68 at Indiana
By Tom Rietmann | June 2, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Fever Coach Lin Dunn calls them “our jackpot bench.”
Indiana's reserves, perhaps the deepest group in franchise history, definitely hit the jackpot on Saturday night. Dunn played the Fever substitutes early and often against visiting New York, and they responded by outscoring the Liberty subs 52-18 and outrebounding them 22-12. Indiana blew open the game with a 15-2 run in the third and fourth quarters to capture a 91-68 victory.
Dunn wanted energy from the subs and got it from all six, each of whom played at least 14 ˝ minutes.
“I thought when we put the subs in, they picked up the tempo and the full-court pressure,” the coach said. “I want to make it clear: I was not resting our starters. I was playing our bench because they were playing well. They earned the right to stay out there.
“I rewarded them by letting them play much longer than they usually play because they were playing so well.”
It didn't hurt, however, that those starters did get some rest. The Fever players, who have tied the best getaway in franchise history with a 4-0 record, had to get on an airplane early Sunday morning for a Sunday night rematch against the Liberty, 0-5, at its arena.
Tamika Catchings, last year's league MVP, led the Fever with 16 points. But the next highest scorers were both subs -- Roneeka Hodges with 15 and Jeanette Pohlen with 12. Catchings praised the bench production.
“It's a great thing for us, and a great thing from a coaching standpoint, to look down the bench and be able to pick any player to go in and know you're going to get productive minutes,” Catchings said.
The Fever bench is an all-purpose entity.
Need an igniter and scorer? Point guard Briann January is there to provide both, and also bring floor leadership. Need scoring, especially 3-pointers, and veteran leadership? Signal for Hodges and Pohlen, both of whom are also improved defensive players. Looking for reliable inside scoring? Veteran Jessica Davenport gets the call, and she will get help from Erlana Larkins.
And if you need a physical presence under the basket, Sasha Goodlett, the Fever's only rookie, is happy to oblige. Goodlett grabbed a team-high six rebounds and scored six points in 15 ˝ minutes against New York.
“She's very active around the basket,” Dunn said about Goodlett, a center from Georgia Tech whom Indiana drafted at No. 11 overall. “She gets a loose ball. She gets a rebound. She gets a put-back. She's big, strong, physical and she's active.”
The bench's 52 points on Saturday night were just five shy of the franchise record.
“A phenomenal job,” said Fever guard Katie Douglas. “I think it's a great combination (with the starters and the reserves). We think we have a great chemistry amongst all 11 of us.”
At Fever practices, the subs are frequently matched as a unit against the starters. They relish the challenge. And they typically make the scrimmages close, if not win.
It's a good rehearsal for the games.
“It's always nice when we can rest the starters and people come in and nothing changes,” Pohlen said. “That's kind of the goal as a bench. We've talked about keeping the energy up, if not getting more energy, off the bench.”
“The biggest thing,” Hodges said, “is that there is no letup when the bench comes in.”
The Fever beat the Liberty for the 19th time in their past 21 regular-season or playoff matchups at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana held New York to 39.1 percent shooting, including 29.4 percent from 3-point range. The Fever tied a franchise record by hitting 13 treys (on 26 attempts).
Even with the Fever's undefeated start, Dunn wasn't going to allow her club to grow satisfied.
“You never pat yourself on the back,” the coach said. “You never get too high over a win, you never get too low over a loss. There's a lot of things that we can do better.”