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Indiana wins 6 of 7, beats Mystics 65-52

INDIANA FEVER AT WASHINGTON MYSTICS

WNBA | Verizon Center (Washington, D.C.)

July 21, 2013

WASHINGTON – Tamika Catchings scored 23 points on her 34th birthday and the Indiana Fever rebounded from a sluggish start to earn a 65-52 victory over the Washington Mystics. It was the Indiana’s sixth win in its last seven games.

Catchings finished with the 84th double-double of her storied career, adding 10 rebounds with six assists, three steals and a pair of blocks – but not before leaving the game briefly in the second half with a bloodied nose and mouth.

During her absence, Washington cut into an 18-point margin Indiana had built during the second and third quarters, forcing turnovers and taking advantage of a heavy rebounding edge. A pair of free throws by Matee Ajavon cut the lead to 7, 55-48, with 4:46 remaining. But the Mystics never got closer.

After Catchings’ bleeding was stopped with help from trainer Todd Champlin, she returned with 4:18 to go and Indiana leading 56-48. On the ensuing possession, a Catchings steal resulted in a Catchings bank shot and a free throw. Her old-fashioned three-point play pushed the lead back to 11 as the Fever outscored the Mystics 9-4 down the stretch.

“I thought we weathered their rally,” said Fever coach Lin Dunn. “We knew they would come back. They’re coached far too well not to come back.”

Indiana trailed 9-8 after an opening quarter that matched the lowest-scoring first period in league history. Indiana and Washington combined for 1 of 21 shooting to begin the contest. Indiana missed its first 12 shots, in fact, before a 3-pointer by Briann January with 4:05 remaining ended the drought.

“We were both awfully ragged in the beginning,” said Fever coach Lin Dunn, “but then it became a defensive battle. We won the boards and in crunch time, we got stops when we needed them.”

The Fever outscored Washington 22-7 in the second quarter, to command a 14-point advantage at intermission. It was the second-lowest scoring half by an opponent in Fever history with the Mystics narrowly eclipsing their own 14-point first half in 2008.

Indiana finished the game with 35 percent shooting, compared to 31 percent for Washington. The Fever enjoyed a large rebounding edge, 38-29, and had the benefit of 10 more shots from the floor. Indiana also forced 17 Mystics turnovers that resulted in 17 points.

Shavonte Zellous joined Catchings in double figures, scoring 12 and reaching double digits for the 15th straight game. Erlana Larkins contributed seven points and 10 rebounds, while Karima Christmas pitched in nine points and eight boards.

Monique Currie led the Mystics with 15 points.

It was the Fever’s second win over Washington in three days as Indiana downed the Mystics 77-70 on Friday in Indianapolis. With the pair of wins, Indiana (7-8) drew within percentage points of the Mystics (8-9) in the Eastern Conference standings.

Hampered by a slew of injuries, Indiana began the season 1-7 while missing several members of its 2012 championship squad. Saturday, though, the injury bug returned, if just temporarily, as the Fever played without Erin Phillips due to recent knee pain. She underwent knee surgery on May 22, but returned for the Fever’s past three games.

“We may need to take it slowly with her,” added Dunn. “We may miss a game or two, to be sure not to damage anything further.”

In the midst of playing four games in seven days, Indiana hosts the New York Liberty on Tuesday, July 23 (7:00 p.m.) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.