The Washington Times - August 16, 2009, 08:14PM

In losing Sunday’s game to the Liberty, the Mystics missed out on a golden opportunity to grab some momentum before their upcoming road trip.

They simply could not solve the Liberty’s defense. After an evenly matched first quarter, New York went to a 2-3 zone defense in the second. The Mystics’ outside shots were routinely short and the tightly compacted zone prevented them from getting any close easy looks. The result was six-point second quarter — Washington’s fewest output in any quarter this year — on 3-for-18 shooting.

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“We really wanted to try to confuse them as much as possible, make them think on every possession, make them use as much clock as possible and make them come up with something desperate at the end of the shot clock,” said New York center Janel McCarville, who had a decisive three-point play in 9.1 seconds to go.

It worked. The Mystics were out of rhythm all game, and even in the second half, when they started hitting shots with more frequency, New York still prevented them from realizing any semblance of sustained offense.

“You want to try to get something going to the basket, but I thought New York did a great job of just packing the paint,” Alana Beard said. “They gave us those outside shots but had a hand up contesting them and it was just very unfortunate that they weren’t falling in the beginning. It was a very low scoring game, but we tried to adjust, but sometimes it just doesn’t work.”

The Mystics are the worst free throw shooting team in the league, and it finally caught up with them Sunday. They went 9-for-18 from the free throw line, a devastating output considering how close the game was.

On the other hand, New York was 13-for-15 from the stripe.

“We can’t go 50 percent from the line and win games,” Mystics coach Julie Plank said. “That was one of the keys to us beating Connecticut [Friday] and we just didn’t get it done tonight…

“A lot of it is mental. Relax, put them in. I can’t get out there and tell them what to do. We do practice free throws, believe it or not, and it’s just focus. It’s just a concentration thing. We count on those points from the free throw line and to miss nine of them is really disappointing.”

Nakia Sanford was especially frustrated in the locker room afterwards. She missed five free throws despite devoting extra time in practice recently to that part of her game.

“I just don’t really understand how I missed that many considering the extra work that I put in,” she said.

The Mystics (12-12) dropped to fifth in the Eastern Conference, and are officially outside the playoff picture right now.