64 at Indiana
By Tom Rietmann | May 15, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana's shooting was dreadful Wednesday, but nobody among the Fever coaches and players seemed overly concerned. Finding a replacement for injured backup center Jessica Davenport became the No. 1 issue.
Indiana connected on just 27.3 percent of its shots (21-of-77) in a 64-58 loss to San Antonio at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Fever, reigning champions of the WNBA, concluded the preseason portion of its 2013 schedule at 1-1 and continues preparations for the season opener May 24 at San Antonio.
“We've probably worked more on our defensive system and offensive system than we have shooting drills,” Fever Coach Lin Dunn said. “I think it kind of caught up to us a little today. We have to spend more time with full-speed shooting drills.”
Personnel evaluation moved to the forefront for Wednesday's game when Indiana learned it will start the season without Davenport, who is out six to eight weeks with a stress fracture of the left tibia. Also out until midseason is guard Jeanette Pohlen, who underwent off-season knee surgery.
Davenport's injury, coupled with the fact Tammy Sutton-Brown didn't re-sign, has left the team searching for a backup center to Erlana Larkins.
One possibility is 6-foot-5 Sasha Goodlett, last year's top draft pick, who led the Fever with nine points Wednesday. Another is 6-3 Jessica Breland, who led Indiana with eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Jasmine Hassell, at 6-2, also is battling for a spot on the roster. Shyra Ely-Gash, an Indianapolis native, was in the mix but recently suffered a torn Achilles tendon.
Wednesday, Dunn particularly liked what she saw from Breland, who has played briefly in the WNBA but wasn't on a league roster last season.
“I thought Breland helped herself,” Dunn said. “She's very active. She has long arms. She gets on the boards. She's getting comfortable with what we're doing.
The Fever struggled to be a strong rebounding team until Larkins arrived last season. Now, the club is wary of having a setback if a solid backup can't be found.
Larkins played less than seven minutes in the second half while Dunn and her staff kept a close eye on the potential reserves for post positions. Also, veteran stars Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas were relegated to cheerleading roles in the second half, with neither getting playing time.
“We've got some tough decisions to make,” Dunn said. “The goal for this game was to try to win, obviously, but also to put those other players in (game) situations so they can help us down the road. We know what Catchings and Douglas can do.”
The Fever outrebounded the Silver Stars, 47-39. Catchings had seven boards in just 12 minutes while Karima Christmas added six.
However, that couldn't overcome Indiana's woeful shooting.
“I know we're tired from some tough, tough training camp practices,” said Dunn, who plans to give her players an extra day or two off.
Indiana must determine its final 11-player roster by May 23.
“We are getting better every day and I think that's all we can ask for,” said veteran point guard Briann January. “Out of any of these people (vying for backup positions), we'd be in good hands. We have the pieces we want.”
Fever guard Erin Phillips summed it up as the team aims for back-to-back league titles.
“Obviously, the shooting today was abysmal, but this team works hard,” said Phillips, one of the Fever stars in last year's WNBA Finals. “We'll stick to our core values and believe in what we're trying to do.”