86 at Indiana
By Tom Rietmann | July 7, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Fever sits alone in second place in the WNBA Eastern Conference thanks to grit, gumption and a couple of tough defensive stands on Saturday night.
It came down to the final play of overtime in Indiana's 88-86 victory over the Chicago Sky at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Sky took possession with 16 seconds remaining. The visitors wanted to get the ball inside to center Sylvia Fowles, who led them with 24 points.
Indiana's Tammy Sutton-Brown fronted Fowles, preventing a pass. And when guard Ticha Penicheiro tried to move the ball to the wing, Sutton-Brown slid out there and made a game-saving steal.
“I just kind of read it,” said the veteran Fever center. “I knew she wanted to hand it off. And we wanted to switch everything.”
Sutton-Brown paused and smiled. “I still have a little defense in me after 12 years in the league,” she said.
Indiana, lifting its record to 9-6 and beating Chicago for the 12th time in the past 13 games, also played some stout defense at the end of regulation. The Sky had 22.3 seconds to get off a final shot and grab the win. The Fever wouldn't allow it, and the clock expired.
“We were all on the same page, rotating,” said Fever guard Briann January, “and we knew who we could sag off and who we had to keep track of.”
Fever Coach Lin Dunn put it best.
“I just thought in crunch time our defense went up another level,” said Dunn, whose club is 4-0 against Chicago this season.
It wasn't a perfect night for Indiana, which frittered away a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter. It marked the second consecutive game in which the Fever lost a big lead. Two days earlier, it cost the team in an 88-72 loss to San Antonio.
“We needed this, being able to fight through things and come out with the victory,” said forward Tamika Catchings, who led Indiana on Saturday night in points (18), rebounds (nine), assists (six) and steals (four). “I feel (that winning like this) will help us down the stretch.”
Katie Douglas, who scored 13 for Indiana, looks forward to a time when leads quit slipping away.
“We've been doing that lately, making it hard for ourselves,” Douglas said. “It was a good win for us, facing some adversity and facing things that we let get out of control. But we were able to put things back under control in overtime.”
Center Jessica Davenport collected 15 points off the bench for Indiana, hitting 5-of-6 from the field. Shavonte Zellous had 14 points. January had 13 points and a couple of timely assists.
January played with sore ribs and wore extra padding after she ran into a bruising screen by San Antonio's Danielle Adams on Thursday night. Indiana backup point guard Erin Phillips didn't suit up against Chicago after experiencing concussion-like symptoms on Thursday night, so January's minutes couldn't be cut drastically.
It didn't help, either, that January took another blow to the ribs early in Saturday night's game.
“I want to give Bri an awful lot of credit,” Dunn said. “I just thought she was a real warrior out there. And down the stretch, she did some real good things for us.”
January's free throw tied the game near the end of regulation. Her neat pass to Davenport gave the Fever an 81-80 lead in overtime. And her driving layup with 1:45 left in the game provided an 85-82 edge.
“Down the stretch,” January said, “we took care of the ball and got a few great stops.”
Taking care of the basketball proved troublesome for Chicago (8-7), which had 27 turnovers as Indiana's defense stayed in high gear. Still, Fowles couldn't be stopped, grabbing 16 rebounds and hitting 11-of-13 shots for her 24 points. Shay Murphy, a former Fever player, came off the bench to contribute 20 points for the Sky.