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Indiana Suffers Tough Shooting Night

by Tom Rietmann

INDIANAPOLIS -- Shooting woes continue to haunt the Indiana Fever.

It happened again Tuesday night for the Fever, who rank last in the WNBA in field goal percentage. Indiana recorded a 33.8 percent mark from the floor, including hitting just 22.7 percent of its 3-pointers, and it cost the home team dearly in 77-72 loss to the New York Liberty at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“The bottom line is, you gotta hit open shots,” Fever Coach Lin Dunn said. “We had way too many really good looks that we didn't knock down. We hit some tough shots, but it was the wide-open looks where we didn't do a good job.

“And I thought we quit attacking the basket. I thought we just settled for jumpers. Twenty-two (3-pointers) is too many 3s.”

The defeat, which snapped a three-game winning streak, dropped the Fever's record to 7-9. Indiana will play at Tulsa on Thursday night before the league's All-Star break begins.

The loss left a dark cloud on a night that saw a number of positives for the Fever. Shavonte Zellous, who had just eight points to miss double-digit scoring for the first time this season, was named as a reserve to the Eastern Conference All-Stars earlier in the evening. Zellous will make her first appearance in the game, scheduled for Saturday at the home arena of the Connecticut Sun.

Fever center Erlana Larkins pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds. Guard Briann January collected a season-high 21 points. Forward Tamika Catchings suffered a tough shooting night, making 5-of-17 from the field, but battled her way to 16 points to become only the fifth player in league history to reach 6,000 for her career.

Indiana's shooting was a main topic of conversation in the post-game media session,

“Let's just say we have to get ready for Tulsa,” said Catchings, who will be an Eastern Conference starter in the All-Star Game. “Then, the next few days after that, people will be able to get some rest. And when we get back, the second half will be a much better shooting half for us.”

The Fever hit just 24-of-71 field goal attempts against New York. Indiana was 5-of-22 from 3-point range.

“I don't feel like they were taking us out of anything we wanted to do,” said January, whose 8-of-11 marksmanship was a bright spot. “But I also feel that we helped them out by not continuing to attack the rim.” In a game of big runs, the Fever took a 16-point lead early in the third quarter after completing an 18-0 burst that started in the second quarter. Then New York went to work, scoring the last 10 points of the third quarter and the first two of the fourth, slicing Indiana's lead to 53-50.

New York grabbed a 65-64 lead when Cappie Pondexter, who had a game-high 24 points, buried a 3-pointer just under the 2-minute mark. Five more points for Pondexter and a pair of Katie Smith free throws provided the visitors with a 72-65 edge with 30.9 seconds remaining. Catchings connected on two 3-pointers thereafter, but New York held Indiana at bay.

“I'm real disappointed we did not take care of business at home,” Dunn said. “I just thought (the Liberty) outworked us in the second half. They just out-toughed us in the second half.”

The Liberty shot 44.3 percent (27-of-61) from the field. New York attempted only seven 3-pointers, hitting four, but didn't need long-range stuff because it garnered 36 points in the paint.

“I didn't think we defended their post well,” Dunn said. “It was a struggle all night to play tough like we've been playing. I know it's our third game in five days, but so what? That's what the pros are all about.”

The victory helped New York (7-10), which had lost three straight games and six of seven, stay in a fluid Eastern Conference playoff race. Plenette Pierson (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Kelsey Bone (11 and 11) both turned in double-doubles for the Liberty.

The Liberty made 70 percent of its field goal tries in the fourth quarter. The Fever, shooting 38.2 percent on the season, had no answer.