Marissa Coleman scored 20 points and Erlana Larkins had 13 to lead the Indiana Fever past the Washington Mystics, 64-61, at Verizon Center on Friday. Scoreless at halftime, Larkins also finished with a game-high nine rebounds to help the Fever overcome a 16-point second-quarter deficit.
Indiana’s comeback resulted in a 10-point lead, 59-49, on a Maggie Lucas 3-pointer with 5:55 left in the contest. It was Lucas’ first 3-pointer, with 3:03 left in the third, that gave Indiana its first lead of the game. She finished with six points.
Washington rallied in the closing minutes, using a 7-0 spurt to climb within 59-56 and later 61-59 as the game resorted to free throws down the stretch. A pair of Coleman free throws gave Indiana a 61-56 cushion before Bria Hartley’s three-point play brought the Mystics within 61-59 with 17.7 seconds left. Larkins hit the second of two free throws for a 62-59 lead, but Hartley went coast-to-coast to narrow the score to 62-61 with just 10.6 seconds remaining.
Coleman iced the game with two more free throws with 9.8 ticks left and the Mystics failed to get a shot as the clock expired.
Coleman, a prep, college and former pro star in the Washington area, enjoyed a season scoring high while shooting 5-of-14 from the floor with a pair of 3-pointers. She was perfect on eight free throws, including four in the final two minutes.
“I am definitely growing more and more comfortable,” said Coleman who scored in double figures for the third straight game with her new team.
Avenging an earlier loss to the Mystics on May 23, Indiana (4-3) won its fourth straight game to record the club’s longest win streak since 2012. The road victory, despite playing without point guard Briann January who rested a right ankle sprain, ended a three-game win streak for the Mystics. Already playing without Tamika Catchings in the early season, Indiana endured another injury as starting guard Shavonte Zellous went to the bench in the third period after turning her right knee. She finished with nine points.
“We have had to deal with some injuries,” said Fever coach Lin Dunn who will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on June 14. “We had to look at other people. The one thing I thought we did well was push the tempo and maybe [the Mystics] would get fatigued since they played last night, too.”
“Larkins was just a warrior,” Dunn added. “She just pulled her teammates along behind her. Marissa had a big game and at crunch time, we hit our free throws.”
The Mystics (4-3) led 23-7 but Indiana chipped within 9 at intermission and used a 24-9 third quarter to turn the momentum. Larkins scored Indiana’s first four points of the second half and finished with 10 in the period. The Fever got within 3 at 35-32 and 41-38 before Lucas’ 3-pointer helped ignite a 12-3 run to end the third period. Indiana led 50-44 heading to the fourth.
The Mystics got buckets from Jelena Milovanovic and Stefanie Dolson to open the final quarter and close within 50-48, but Larkins’ putback opened another 9-1 run as Indiana commanded its largest lead of the contest on Lucas’ second 3-pointer.
Washington took advantage of cold-shooting Indiana in the opening period to command an 18-7 advantage and take a 35-26 lead into halftime. Both teams combined to shoot just 11-of-50 in the opening quarter, just 1-of-13 from 3-point range. But Washington was perfect on 14 free throw attempts at intermission.
“I don’t even think we realized we were down 16,” said Larkins. “As a team, we didn’t pay much attention to it. We knew it was early. We knew if we scored point-by-point, we could work our way back and give ourselves a chance to win.”
Indiana’s 7-point first period was nearly matched by the Mystics’ 9-point performance in the third, as Indiana picked up its pace and Washington showed signs of fatigue after playing a night earlier at Connecticut. Washington shot 8-of-27 from the floor in the second half and just 29 percent for the game.
Indiana rebounded from its 2-of-18 shooting in the first quarter to shoot 35 percent overall. The Fever capitalized by scoring 18 points on 17 Washington turnovers.
Indiana resumes its own back-to-back road trip while playing at Connecticut on Saturday.??