Liberty move to 8-2 at home, easily drub Mystics

NEW YORK (AP) -- With some of New York's starters struggling, the reserves stepped up and helped the Liberty pull out an easy win.

Ashley Battle scored 15 of the backups' 45 points to help New York cruise to a 77-56 victory over the Washington Mystics on Thursday night.

"Everybody on the bench is prepared to come in and contribute," Battle said. "No matter what time in the game, everybody is ready to come in and help."

The reserves scored the Liberty's final 25 points, combined to shoot 44 percent (16-for-36) from the field, had 19 of the team's 36 rebounds, nine of the 14 assists and seven of the 12 assists.

Lisa Willis and Leilani Mitchell scored eight points each and Mitchell had a team-high six assists. Willis and Tiffany Jackson had six rebounds apiece, Jessica Davenport made a couple of nice baskets and Erin Thorn hit a big 3-pointer late in the first half.

"I thought our bench did a terrific job tonight," Liberty coach Pat Coyle said. "We had some tired legs out there, and that's why our bench played as much as they did in the second half. I've been saying it all year, one of our strengths is our bench. I feel confident putting any of them in there."

Janel McCarville had 12 points and Shameka Christon added 10 for New York (12-9), which won for the fifth time in seven games, including a season-high third straight.

"Our bench did a great job finishing out and coming in strong because a few of the starters were actually tired," Christon said, laughing. "I can give credit to our bench for playing so strong."

Christon didn't think her teammates were distracted by the historic outdoor game coming up against Indiana at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday night.

"I think we were all pretty focused, she said. "It probably didn't look like it. It wasn't a beautiful game to watch, but we got the victory and that's all that matters. However, afterwards we were all excited about the outdoor game because now we can talk about it and focus on it."

The Liberty shot 24-for-32 (75 percent) on free throws and moved three games above .500 for the first time since they were 6-3 last year. New York also won its fifth straight at home to improve to 8-2 at Madison Square Garden.

Alana Beard scored 15 points and Taj McWilliams-Franklin had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Mystics (8-13). Washington shot 34 percent from the field and committed 22 turnovers that led to 27 points for New York.

"We played into their hands. We turned the ball over a few times, giving them easy baskets," McWilliams-Franklin said. "We gave them a lot of free throws, and they didn't miss very many. Our turnovers and our fouling definitely contributed to the game. It wasn't anything miraculous that they did in the half-court set. We turned over the ball and they turned it into points."

After trailing by 13 points in the second quarter, the Mystics used a 12-4 run over the first 4:02 of the third quarter to pull to 47-44. Nakia Sanford had five points and Kendra Wecker hit a 3-pointer for Washington during the spurt.

However, the Mystics scored just one more point the rest of the quarter. McCarville's three-point play with 5:21 left started New York's 19-1 run for a 66-45 lead on Jackson's jumper with 7:47 left in the fourth quarter.

"We made a push and wanted to run, run, run," Battle said. "And when we had to set up some offense out there, that's what we did, and it was effective."

McWilliams-Franklin had a layup 12 seconds later for the Mystics' first field goal in nearly 8 1/2 minutes. Washington didn't get any closer than 15 the rest of the way.

With the win, the Liberty clinched the three-game series against the Mystics. New York, which won the first meeting at home on May 24, visits Washington next Wednesday.

New York scored eight consecutive points to take a 39-26 lead with 1:56 left in the second quarter. Thorn hit a jumper and Cathrine Kraayeveld had a 3 to stretch the lead to 10, and after Beard and Sanford missed two free throws each, Thorn followed with a 3 for the Liberty's biggest lead of the opening half.