Originally created 07/23/01

Sol 68, Liberty 52



NEW YORK -- Miami Sol point guard Debbie Black smiled as the boos rained down from the crowd at Madison Square Garden.

Black's tenacious defense helped snap New York's eight-game homecourt winning streak as the Sol won their franchise-high seventh straight in a contentious 68-52 contest over the Liberty on Sunday.

As the first half ended with the Liberty down by 16 points, Teresa Weatherspoon shoved Black to the floor after missing a shot from halfcourt. Black caught up with Weatherspoon near the tunnel, and the two point guards were separated by 6-foot-3 Sue Wicks and security guards.

Fans booed Black, who is known for her hard-nosed defense.

"The more you boo me the better," Black said. "It's a compliment as far as I'm concerned. That means I'm doing something right."

Black scored 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting, and added eight rebounds, four assists and four steals. Sheri Sam led the Sol with 17 points.

Seven technical fouls were whistled in the game, including a pair of double technicals against Black and Weatherspoon and to Tari Phillips and Sam during the halftime argument .

"I went up to (Weatherspoon) and said, 'Hey, that wasn't necessary,"' Black said. "That was all I said, I wasn't trying to fight her. There was nothing in that, other than I got a technical out of it."

Rookie Ruth Riley added 14 points for the Sol (13-9). Riley, the No. 5 pick in the draft, finished 6-for-10 from the field. Center Elena Baranova added 12 points and six rebounds for Miami.

Crystal Robinson had 15 points for the Liberty (16-7), who last lost at Madison Square Garden on June 4 against Sacramento. The loss dropped New York 1 1/2 games behind idle Eastern Conference leader Cleveland.

"This is so tough and embarrassing," said Weatherspoon, who had four points and four assists. "We didn't do anything out there, and it's a crucial moment in the season."

Phillips and Vickie Johnson each scored 12 points for the Liberty, who lost for just the fourth time in 19 games.

Miami lead by 18 points four minutes into the second half on Black's 12-foot jumper. New York, which shot 38.5 percent, managed only two baskets in the first six minutes of the second half before Phillips' putback and trailed 42-26 with 13:48 remaining.

After a 3-pointer by Robinson, Miami went on a 12-2 run, behind two 3-pointers by Baranova, for a 54-32 lead with 9:45 remaining. After a technical on Wicks, the fifth of the game called on a player, Sam made two more free throws to give Miami a 24-point lead.

Robinson and Johnson hit 3-pointers, and Phillips added a layup, cutting the lead to 56-45, but Sam's driving layup silenced the crowd of 18,132.

Miami coach Ron Rothstein admired the scrappy play of Black, who leads the league in steals with 2.33 per game.

"She's the heart and soul of this team," Rothstein said. "Physically and mentally, she's the toughest human being I've ever met. I didn't say the strongest, but the toughest."

The Liberty came within 62-51 on Robinson's 3-pointer with 42.5 seconds left, but could get no closer.

Miami, which is holding teams to a league second-best 61.1 points per game, shot 50 percent from the field and outrebounded New York 30-26.

Riley scored five straight points to give the Sol a 15-11 lead 10 minutes into the first half. After a 3-pointer by Becky Hammon, Miami went on an 10-0 run behind Sam's six points for a 25-14 lead.

The Sol extended their lead to 35-20 on a turnaround baseline jumper by Riley just over a minute before halftime. A free throw by Baranova capped the Sol's 11-6 run before the break.

Technicals were called on Liberty coach Richie Adubato and assistant Jeff House in the first half.