Fever Wins Outdoor Contest
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NEW YORK (AP) -- The Indiana Fever overcame the heat and humidity, and stole the spotlight - under the moonlight - from the New York Liberty in the WNBA's first outdoor game.
On a basketball court laid on top of the tennis court at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Katie Douglas scored nine of her 20 points in the fourth quarter, Tamika Catchings had 15 points and nine rebounds, and the Fever (11-11) beat the Liberty 71-55 on Saturday night.
Catchings believes the weather conditions - the game-time temperature was a steamy 87 degrees - were a factor as the game went on.
"All of us came out with a lot of energy, but eventually that energy ran out and then on top of that you have the heat,'' she said. "We were trying to stay hydrated and with a 20-minute halftime, that did not help.''
What might have helped Indiana is not having a lot of time to dwell on the historic game. The Fever were coming off a tough loss at home to Seattle the night before.
"Definitely, I feel like that could play a role in just not really having to think about it,'' Catchings said. "We had to think about last night's game ... talking about what we didn't do and what we needed to do today as far as we wanted to get back on the winning side.''
Indiana lost three of four coming in, and Douglas also agreed the short turnaround could have helped her team's focus.
"Sometimes everybody gripes about playing back-to-back, but sometimes it's great to get out there and fix those things that went wrong the night before,'' Douglas added. "This is hopefully a turning point for this team. I hope we can really enjoy this, really remember what it feels like and start building on this.''
Catchings was also part of the first outdoor women's college game when Tennessee played Arizona State at Bank One Ballpark, the Arizona Diamondbacks' baseball stadium, on Dec. 27, 2000.
Since opening in 1997, the world's largest outdoor tennis-only venue has been the main stadium for the U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It's where Serena and Venus Williams have won two women's titles each, and Roger Federer the last four men's championships.
For one night, there was a different ball bouncing on the court in the first outdoor regular-season game in professional basketball history - men's or women's.
The game drew 19,393 to the 23,226-seat stadium. The attendance fell short of the team's Garden record of 19,563, achieved three times - the last against Charlotte on Aug. 11, 2002.
Fireworks shot out from the sides outside the stadium before the Liberty's starting lineup was announced, and on the court during the introductions as the players ran on the court.
Janel McCarville had 10 points for New York (12-10), which had won three straight and five of seven coming in.
"It was not the outcome we were expecting,'' Liberty coach Pat Coyle said. "This game was an unbelievable experience. Being the first at playing outdoors and making history is special. That part was terrific. ... I was disappointed for the thing we did and didn't do on the court tonight. Too many things affected us and I am not referring to the outside factors. I mean our play on the court was disappointing.''
Indiana seized control with an 8-0 run midway through the third quarter, taking a 48-34 lead on Ebony Hoffman's jumper with 1:29 to go in the period.
Douglas' fastbreak layup with 7:09 left in the game pushed the Fever's lead to 59-42.
The Liberty followed with two 3s - one from Loree Moore and another by Cathrine Kraayeveld - in a 28-second span to pull within 11, but didn't get any closer.
"I felt like we were a little up and down and we just needed to play a little harder,'' Kraayeveld said. "We've been playing really well and it just didn't come out the way we wanted to tonight.''
Catchings' reverse layup with 2:08 left gave Indiana a 68-49 lead, the Fever's biggest advantage.
Hoffman and Tammy Sutton-Brown added 12 points each for Indiana.
Indiana shot 47 percent (26-for-55) from the field, and held New York to 28 percent (18-for-63).
"It's just a little different being outside,'' Kraayeveld said. "You're not really looking up in the sky or up to the ceiling if you are indoors. We knew we were outside, but we really didn't have that feeling. No matter what, you still have to shoot, you still have to play your game, you can't try to think about it and adjust.''
The Liberty have ventured outside the Garden for home games before, playing six contests at Radio City Music Hall in 2004 while the Republican Convention took over Madison Square Garden.
The NBA's Phoenix Suns defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in an outdoor preseason game on Sept. 24, 1972, at a baseball stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Suns are set to face the Denver Nuggets in another outdoor preseason game at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, Calif., on Oct. 11.