70 at Indiana
By Tom Rietmann
INDIANAPOLIS -- Tammy Sutton-Brown accepted Indiana's victory with a smile Saturday night and quickly moved on to other matters.
“In this league, you can't get too high and you can't get too low,” Sutton-Brown said after the Fever's 75-70 triumph over the Connecticut Sun at Conseco Fieldhouse. “We have a game again (Sunday night) against Minnesota, and they're playing extremely well.”
It's too bad, really, that Sutton-Brown didn't have more time to savor the win, which lifted Indiana (5-3) into first place in the WNBA's Eastern Conference. She deserved it.
The Fever center came off the bench for the first time since 2009 and collected 12 points and three rebounds in 19 ˝ minutes against the Sun. Her eight points on 4-of-4 shooting in the third quarter provided a significant turning point.
“I give Tammy a lot of credit,” Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. “That's tough for her (coming from the bench). For her to come in and play so well, hitting 6 of 7 from the field, it's really a positive sign for our team.”
Jessica Davenport, who has enjoyed a strong start this season, opened the game in place of Sutton-Brown and collected nine points and three rebounds.
“Dav has been playing extremely well,” said Sutton-Brown, who became the ninth different Indiana player to score in double figures in 2011. “That was a change coach wanted to make and her decision. I just wanted to do whatever it takes for this team to get a win right now.”
For the sixth straight game, the Fever bench contributed at least 25 points. Indiana's reserves outscored Connecticut's by a 31-6 margin.
The reserves' production will continue to be important as the club deals with flights to and from Minnesota on Sunday and Monday and then another game at The Fieldhouse Tuesday against Phoenix.
“We feel really good about our bench,” Dunn said. “They're getting quality minutes. A lot of bench players are in there during crunch time.”
Saturday night, Tamika Catchings led the Fever with 13 points and 12 rebounds, recording the 70th double-double of her career. She scored six points in the final 4 ˝ minutes to boost Indiana to a 73-70 lead with 12.9 seconds remaining. And she finished off the victory by stealing the ball from Renee Montgomery on the Sun's final possession, which led to a fast-break layup by Shyra Ely.
“I thought we had some great defensive stops,” Dunn said.
And the Fever built some marvelous runs. Indiana closed the first half with a 16-2 spurt. The Fever then mounted a 17-2 run in the third quarter.
“We kind of realized what we needed to do,” said Indiana guard Briann January, who scored 10 points with four rebounds and three assists. “We saw that we were in a lull and we needed to pick it up and have a run. We knew it had to start on the defensive end, and I think that's where it did happen.
“It's a goal of ours to be a third-quarter team this year, and we tried to come out and be strong in the third and set the tone for the second half.”
Katie Douglas, who missed one game and practiced little this week with a bruised lower back, started and scored nine points. But she went scoreless in 16 second-half minutes.
“I was surprised she did as well as she did under the circumstances,” Dunn said. “I'll be really curious to see how she is (Sunday) with the flight and then the back-to-back.
“I'm not worried about whether she scored early, late or anything, as long as we get a win and somebody else comes in and steps up.”
Connecticut (4-3) had four of its starters in double-digit scoring, led by Montgomery's 19. But center Tina Charles, the second-leading scorer in the WNBA, was held to 12 -- more than eight under her average.
The defensive plan, Dunn said, was to try to keep Charles from getting the ball and then double-team her when she did. At first, Indiana failed in its efforts to deny Charles the ball. With some urging from Dunn, the Fever players worked harder at it.
“I thought the times when we did what we were supposed to do, it really bothered her,” Dunn said. “Anytime you keep Tina Charles to 12 points, you're happy. I'm real happy.”