NEW YORK (AP) — After a disappointing debut with the New York Liberty, Breanna Stewart just wanted to play better.
She did more than that, scoring a franchise record 45 points, and New York beat Indiana, 90-73, on Sunday, handing the Fever a 20th consecutive loss that matched the WNBA record for futility.
Stewart had no idea she was close to the scoring mark.
“I didn’t know I broke any record. I looked up at the scoreboard at one time and had 37,” Stewart said. “I was like ‘I didn’t know what just happened.’ I was wanted to be more aggressive after last game ... set the tone and be confident.”
New York (1-1) lost its opener to Washington on Friday.
The Fever equaled the Tulsa Shock, who lost 20 straight in 2011. Indiana lost 18 consecutive games to close out last season before falling to the Connecticut Sun on Friday in their opener. Indiana plays at Atlanta next Sunday.
“I can’t help what history says,” Indiana guard Kelsey Mitchell said. “(Stinks) to be a part of it. I feel we are in transition and changing. I do my best to lean on that.”
New York rebuilt its team this offseason adding Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot to a strong young core led by Ionescu and Betnijah Laney. There are high expectations surrounding the Liberty this season, although it will take some time for the team to build chemistry.
Stewart, who also set a new career-high for points, welcomed the home-opening crowd before the tip-off saying it was great to be home.
The new trio got New York going early as they scored the first four baskets. Jones hit a layup, Stewart two 3-pointers and a reverse layup by Vandersloot as the Liberty were quick out of the gate.
By the time the first quarter ended, Stewart had 19 points — five more than Indiana — and New York led 36-14. She made six of her seven shots in the period, including four 3-pointers.
Stewart finished the half with 29 points, short of the league record 35 held by Riquna Williams.
New York led 62-35 at the break and never looked back.
The only real suspense in the second half was whether Stewart could break the single-game franchise scoring mark of 40 held by Cappie Pondexter set also against Indiana in 2010.
Stewart broke that record on a three-point play with 2:13 left in the third quarter to put New York up 82-52. She finished the game going 15-of-21 from the field, including hitting six 3-pointers. She was also 9-for-9 from the foul line and had 12 rebounds.
Despite the lopsided loss, there is optimism around the Fever with the addition of No. 1 pick Aliyah Boston, who scored 15 points.
“I’d say there is nothing but positivity around here right now,” said Fever second-year forward NaLyssa Smith, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds. “Everyone is excited for our future.”