Essence Carson's 21 lead Liberty in OT win over Fever

NEWARK, N.J. -- Bill Laimbeer is aging quickly with his new team.

Essence Carson scored 21 points and Alex Montgomery added six of her 13 points in overtime as the New York Liberty rallied past Indiana 75-68 Wednesday in a matinee game. It marked the second straight overtime victory for New York.

"I'm almost completely gray now after the last two games," Liberty coach Laimbeer said, joking. "You don't want to put yourselves in those positions at home, on the road OK. At home we want to take care of business before overtime. We're learning, learning about confidence in ourselves. So I guess if you're going to go overtime and win, that's a positive."

New York (2-1) rallied from an 11-point deficit in the third quarter, surviving a nearly 7½-minute drought without a basket between the third and fourth periods, to force overtime.

"We kept being aggressive," Carson said. "Even though we weren't getting baskets, they weren't scoring either."

Indiana took a 68-67 lead in overtime on Briann January's jumper with 2:35 left. Montgomery made consecutive baskets, including one on a putback that gave New York a 71-68 lead with 1:04 left.

After the Fever had a turnover with 14.7 seconds left, they were forced to foul.

"I thanked Alex in the locker room," Laimbeer said. "By far the best I've seen her play. Her energy level was just what we needed. She played to her strengths and was a great boost for us."

Cappie Pondexter added 17 points for the Liberty (2-1). Tamika Catchings led Indiana (1-2) with 21 points, Shavonte Zellous had 15 and January finished with 13.

The Fever (1-2) had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but January's drive from the wing was blocked and didn't come close.

The Liberty, who beat Tulsa in OT in their home opener on Friday, trailed 36-30 at the half and the Fever extended that lead to 51-40 on Sasha Goodlett's hook with 3:16 left in the period. New York hung around despite going without a basket for the final 4:50 of the third quarter, making made 8 of 10 free throws.

"I think we beat ourselves," Catchings said. "They came back and coach talked about how we put them on the free throw line way too much. That third quarter especially, we kept fouling. We're too good a defensive team to allow that to set us back."

New York, which made 24 of 29 free throws, cut it to 53-51 on Pondexter's 3-pointer with 7:23 left and ended the offensive dip. The teams traded baskets during the rest of the fourth until Pondexter's 3-pointer from the corner with 1:38 left gave the Liberty a 60-59 advantage. It was their first lead since the opening basket.

With 22 seconds left, Catchings got the ball at the top of the key and drove down the lane. She got fouled and hit both free throws.

After a timeout, Pondexter drove on the other end and was fouled. She made the first of two free throws to the tie game. January then missed her runner on the other end to send it to overtime.

Despite the morning tipoff, the game had a boisterous atmosphere with thousands of local school children waving and pounding thundersticks.

"There was a lot of energy in the building, it was great having the kids around," said Carson, who had students from her New Jersey high school in attendance. "It's great seeing former teachers around."

The defending WNBA champion Fever have been decimated by injuries and only had eight healthy players. Jessica Davenport has a stress fracture in her left tibia, Erin Phillips tore her right meniscus and Jeanette Pohlen tore her left ACL. Coach Lin Dunn hopes to have all three back by the middle of the season.

They were also missing All-Star Katie Douglas, who was sidelined with a back injury. She made the trip but remained at the team hotel.

"She was fine last night, she was fine on the plane ride, she just woke up this morning and something was off," Dunn said.

Despite missing their star guard, the Fever took a 22-8 lead after the first quarter behind Catchings (12 points) and Zellous (10), who combined for all their points.

New York responded in the second quarter behind Carson to rally within four. She had nine points during a 14-5 run that started when Liberty forward Plenette Pierson went down after getting hit in the face on a drive. Pierson didn't return.

Rookie Layshia Clarendon, who helped lead Cal to the NCAA Final Four in April, made her first start. She had a rough game, shooting 3 of 11 for six points in 37 minutes.

"I was proud of Clarendon, she started out a little shaky in the first half," Dunn said. "It was the first time she'd started a WNBA game. She got more comfortable in the second half."