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Rapid Reaction: Liberty 80, Sky 73

NEWARK, N.J. -- Essence Carson was wearing protective goggles for the first time since she was a teenager. She hadn’t practiced in a week and she admitted that she was having trouble seeing properly out of her right eye. But she knows exactly where the basket is.

Carson hit a 3-pointer with 31 seconds left that capped a huge comeback win for the Liberty, 80-73, over Chicago Sunday at the Prudential Center.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Liberty (7-6) earned their first three-game winning streak of the season and finally having a winning record at home, at 3-2. It also means that the Liberty can take a punch. The Liberty were being overmatched and outplayed in the first half. They had trouble with the Sky’s Sylvia Fowles and Catherine Krayeveld in the paint and guards Courtney Vandersloot and backup Erin Thorn were doing as they pleased in the lane.

That all changed in the second half, where New York gave up 24 points, instead of the 49 they suffered in the first half.

“We were asleep,” Liberty coach John Whisenant said. “We were sleep-walking in the first part of the game. We gave a lot of easy baskets. They were coming out with energy and fortunately we were able to turn the game around.”

STAR OF THE GAME: Whisenant said that Carson had missed an entire week of practice and he worried about with she would be able to keep in wind. But she showed no signs of fatigue or irritation with the game on the line.

She made two huge defensive plays late. First blocking Vandersloot’s layup under the basket. Then coming from the weak side to send back a Michelle Snow shot in the paint. Carson practically settled the game when Cappie Pondexter found her at the top of the arc and Carson drilled a three-pointer with 31.7 second left to put New York ahead 76-73.

“It was open,” she said. “Cappie found me. She’s a great combo guard. I was just doing what I was supposed to do.

Carson finished with 18 points on 8 for 13 shooting.

CAPPIE OF THE SHIP: Pondexter struggled for most of the game defensively but found her rhythm when it mattered. Pondexter converted on a fastbreak layup that ignited her own personal 6-0 run that gave the Liberty their first lead of the game, 68-67 with 3:21 left to play. Pondexter scored 13 of her 18 points in the last three minutes of the game, including 6 for 6 from the free line during the stretch.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Liberty will try to extend their longest winning streak of the season when they play Atlanta ( at home Wednesday at noon.