UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) - Tina Charles was determined to make up for a poor offensive performance against the New York Liberty in the last matchup. She only had to wait two days to get another chance at them.
Charles had 23 points and nine rebounds while playing nearly 38 minutes, and the Connecticut Sun beat the Liberty 85-74 on Saturday night.
The third-year center, who scored a season-low four points in the Sun's 79-66 loss at New York on Thursday night in the teams' first game after the monthlong Olympic break, played the entire first half.
``I have never not taken her out in the first half,' Sun coach Mike Thibault said. ``I talked to her and said, `You let me know when you need a sub tonight.' She said, `Coach, I'm staying out there.' So, `Yes, ma'am.' I might not say that to some other people, but I know when she is feeling that way. She had that look in her eye. I know she didn't like the other night in New Jersey and she wanted to make up for it.'
Kara Lawson had 21 points and Allison Hightower added a career-high 20 for the Eastern Conference-leading Sun (16-5). Mistie Mims, playing in place of the injured Asjha Jones (strained left Achilles tendon), added 11 points, four rebounds and four assists.
``We had some people step up pretty big-time tonight and make shots - between Tina in the first half and Kara and Allie throughout the game, and Mistie was everywhere on the boards,' Thibault said.
Charles also became the fastest player in WNBA history to reach 1,000 rebounds, accomplishing it in her 89th game - three fewer than Yolanda Griffith's previous mark.
Cappie Pondexter had 17 points and five assists for the Liberty (7-13). Essence Carson also scored 17 and Plenette Pierson added 14 points and eight rebounds.
Connecticut capitalized on 26 New York turnovers, scoring 28 points off the miscues.
``We went from six turnovers the other night to 26 tonight,' Liberty coach John Whisenant said. ``We have to keep our turnovers under 15 to compete with a team like that. ... We got them the other night and they made a lot of turnovers. We made eight turnovers in the first quarter (tonight) and that just digs you a big hole.'
The Sun were trying to withstand a late Liberty rally as their 17-point, second-half lead eroded to six points with more than 2 minutes remaining.
Another New York turnover derailed it quickly as Nicole Powell was called for traveling, the Liberty's final turnover of the game. Powell was hit by a technical, and Lawson made the free throw to give the Sun an 81-74 lead.
``Some of those (turnovers), we just shot ourselves in the foot,' Powell said. ``Really bad choices and decisions.'
Renee Montgomery followed with a short jumper at the shot-clock buzzer that just rolled in. Charles added a jumper of her own for the final margin.
New York trailed 76-61 with less than 5 minutes left in the game when it made one last charge. A 3-pointer by Carson off a drive-and-kick by Pondexter cut the Liberty's deficit to 80-74 with 2:18 left.
Connecticut led 47-43 at halftime. The Sun used a lot of defense and clutch scoring by Lawson to extend the lead in the third quarter. Lawson scored 10 points in the period as the Sun pulled ahead 66-50.
The Liberty missed nine of their 12 shots in the third and also turned it over nine times, including twice on 3-second violations.
Connecticut trailed by eight points in the second quarter, but closed with a 13-6 run. Hightower ended the quarter with a 3-pointer to give the Sun their four-point lead.
Hightower finished 6 for 13 from the field, including 2 for 5 on 3s, and was 6 for 6 on free throws.
``I know that I can score,' the former LSU star said. ``It's just being confident and taking what the defense gives you. My teammates and my coaches have so much confidence in me. That also helps that they know that I can score and they know the things that I'm capable of doing. I just want to go out there and do it and take what they give me.'
Thibault was impressed with Hightower's performance.
``She took over the game offensively when things were bogging down,' he said. ``She has grown up so much. ... I made a prediction that she is going to be maybe a top-20 player in this league in a couple of years. She has the ability to do that. People laugh when you say that, but every week she gets better and her teammates trust her. I think that is a big factor.'
Charles carried the Sun offensively in the first half, playing all 20 minutes and scoring 19 points.
The Liberty went on a 9-0 run at the end of the first quarter and into the second. It was highlighted by Powell's 3-pointer and Kia Vaughn's jumper over Charles that gave New York a 31-23 edge.
New York shot 64 percent in the first quarter, including four 3s to take a 26-23 lead.
The Associated Press News Service
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