Special Night, Big Victory for Fever
By Tom Rietmann | June 11, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- On a night of celebration and honors at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Indiana Fever basketball team did its part in making sure the event came off without a hitch.
The Fever produced a rousing, rallying victory Wednesday night, toppling the Seattle Storm, 76-68. Four Fever starters scored in double digits, led by Erlana Larkins with a career high-tying 17 points. Indiana capped the triumph with an 18-7 run at the end.
“We stayed close and then we did some things in crunch time to win,” said Fever Coach Lin Dunn.
“It's always special for me to see a team be behind and come back.”
It seemed a perfect outcome to a big evening, witnessed by 7,925 at The Fieldhouse. The Fever franchise honored Dunn in a pre-game ceremony that previewed her induction Saturday into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Also, WNBA President Laurel Richie was on hand as the Fever celebrated Diversity Night in connection with the WNBA Pride initiative sponsored by CoverGirl.
Indiana, without the services of injured star Tamika Catchings (back) all season, elevated its record to 5-4. The Fever pulled out Wednesday's victory without point guard Briann January for the final 6:12 after she tweaked her injured ankle again.
Other players provided the key plays.
Marissa Coleman, who totaled 12 points, made seven in the final four minutes, including a 3-pointer that barely beat the shot clock buzzer. Shavonte Zellous totaled 13 points and scored six in the game-ending run, including a pull-up jumper that started it with 4:32 left.
Layshia Clarendon, carrying the load at point guard after January went out, hit 3-of-4 free throws in the final 24.2 seconds to assure the Fever's win. Clarendon's ball-handling in the second half, too, played a part in Indiana committing only two turnovers after halftime.
“I thought she played with a lot of poise tonight in a tough environment, in a tough game,” Dunn said.
Clarendon's late free throws, Dunn added, were “a big moment for her. I think it will really help her confidence.”
Larkins continues to play at an All-Star caliber. The Fever center is averaging a double-double with 11.9 points and 11.0 rebounds. She grabbed 11 boards against a Seattle club that led by nine points in the first half and eight in the third quarter.
“She just puts our team on her shoulders and takes us to a victory,” Dunn said about Larkins.
Larkins pointed to come-from-behind victories like Wednesday's as a team builder.
“Everybody is just stepping into the roles they are being asked to play,” Larkins said. “I think as the season comes down (to the end) and we have those crucial moments, people are going to be ready and prepared because they have had this experience early in the year.”
The Fever center's game plan against the Storm was simple.
“From the beginning, I was kind of aggressive within the system,” Larkins said. “I found open space and my teammates got me the ball and the shots went in.”
Seattle, coming off a victory at Chicago on Tuesday night, fell to 4-7. Dunn, sensing that the Storm could be fatigued with the back-to-back games, called for a lot of full-court pressure in the second half. It seemed to work, especially during a 9-1 run for Indiana that pushed the home team up by a 67-62 count with 2:50 left.
Camille Little led Seattle scoring with 17, followed by Tanisha Wright's 15.
For Indiana, the hope is that Catchings will be available around mid-season. She is shooting on a regular basis but has yet to participate in full-contact practices. With the Fever battling various other injuries, including the sprained ankle that has slowed January recently, Dunn is forced to mix and match lineups.
“We're having to find other people to fill in,” Dunn said. “I think it's going to be that type of season. I think we're going to try to stay close, stay close and then find a way to win at the end. I just don't think we can overpower people.”
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