Breanna Stewart’s 45 points break Liberty scoring record in 90-73 win in home opener

·3 min read

This one was over quickly, but the Barclays crowd stuck around to witness history.

Breanna Stewart did it all Sunday, scoring 45 points in her home debut in a 90-73 win against the Indiana Fever. The scoring performance is a new career-high for Stewart and it sets a new Liberty single-game scoring record. The star garnered MVP chants from the crowd in the third period.

Stewart said postgame she didn’t realize she had broken any records while on the court but had a good feeling early in the game, which led her making 10 of her first 12 shots to start.

“I mean, I think in the first quarter, I was thinking that everything looked good, everything felt good,” Stewart said. And like I said, it just feels like every time I shoot it, I’m gonna make it.”

Her points flooded in early, aided by the team’s 21 first-half assists, three more than the total for Friday’s loss against the Mystics. The Liberty ended up with 28 total assists for the game. Coach Sandy Brondello’s club was also two points short of Friday’s total score, 62, at halftime.

Much of the change can be attributed to the Fever’s lack of star power on the roster. Despite the blowout victory, Brondello said postgame she told the team still has things to “work on,” citing the Liberty scoring just five points in the final quarter.

“We need to be better finishing off games in that way, but we’re still not where we need to be,” the head coach said. “We know that and Indiana is still a younger team. Let’s see how we go against the veteran teams.”

The Liberty overwhelmed the Fever, skipping the ball around without allowing Indiana to set its defense.

The quick pace led to a 36-14 lead at the end of the first quarter, spearheaded by Stewart’s 19 points in the period.

Sabrina Ionescu and Courtney Vandersloot pushing the ball in transition after defensive rebounds was the theme Sunday, but Ionescu showcased how difficult it’ll be containing the Liberty’s half-court offense as well.

Ionescu and Stewart’s pick-and-pop posed issues for Indiana. On one possession, Ionescu drew two defenders after going by a Stewart screen, forcing the Fever defense to be a step too slow. The possession led to an open three from Betnijah Laney, who should get plenty of those looks with her star teammates on the floor.

“When Stewie is shooting like that it opens the floor for everyone as well as herself and so it’s something we’re going to continue to build on,” Ionescu said. And something that we’ve talked about is this is the standard now.

“We know that we’re capable of playing like this and we’re holding ourselves to this standard every single night and we’re going to continue to get better because this wasn’t our best basketball and we know that.”

Ionescu was on triple-double watch, finishing with nine points, eight assists and eight rebounds. Vanderloot dished out eight assists to go with eight points.

The 2021 MVP, Jonquel Jones, benefitted from open looks and finished with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

But Stewart was the star of the game.

Her 41st point of the night to break the record in the third came off a fadeaway jumper in the paint over two defenders. It wasn’t bad defense, with Indiana’s Lexie Hull bumping the star throughout the play, but Stewart’s height and elite shot-making was just too much for the Fever.

It was a microcosm of the night and a foreshadowing of what opposing offenses will have to deal with against the Liberty this season.

“We have Breanna Stewart and they don’t I suppose. I guess that’s what it comes down to,” Brondello said.