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 on Sunday, handing the Fever a 20th consecutive loss that matched the WNBA record for futility.
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 tip-off saying it was great to be home.
New York rebuilt its team this offseason adding Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot to a strong young core led by 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 they scored the first four baskets. Jones hit a layup, Stewart two 3-pointers and a reverse layup by Vandersloot 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 35 held by Riquna Williams.
New York led 62-35 at the break and never looked back.
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 set also against Indiana in 2010.
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 were the most in WNBA history.
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 plays at Atlanta next Sunday.
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 Fever second-year forward NaLyssa Smith, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds. “Everyone is excited for our future.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.