NEWARK, N.J. – Tina Charles showed just how valuable she is to the Connecticut Sun.
Charles scored had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Sun to an easy 88-66 victory over the New York Liberty on Saturday night.
"She's much more confident," Connecticut coach Anne Donovan said. "I think it speaks to her maturity. She's getting doubled and tripled and still puts up a double-double. She has that grindstone mentality that she's going to tough it out. That's an MVP kind of mindset for sure."
Charles just believes she's doing her job.
"With a team like this, everyone has to play their role," Charles said. "We needed everyone to come along."
Renee Montgomery scored nine of her 18 points in a decisive third quarter, Kelsey Griffin scored 16 points and Allison Hightower added 13 to help the Sun (6-12) get their second straight win after a three-game losing streak.
Montgomery returned after missing four games with a sprained ankle, returned to add 18 points, nine coming in a decisive third quarter. Montgomery tweaked the ankle again in the second quarter, but returned after halftime to make a big difference.
"I felt like it was doable pain," said Montgomery, who was 4 for 4 on 3-pointers. "I was just happy to knock down the big shots. I was out for so long, so I needed this game to get things going again."
Kara Braxton scored 18 points and Plenette Pierson and Cappie Pondexter each added 17 for New York (8-12).
Trailing 34-33 at halftime, the Sun outscored the Liberty 27-14 in the third quarter.
Charles hit a lane jumper to give Connecticut its first lead of the game at 35-34 and the Sun went to work from there, gradually increasing the lead throughout the period.
"I think we just needed to find our rhythm," Donovan said. "Tina was finally able to shake free and we did a better job defensively."
The Sun went used a 15-6 run to take a 58-46 lead, capped by Montgomery's long 3-pointer. She made two free throws with 4.3 seconds left in the period to make it 60-48 heading to the final quarter.
Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer was not pleased with his team's performance.
"They wanted the game more than we did," Laimbeer said. "They had more energy and it showed. They took advantage of us just standing around. When we just stand around, we get really bad. They rained 3-balls on us and that was the difference. We had no answer for that. They deserved to win the game."
The Sun shot 10 for 21 from 3-point range, while the Liberty were 0 for 6 from beyond the arc.
The Liberty sliced the lead to 68-62 in the fourth quarter, but then Charles hit two consecutive corner jumpers to push the lead back to 10 with 5:52 remaining.
Montgomery's fourth 3-pointer of the game from way behind the arc extended the lead to 77-64.
"For Renee to knock down those shots for us was huge," Donovan said. "It gives us more weapons. To have four of us in double figures means we must be doing something right."
Pondexter shot just 1 for 7 from the field in the third quarter and finished 5 for 13.
The Liberty took advantage of a considerable size advantage to take a 21-16 lead after one period. Pierson had 11 of her points in the first quarter, as the Liberty converted on seven of their eight field goals inside 5 feet.
Griffin scored eight points in the second period, as Connecticut drew to within one point at halftime, and then wasted little time in the second half to take control.
"We're finding things a little bit easier," Donovan said. "Every game we seem to get a little better. We've recognized what we did wrong earlier."