NEWARK, NJ -- Coming off a nine-day layoff, New York struggled with rust and last-place Washington before making enough big plays down the stretch to pull out another win.
Cappie Pondexter scored 19 points and Kia Vaughn had 14 -- including the go-ahead layup with 54 seconds remaining -- and the Liberty beat the Mystics 75-71 on Thursday night. Plenette Pierson added 13 points to give the Liberty (10-7) their sixth win in eight games.
"(The layoff) affects a team," Pondexter said. "You kind of lose that rhythm and that edge playing games when you're not playing for a certain amount of days, seven or eight. It's a long period of time, it's almost half of a training camp, which is 2½ weeks."
Crystal Langhorne had 18 points and nine rebounds, Kelly Miller scored 17 and Marissa Coleman 13 for the Mystics (3-13), who have lost eight of nine.
"It's tough because it's another game we just kind of blew away," Langhorne said. "We're in the game and we don't get back when we need to and we lose. ... We're playing well and we just break down. You can't win games playing like that."
New York trailed 36-32 at halftime while shooting 14-for-32 (44 percent) from the field but had no free-throw attempts.
"I can blame part of that on officiating, but it was really us," Liberty coach John Whisenant said. "We were just not being aggressive going to the basket. We were stopping and wanting to shoot jump shots, and we didn't get any fouls. We were more aggressive in the second half, we got more assists, we got the ball movement."
The Liberty used an 11-0 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to take the lead. Pondexter's layup in the opening minute of the fourth put New York ahead 56-55 -- its first advantage since late in the second quarter -- and Carson's 3-pointer with under three minutes left capped the run and stretched the lead to four.
Coleman hit a 3 about 45 seconds later to pull Washington within one. DeMya Walker made two free throws and Kerri Gardin made a layup to give the Mystics a 67-66 lead with under four minutes to go.
The teams traded baskets, with Vaughn's layup with 54 seconds remaining giving the Liberty a 72-71 lead. On the Mystics' ensuing possession, Gardin was whistled for an offensive foul on a drive to the basket that would have regained the lead with under 37 seconds left.
"It really came down to stops and scores at the end," Mystics coach Trudi Lacey said. "We didn't get a couple of stops, where we needed them, and that was the difference in the game."
Pondexter made 1-of-2 from the line with 9.4 seconds to go for a two-point lead. Jasmine Thomas lost the ball out of bounds on Washington's following possession, and Pierson made two free throws with 3.3 seconds left to seal the win.
"Nicole forced her so far out to the baseline where she couldn't do anything," Pondexter said of Thomas' turnover. "Those are the things we have to continue to work on and strive for, especially at the end of the game where it comes down to those last seconds and remember what Coach Whisenant is all about -- defense."
Coleman had a three-point play and Matee Ajavon made a pull-up jumper to give the Mystics a 47-39 lead with 6:45 left in the third quarter.
Former Liberty star Sue Wicks was inducted into the team's "Ring of Honor" during a halftime ceremony. The 6-foot-3 forward, the third player to receive the honor, is third on the franchise list for rebounds (788), sixth in games played (182) and ninth in assists (182) and steals (158). Vickie Johnson and Teresa Weatherspoon were inducted earlier this season.
Washington opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run, including a 3-pointer and a three-point play by Miller, to take a 24-16 lead.
Pondexter scored eight points during a 10-0 run and her jumper put the Liberty ahead 26-24 with 7:10 to go in the first half.
The teams played close the rest of the quarter, with neither leading by more than two until the Mystics scored six consecutive points to take a 36-32 lead at the break.