney had a good luck charm in the crowd for her career-high 22-point performance on Sunday at Barclays Center.
Laney, the Liberty’s leading scorer, credited her young niece, JJ, for her offensive success and helping with the 101-83 victory over the Indiana Fever.
“I also had JJ sitting courtside, so that helped a lot,” Laney said. “It’s special because she sees somebody trying to be an example for her.”
The guard paced her squad to a record-setting first quarter.
The Liberty held a 44-17 advantage after the first quarter, marking the highest-scoring quarter in WNBA history, of which Laney scored 12 points.
Indiana left the Liberty open all over the court and paid for it.
Laney had real tenacity driving to the basket and displayed power down low, zipping past the Fevers’ defense and having her way in the paint.
“Just reading what the defense is giving, they’re starting to close out more along the [3-point line], so if they’re going to do that, just making sure that I’m able to attack and mix it up,” Laney said.
With four games in the next seven days, coach Sandy Brondello talked pregame about wanting to get her rotation going earlier to prepare for the busy stretch.
She was able to do just that as her starters went out, took care of business and gave their group a huge cushion heading into the second quarter.
“This team is just buying into how we want to play,” Brondello said. “Offensively, I just think we are very unselfish. We found great shots just by our movement.”
Kayla Thornton, Jocelyn Willoughby, Nyara Sabally and Marine Johannes joined Courtney Vandersloot on the court to open the second and continued to push the pace, already at a dominant tempo.
Johannes poured in nine points off the bench to reach the career 500-point mark.
“We have a deep bench. For them to come out and be able to do what they did, it shows how strong we are as a unit,” Laney said.
While the Liberty loosened up on their coverage a bit as halftime crept closer — the Fever went on a 20-8 run to close out the half — they still came away with a 68-46 lead at the break.
A behind-the-back lob from Sabrina Ionescu to Laney cutting down the middle for a seamless layup made it 82-52 with 5:43 left to play in the third quarter as the Liberty refused to be complacent with their comfortable lead.
“It wasn’t perfect. It’s pretty hard to play a perfect game, but I think we handled it very well and definitely had the right type of mindset and poise to keep the lead throughout the game,” Jonquel Jones said.
The Liberty are second in the WNBA at 16-5 with eight wins in their last 10 games.
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