WASHINGTON (AP) - Cappie Pondexter credited one sleepless night on the road with her role in the New York Liberty's turnaround. Early slumbering once again cost the Mystics.
Pondexter scored 25 points, the Liberty took control with a 30-5 first-half run and survived a frantic fourth quarter for their first road victory of the season, 76-70 over the Washington Mystics on Friday night.
Leilani Mitchell hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points for the Liberty, winners of three straight after opening the season 0-5. The latest victory also snapped a five-game losing streak in Washington dating to the 2009 season.
New York shot 60 percent (21 of 35) from the field in the first half, including 5 of 6 from beyond the arc and held a 29 point with just under nine minutes 9 in the second quarter.
Crystal Langhorne led the Mystics (1-5) with 24 points.
Trailing 65-45 late in the third quarter, the Mystics pulled closer when Langhorne fueled a 15-2 run, followed by a spree of 3-point field goals. Matee Ajavon drilled her second from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter with 1:37 remaining as Washington trailed 73-70, but Essence Carson countered with a 3-pointer of her own on New York's next possession.
``We did a lot of great things in the first half, kind of shocked Washington,' said Pondexter, who shot 9 of 13 from the field. ``They didn't expect us to come out as aggressive as we did. I think they made some adjustments in the second half. We got a little winded, but we played a solid game.'
The Liberty lost their three previous road games this season by an average of 21.3 points, including 91-68 at Indiana on June 2.
``It was embarrassing,' Pondexter said. ``Myself, the leader of this team, I was angry, probably the worst team has ever seen me. I couldn't sleep. We had a back-to-back so I was pretty much up all night, just trying to figure things out."
Langhorne scored 10 points during the second-half rally. In her first start this season, Michelle Snow finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
With the Liberty leading 12-8 midway through the first quarter, Pondexter's running layup started a 13-0 run. Up 27-13, New York had a 15-0 spurt capped by Carson's three-point play that made it 42-13. Pondexter had 16 points in the first half, while Mitchell was perfect on three attempts from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, Washington's penchant for slow starts this season continued.
``I don't have an explanation for it except that people weren't ready to play and that is unacceptable and inexcusable,' Mystics coach Trudi Lacey fumed during her postgame press conference.
``What I'm going to do is find the five people that want to play together, that want to play defense and want to play (with) energy for the entire game.'
The Liberty's recent good fortune has coincided with improved defense and increased production from the starting backcourt.
After failing to score 20 points in the opening five games, Pondexter has topped that mark in three straight, averaging 25.3 points. In that span, Mitchell has connected on 11 of 18 (61.1 percent) 3-point attempts.
``Leilani, she's my backbone,' Pondexter said. ``I can trust her to knock those shots down when I'm penetrating. She kind of keeps the lane open for me. When she's knocking shots down I can get in there easy.
Carson finished with 13 points for the Liberty.
The Associated Press News Service
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