Liberty’s Breanna Stewart drops 45 in 3 quarters in home debut
NEW YORK — Breanna Stewart scored a franchise record 45 points to go along with 12 rebounds as New York beat Indiana 90-73 Sunday in the Liberty’s home debut.
Stewart finished the game going 15-of-21 from the field, including hitting six 3-pointers. She joined Liz Cambage as the only WNBA players to score 40 points on at least 70% shooting from the field. It was also just the fifth 45-point double-double in league history.
Stewart, who also set a new career high for points, welcomed the home-opening crowd before the tipoff, saying it was great to be home.
“Feels like I made the right decision,” said Stewart, who signed with the Liberty this offseason as a free agent, when asked what it felt like to take the court in her home state of New York in front of family and friends
New York rebuilt its team over the winter, adding Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot to a strong young core led by Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney. There are high expectations surrounding the Liberty this season, although it will take some time for the team to build chemistry.
The new trio got New York going early as the three scored the first four baskets. Jones hit a layup, Stewart two 3-pointers and Vandersloot a reverse layup as the Liberty were quick out of the gate.
By the time the first quarter ended, Stewart had 19 points — five more than Indiana — and New York led 36-14. She made six of her seven shots in the period, including four 3-pointers.
Stewart finished the half with 29 points, short of the league record of 35 held by Riquna Williams.
New York led 62-35 at the break and never looked back.
“It was really important to play like this in my debut,” Stewart said. “Because I want people to be here and I want them to come back, and I want more. I want more of everything. And yeah it sounds selfish, but as a women’s basketball player, as a female athlete, we need to continue to get recognized for more in media coverage and fans and eyes and viewership.
“Hopefully I made a few [good] first impressions on some people, and I hope they come back and they come back with more.”
The only real suspense in the second half was whether Stewart could break the single-game franchise scoring mark of 40 held by Cappie Pondexter and set in 2010, also against Indiana.
Stewart broke that record on a three-point play with 2:13 left in the third quarter to put New York up 82-52. Her 45 points through three quarters was the most in WNBA history.
“We have Breanna Stewart and they don’t, I suppose,” head coach Sandy Brondello said in reference to the star’s transcendent performance. “That’s how it comes down to.”
The 20th straight loss for the Fever equaled the Tulsa Shock, who lost 20 straight games in 2011. Indiana lost 18 consecutive games to close out last season before falling to the Connecticut Sun on Friday in their opener. Indiana next plays at Atlanta on Sunday, May 28.
Despite the lopsided loss, there is optimism around the Fever with the addition of No. 1 pick Aliyah Boston, who scored 15 points.
“I’d say there is nothing but positivity around here right now,” said second-year Fever forward NaLyssa Smith, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds. “Everyone is excited for our future.”
The Associated Press and ESPN’s Alexa Philippou contributed to this story.