Mitchell scores 19 as Liberty win ninth straightAug 18, 2010 - 3:17 AM By VIN A. CHERWOO AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- With Indiana focusing on Cappie Pondexter, her teammates stepped up and led the surging New York Liberty to a big win against the first-place Fever.
Leilani Mitchell scored 19 points, Taj McWilliams-Franklin had 14 points and 10 rebounds and the Liberty beat Indiana 78-57 on Tuesday night, extending their franchise record with their ninth straight win.
Pondexter finished with 13 points and Nicole Powell added 10 to help New York (20-11) win for the 13th time in 15 games since the All-Star break.
"I didn't have to do much," said Pondexter, who shot 5 for 11 from the field and finished more than eight points below her season average. "I started out, wasn't shooting too well, so I passed and they knocked their shots down. Why force anything, we were up 20."
The second-place Liberty also evened the season series at 2-2 and moved one-half game behind Eastern Conference-leading Indiana.
"Things were just clicking for us everywhere today," Mitchell said. "Even when we were up 15, we knew we couldn't relax because as well as they shoot the 3 and they attack ... they have a lot of people who can score and that's why we kept the defensive pressure throughout the game."
Tamika Catchings scored 19 of her 25 points in the first half to lead the Fever (21-11), who held a 21-14 advantage late in the first quarter but then totaled just 20 points in the second and third periods as the Liberty took a double-digit lead.
New York took control for good with a 10-0 run, capped by McWilliams-Franklin's jumper that extended the lead to 67-46 with 5:35 remaining in the game.
"I was really pleased with the mentality of our group," Liberty coach Anne Donovan said. "Playing a great team like Indiana and playing well ... that's the most important thing for us. ... Even when we got ourselves in a hole early, there was never any sense of panic."
Mitchell started the run with a 3-pointer and had a three-point play after picking up a loose ball with her back to the paint and throwing a desperate underhanded toss at the basket with the ball going in off the backboard as she was fouled.
Catchings hit consecutive 3s and Shavonte Zellous made a free throw to pull Indiana to 67-53 with 4:03 left, but that was as close as the Fever got.
Plenette Pierson's jumper with 33 seconds to go capped a 9-0 run that gave New York its biggest lead of the game, 78-55.
"Give New York credit, they played at an extremely high level with enormous amount of energy, effort, and intensity," Fever coach Lin Dunn said. "I thought we did a really good job on Cappie, made her shots hard but I thought Leilani broke us down with her penetration. She knocked down those 3s that really hurt us. Credit to her and they're playing really well together."
The Liberty led 30-27 at halftime after a low-scoring second quarter in which New York held Indiana to 2-for-8 shooting from the field and outscored the Fever 12-6.
Powell had a 3 and a layup and Mitchell hit a 3 to cap a 10-1 run that extended the Liberty's lead to 42-30 with 5:51 left in the third quarter.
Briann January and Jessica Moore made consecutive layups to pull Indiana to 46-39 with under 3 minutes left in the period. However, New York scored the next seven points and took a 14-point lead on Essence Carson's jumper with under 1 1/2 minutes to go in the third.
"The third quarter was our biggest difference, just the intensity level that they came out with after halftime and we just didn't have it," Catchings said.
The Fever finished conference play at 13-9, while the Liberty are 13-7 and have two games remaining against East foes - at third-place Washington, which is a half-game back, on Friday and at home against Connecticut on Sunday. New York also hosts Tulsa on Thursday night.
"It's still tough, it's not over with," Pondexter said. "We just got to continue to stay focused and not get too high. One day at a time."
Catchings scored 15 of Indiana's first 17 points, helping the Fever take a 21-14 lead with about 2 minutes left in the first quarter.
The Liberty scored the next 10 points, taking a three-point lead on McCarville's jumper with about 6 1/2 minutes to go in the second quarter.
Catchings' 3 with 6:17 remaining tied the score at 24-all and ended the Fever's scoring drought of 5:44.
McCarville's layup 4 minutes later gave the Liberty their halftime lead.
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