WASHINGTON (AP) - Matee Ajavon tied a career high with 32 points to help the Washington Mystics cruise to a 91-81 victory over the New York Liberty on Saturday night.
Crystal Langhorne added 20 points for Washington (4-14), which set a season high for points in regulation and hit 28 of 29 free throws while snapping a four-game skid.
``We're focused,' said Ajavon of her team, which is 3 1/2 games out of a playoff spot despite registering just its second victory over an Eastern Conference opponent. ``We've dropped some games, and we just know that it's not over.'
Cappie Pondexter scored 21 points and Plenette Pierson added 20 for New York (12-9), which lost for the fourth time in 12 games. The Liberty were a perfect 18 for 18 on free throws.
The Mystics also scored a season-high 50 points in a first half during which they shot 56 percent (15 of 27) from the floor and 95 percent (18 of 19) from the line, and outrebounded the Liberty 18-7. Washington finished at 29 for 58 (50 percent) from the field.
``We talked as a team about our mentality changing' Langhorne said of her team's eight-day layoff since their last loss - 61-59 at the buzzer to conference-leading Indiana. ``I think we did have a killer instinct (tonight).'
Washington outscored New York 32-15 in one first-half stretch, eventually pushing the lead to 44-25 when Ajavon hit a 3-pointer from the left wing.
New York closed to it to 50-38 by halftime, but Washington again seized control in the third quarter.
Langhorne found Ajavon for another 3 to stretch the lead to 20, and a couple possessions later put back Ajavon's airball miss to make it 68-46 with 2:57 left in the third. It was the second-largest lead Washington had held all season.
New York, which won two of three games while Washington was idle, edged no closer than nine points during the fourth quarter.
``We've been playing every other night with no practice time, and they haven't, and they were at home,' Liberty coach John Whisenant said. ``I worried about all this - that's what kept me awake last night. But it didn't do much good.'
Newly acquired center Kara Braxton did not play for New York, two days after a trade that sent forward Sidney Spencer to the Phoenix Mercury. Braxton, a 2007 All-Star who is averaging 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds this season, is expected to debut Tuesday against Seattle.
The Associated Press News Service
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