Sa-Three-Na: Ionescu’s Record-Breaking Season from Deep

Sabrina Ionescu’s near midcourt, dribbling the clock down late in the first half. The New York Liberty are hosting the Las Vegas Aces for the final time in the regular season, and they’re up on the defending champs. Ionescu starts to make her move with about 10 on the shot clock, 15 on the game clock, as teammate Kayla Thornton comes up top to help. For Vegas, Jackie Young has the assignment, and she’s pressuring the ball, knowing Ionescu has in-the-gym range. Thornton sets a screen to Young’s left, but the young guard absorbs the bump and fights over it. Thornton appears again, this time from Young’s right, but instead slips this time. Here, Young retreats, following Thornton on her dive to the basket. This is what New York wanted, a guard/center switch for Ionescu, and now it’s Kiah Stokes’ responsibility to step up. Instead of closing the gap, though, Stokes slides sideways, still defending the three-point arc. That line, however, does not indicate Ionescu’s range. She takes one dribble left and pulls up, the shot rising high above Stokes’ belated closeout. The ball tumbles, orange over white over orange over white, for a full second and a half before it drops through the net and puts the Liberty up a dozen, a lead they would not relinquish.



Ionescu would finish with a game-high 25 points in the victory, hitting half of her 10 attempts from deep. It was her 12th game with five or more triples (Jewell Loyd, the WNBA’s leading scorer, is second with nine such performances). 

With all those triples stacking together, Ionescu made history, setting the all-time single season record for three-pointers made. 

This year, Ionescu drained 128 shots from long range, surpassing the 121 Diana Taurasi splashed during her impressive 2006 season. “It’s a huge accomplishment,” said Betnijah Laney, who has shared the court with Ionescu for three seasons now and watched the young star develop. “She’s grown all around, on both ends of the floor. She’s been great for us this year, and I just hope to continue to see her grow.”


Scatter plot courtesy of Her Hoop Stats, showing the 605 player seasons with 100+ three-point attempts


“Obviously, breaking any record that Diana has set speaks for itself,” Ionescu told Winsidr. “It’s special, knowing also that I’ve done it so early on in my career. [With injuries], I have not had the first two years that I imagined; coming back from that is a testament to all the work I’ve put in. And it’s my great teammates getting me the ball in those positions, the coaching staff believing in me to take those shots, whether they go in or not.”

It’s not just that they’ve been going in, but they’ve been dropping at an historic rate. Among high-volume shooting seasons across WNBA history, Ionescu’s efficiency stands alone. Per Across the Timeline, only seven players have ever attempted six or more three-pointers per game and shot 40 percent or better from the field. Ionescu, at just under eight attempts per game, is the only player to finish north of 44 percent, a mark that also landed her second among players who attempted at least 100 three-pointers, with Ionescu’s 44.8 percent falling just a sliver behind Jackie Young’s 44.9 percent.


Table courtesy of Across the Timeline, highlighting the seven players that have shot 40 percent or better on 6+ three-point attempts per game


The record-breaking long ball—which Ionescu knocked down in the third quarter of the September 7 comeback victory over the Los Angeles Sparks—was anything but conventional, a catch-and-shoot from the corner that nicked the corner of the backboard on its way back down. Appropriately, it came off a dime from Courtney Vandersloot, who finished the 2023 campaign once again as the W’s leader in assists per game, the seventh time she’s accomplished that feat in her career. During the season, nobody assisted Ionescu more than Vandersloot, who found the sharpshooter 49 times. 



According to assistant coach Olaf Lange, who had previously coached—and won a championship alongside—Vandersloot with the Chicago Sky, the Liberty had pitched this backcourt pairing during this offseason. “When we recruited Sloot, we had a couple of conversations,” Lange said. “Sloot is always used to playing with a great shooter—she played with [her wife, Allie]Quigley for years—and I said, ‘Look, Sloot, she’s an amazing shotmaker. You may have not seen it, but I just promise you she is,’ and [Sabrina’s] showing it now.”

Now, with a 40-game regular season as sample size, Lange’s praise of Ionescu has proven true to the veteran guard. “Her ability to shoot off the bounce is what separates her,” Vandersloot said. “There’s been pretty good catch-and-shoot shooters, but her range also adds to that. Her ability to make shots all over the floor, whether it’s off the bounce, catch-and-shoot, contested, not contested, she’s a shotmaker, and that’s something that she works hard on. She works on her craft, and she’s seen that be successful this season. It’s fun to watch.”

Synergy’s advanced stats back up Vandersloot’s assessment. Ionescu places in the 91st percentile for points per possession (PPP) on catch-and-shoot attempts, notching an absurd 76.5 effective field goal percentage when unguarded. Ionescu also landed in the 82nd percentile in dribble jumpers, and she finished in the 97th percentile in long threes.


See Also

Heat map courtesy of, showcasing Sabrina Ionescu’s hot zones beyond the arc


Ionescu credits her teammates for so much of her success, since opponents have to play honestly with the dynamic lineup of all-stars the Liberty roll out every night. “I knew it’d be getting a lot more open shots and a lot more catch-and-shoot opportunities, just having players like JJ and Stewie attracting so much attention,” Ionescu said. “Understanding that I would be able to just get more opportunities and not be trapped every single time I come off a ball screen like I was last year.” 

Playing within the offense has increased that efficiency: 87.1 percent of her three-point scores have come off assists this season, far exceeding the 68 percent she averaged across her first three seasons as a pro. “She’s 11 percent better than what she was last year,” said head coach Sandy Brondello. “Shooters, you just focus on the rim, and you just shoot it up. You do it enough, you just know where it is. That’s what Sabrina has. When she’s confident, there’s nothing better.” That year-to-year improvement in shooting percentages is staggering, but it’s also true. Ionescu, as the primary offensive focal point, made just 33.3 percent from downtown in 2022. 

While this roster construction was one major component, this also coincided with Ionescu’s first healthy offseason as a professional. “I went into the offseason knowing that I wanted to continue to extend my range and capitalize on those opportunities when I got them,” Ionescu said, emphasizing the work she’d put into her lower body. Her stellar conditioning was evident late in games, as Ionescu finished the season as one of just seven players to average more than three points a game in “clutch” situations*. In overtime performances, where most players had tired legs, Ionescu came through, with a pair of games where she hit multiple three-pointers in extra time. “That’s been really special,” Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb said, highlighting Ionescu’s big performances. “We’ve had nights, especially recently, where Sab has carried us offensively. That’s been heartening for myself, as growth.”

Ionescu’s shooting prowess went viral earlier this summer, when she shattered both the WNBA and NBA’s three-point contest records, knocking down 25 of 27 shots during All-Star Weekend’s three-point contest. At one point that round, in which she tallied 37 of a possible 40 points, Ionescu hit 20 straight shots from deep, including a pair from the much deeper “Starry Range.” Still, while shooting off a rack is an incredible skill—as evidenced by the fact that Steph Curry (31 points), Tyrese Haliburton (31 points), and Allie Quigley (30 points) were the closest to matching Ionescu’s three-point contest output—the leap Ionescu took in-game is what New York will lean on in the postseason.

“I’ve always been—I think—a great shooter,” Ionescu said. “It’s been really nice to see the numbers and how it’s helped us as a team, because I put in a lot of work to be able to shoot at [this]level.”

Before every game, Ionescu and Lange go through an elaborate pregame shooting routine, but he shrugs away any credit for her success. “We do a lot of work,” Lange acknowledged, “but I could do it with the next person, and it wouldn’t make any difference. She has the confidence, she has the technique, and she has the mindset to do it. Hopefully what we do helps, but I would say she’s a born shooter.”

With Sabrina Ionescu’s name etched atop the single-season three-point record, it’s hard to argue with that assessment.


Unless otherwise noted, all stats are from, pulled at the conclusion of the 2023 WNBA regular season.

* Clutch situations are defined as “the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime when the score is within five points.”

© 2023 Winsidr. All Rights Reserved.

Scroll To Top