NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Tina Charles showed just how valuable she is to the Connecticut Sun.
Charles scored had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Sun to an easy 88-66 victory over the New York Liberty on Saturday night.
``She's much more confident,'' Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said. ``I think it speaks to her maturity. She's getting doubled and tripled and still puts up a double-double. She has that grindstone mentality that she's going to tough it out. That's an MVP kind of mindset for sure.''
Charles just believes she's doing her job.
``With a team like this, everyone has to play their role,'' Charles said. ``We needed everyone to come along.''
Renee Montgomery scored nine of her 18 points in a decisive third quarter, Kelsey Griffin scored 16 points and Allison Hightower added 13 to help the Sun (6-12) get their second straight win after a three-game losing streak.
Montgomery returned after missing four games with a sprained ankle, returned to add 18 points, nine coming in a decisive third quarter. Montgomery tweaked the ankle again in the second quarter, but returned after halftime to make a big difference.
``I felt like it was doable pain,'' said Montgomery, who was 4 for 4 on 3-pointers. ``I was just happy to knock down the big shots. I was out for so long, so I needed this game to get things going again.''
Kara Braxton scored 18 points and Plenette Pierson and Cappie Pondexter each added 17 for New York (8-12).
Trailing 34-33 at halftime, the Sun outscored the Liberty 27-14 in the third quarter.
Charles hit a lane jumper to give Connecticut its first lead of the game at 35-34 and the Sun went to work from there, gradually increasing the lead throughout the period.
``I think we just needed to find our rhythm,'' Donovan said. ``Tina was finally able to shake free and we did a better job defensively.''
The Sun went used a 15-6 run to take a 58-46 lead, capped by Montgomery's long 3-pointer. She made two free throws with 4.3 seconds left in the period to make it 60-48 heading to the final quarter.
Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer was not pleased with his team's performance.
``They wanted the game more than we did,'' Laimbeer said. ``They had more energy and it showed. They took advantage of us just standing around. When we just stand around, we get really bad. They rained 3-balls on us and that was the difference. We had no answer for that. They deserved to win the game.''
The Sun shot 10 for 21 from 3-point range, while the Liberty were 0 for 6 from beyond the arc.
The Liberty sliced the lead to 68-62 in the fourth quarter, but then Charles hit two consecutive corner jumpers to push the lead back to 10 with 5:52 remaining.
Montgomery's fourth 3-pointer of the game from way behind the arc extended the lead to 77-64.
``For Renee to knock down those shots for us was huge,'' Donovan said. ``It gives us more weapons. To have four of us in double figures means we must be doing something right.''
Pondexter shot just 1 for 7 from the field in the third quarter and finished 5 for 13.
The Liberty took advantage of a considerable size advantage to take a 21-16 lead after one period. Pierson had 11 of her points in the first quarter, as the Liberty converted on seven of their eight field goals inside 5 feet.
Griffin scored eight points in the second period, as Connecticut drew to within one point at halftime, and then wasted little time in the second half to take control.
``We're finding things a little bit easier,'' Donovan said. ``Every game we seem to get a little better. We've recognized what we did wrong earlier.''