Delle Donne scores 23 to help Sky beat Liberty

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NEW YORK (AP) Elena Delle Donne has always wanted to play at Madison Square Garden. She made the most of her first opportunity.

Delle Donne scored 23 points and the Sky spoiled the New York Liberty's return to MSG with a 79-65 win Saturday night.

''It's awesome. I said before I don't think you're a valid basketball player until you've played in the Garden,'' said Delle Donne, who was the WNBA rookie of the year last season. ''It was on my basketball bucket list. It's incredible to play here.''

Delle Donne said she had been to the Garden before as a fan, but that was for a ''Brittney Spears concert. A little different circumstances playing here.'' she said with a laugh.

The Liberty had played their home games the past three seasons in New Jersey while MSG underwent a $1 billion transformation. The game marked the home debut for Liberty center Tina Charles, who was acquired by the Liberty in a blockbuster draft night trade with the Connecticut Sun. The New York native had 15 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Liberty (1-1).

With the game tied at 55 entering the fourth quarter, Delle Donne's three-point play started a 15-4 run to begin the period. Courtney Vandersloot had five straight points during the game-changing burst.

The Sky have won their first two games despite missing stars Sylvia Fowles (hip) and Epiphanny Prince (personal reasons). Prince told The Associated Press that she was burned out from playing year round since leaving Rutgers after her junior year.

She said she expects to be back with the team in the next few weeks. Fowles will be out a bit longer while recovering from hip surgery.

The Sky are coming off a breakthrough season last year. They were the top seed in the Eastern Conference and made the playoffs for the first time.

''It's great to get off to a strong start and see other people step up,'' Delle Donne said.

Jessica Breland added 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Vandersloot had 12 points and eight assists for the Sky (2-0).

New York was coming off a dismal 11-23 year. With Charles on the squad, better things are expected. Coach Bill Laimbeer said before the game that he has had the entire team for practice for only one day, as Charles and Cappie Pondexter were out for the preseason while finishing their winter seasons overseas.

It definitely showed as New York seemed out of sync on offense at times.

''Literally we've had one day to practice. It's not going to take long,'' Charles said. ''We didn't have key players in training camp, including myself. We have a lot of smart veteran players. We'll be fine.''

Chicago built a 43-35 halftime lead behind a 14-6 run in the second quarter. New York rallied in the third to tie it at 55 after falling behind by 12 early in the period.

Both teams were playing their second game in two nights, winning their season openers on Friday night.


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