WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Teaira McCowan’s WNBA debut was a memorable one, hitting the game-winning layup at the buzzer.
The rookie’s shot lifted Indiana to an 81-80 victory over the New York Liberty on Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
“I haven’t ever hit a game-winner before,” said the third pick in the draft, who finished with 11 points. “Not in AAU, high school or college.”
Trailing by one after Tina Charles made two free throws with seven seconds left, Candice Dupree drove the lane and dished it off to McCowan, who laid it in just before the buzzer sounded. The officials did a quick video review and confirmed the basket counted.
“I always tell her to keep her hands up,” Dupree said. “I yelled at her as I drove, ‘T’ your hands.”
McCowan was part of one of the greatest game-winning shots at Mississippi State when teammate Morgan William hit a 15-footer in overtime at the 2017 Final Four to end UConn’s record 111-game winning streak.
“This is definitely one of the top five I’ve been part of,” said McCowan, with a smile.
Tiffany Mitchell led Indiana with 22 points. Her free throw with 2:16 left in the game gave Indiana a 79-78 lead. Neither team could score until the final seven seconds.
Charles, who finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds, hit two free throws after she was fouled on a rebound with seven seconds remaining that gave New York a one-point lead.
The loss was the 14th in a row for the Liberty dating back to last season. Charles didn’t see this as a continuation of the streak from last year.
“Last year is in the past, you can only focus on this year,” she said.
This was the Liberty’s first regular-season game under new owner Joe Tsai. An investment group led by the Brooklyn Nets minority owner bought the Liberty in late January. Tsai, co-founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, bought a 49% interest in the Nets last year. Tsai was in attendance along with new WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and acting WNBA President Mark Tatum. Engelbert starts officially on July 17 after finishing her current job as CEO of Deloitte USA next month. The trio met at the half.
Indiana got off to a rough start, missing its first eight shots before Shenise Johnson’s layup nearly 5 minutes into the game. Johnson sat out last year while recovering from an ACL tear suffered in 2017 and then a hamstring injury. Indiana built a 39-33 lead at the half despite 16 points by Charles. The lead grew to 54-42 with 3:19 left in the third before Reshanda Gray and Bria Hartley rallied New York, which scored 18 of the final 20 points to end the period. Gray’s putback with three seconds left capped the run and made it 60-56 for the Liberty.
LIBERTY DEBUTS: Asia Durr and Han Xu got their first minutes in the league playing for New York. Durr, who was drafted second by the Liberty, finished with eight points. Han played 65 seconds.
“It was fun, exciting. First time playing in a game that counts,” Durr said. “Got my feet wet. I was super impressed with how we played. We could have done better.”