Fever outshine Sun, 72-68
In just her third game of the season, Tamika Catchings led the Fever with 21 points and 7 rebounds to a 72-68 comeback win Thursday afternoon over the Connecticut Sun at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Fever took their first lead with under five minutes left in the game, after trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half. Catchings took control in the closing minutes to secure the win.
"We came out in the second half just really talking about finding that energy within and everybody coming together and playing hard," said Catchings. "I felt like as a team we all bought into that. Everybody that stepped on the floor gave some positive energy and got us going. Once the momentum started, we were able to keep it rolling like the snowball effect."
The Fever (10-10) evened its record and sits in second place in the WNBA Eastern Conference. The Fever host first place Atlanta on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. The Fever has won four of their last five games, two of three since Catchings' return.
"We're a team with a lot more confidence," said Fever coach Lin Dunn, "because in crunch time she is our 'let's make a play' player. We want it in her hands because she's going to make a play for herself, but she's also going to make a play for other people. It gives the other players a lot of confidence knowing that now the ball is in Catch's hands. Something good is going to happen. We haven't had that this half of the season."
The Fever got off to a sluggish start, likely due to a noon tipoff after travel issues Wednesday returning from Tuesday night's win in Tulsa. The Fever travel commercial flights. The team had problems with connections in Chicago and nearly had to bus home. Indiana scored just nine points in the first quarter, the lowest quarter output for a Sun opponent this season. 20 first half points was also a Fever offensive season low.
"We had a lot of open layups in the first half that we missed," said Catchings. "I think I missed like five of them. In the second half, we just really focused on finishing at the basket."
10,441 fans, most of them grade age, attended the game on Kids' Day. Indianapolis native Katie Douglas (Perry Meridian High School and Purdue University) scored 17 points to lead the Sun (9-12). Douglas hit a 3-pointer with 13.5 seconds to play to pull the Sun within two points. Alex Bentley (Ben Davis High School) scored nine points and handed out five assists. Kelly Faris (Heritage Christian School) played 11 minutes for the Sun, but did not score.
Four players scored in doubles figures for the Fever. Briann January added 13 points. Erlana Larkins scored 12. Layshia Clarendon's 12 points off the bench marked a career-high.
Catchings made her season debut last Saturday, scoring just six points in 20 minutes in a home loss to San Antonio. Tuesday she played 31 minutes and collected a double-double (23 points, 11 rebounds) in the win at Tulsa. Thursday she played 27 minutes and topped 20 points again.
"She has been amazing to me in that her conditioning level is not where it needs to be," said Dunn. "That's going to take time. We played her 30 minutes the other night and I know it was a tough night for her. We tried to get her some rest (today) and stay under 30. I thought her 27 was good for us. I thought she had good energy down the stretch because we had rested her, and I used some timeouts that we really didn't need. That was just a way to get her some rest. We just have to be patient with her getting her cardio, energy and endurance back. That's going to take the longest."
Fans voted Catchings as a WNBA All-Star game starter for the 8th consecutive year despite missing the first 17 games of the season with back problems. Dunn and her coaching staff will lead the Eastern Conference All-Stars. The game is played Saturday, July 27th (3:30 p.m., ABC) in Uncasville, Connecticut.
"It's an honor when you get selected by the fans," said Catchings. "The second group that gets selected will get selected by the coaches and GM's. For the fans to feel they respect your game that much to me it's a huge honor and I'm thankful."