Liberty Can’t Catch Fever in Indiana
The teams entered the game tied for third place in the Eastern Conference with 5-4 records, but Indiana was able to pass the Liberty in the standings due to its hot third quarter, when the Fever outscored New York 26-11.
The first quarter was a very exciting back-and-forth affair that saw five lead changes and four ties. The Liberty actually started the game hot, with Shameka Christon and Cathrine Kraayeveld knocking down back-to-back three-pointers to give New York a quick 6-0 start.
Indiana came back strong, going on a 12-2 run to take its first lead of the game. With exactly one minute left in the opening quarter, Tiffany Jackson took a nice feed from Janel McCarville to tie the game at 20-20. However, the Fever's Allison Feaster hit a deep straight-away three right at the buzzer to give Indiana a 23-20 lead -- an advantage the Fever would not relinquish the rest of the way.
The two teams continued to battle in the second quarter. Leadingby five, the Fever put some distance between themselves and the Liberty with a 13-4 run to go up by 11. With 30 seconds left in the quarter, Shameka Christon hit a 23-foot three pointer to bring New York back within single digits, down 41-33 at half.
However, Christon's late three didn't spark the Liberty, who could not find their range in the third quarter. Down by six, Indiana went on a 12-0 run on its way to a 20-4 run that put the game out of reach at 67-44.
The Fever's third-quarter explosion was sparked by the return of Tamika Catchings, playing in just her second game of the season after tearing her Achilles Tendon during last year's Eastern Conference Finals.
The four-time all star and two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year scored six points in six minutes, while Katie Douglass recorded five points during that same span. On the night, Catchings finished with 11 points in 13 minutes, while Douglas led the team with 16 points and eight boards. "They (Indiana) really had intensity at both ends that we didn't match," Liberty Head Coach Pat Coyle said about her team's struggles in the third. "That's where we dug ourselves into a hole. It was definitely a combination of things, their defense and we just weren't hitting our shots. Again we just didn't match their intensity."
As has been the case all year long, the Liberty refused to give up. Down by as many as 25 points in the final quarter, New York fought back valiantly, led by McCarville's eight points and Leilani Mitchell's seven points and four assists. New York went on an 11-0 run to pull within 14 points with 5:31 left.
However, an Indiana timeout calmed the Fever down, and although New York got within 12 at one point, the home team was able to hit buckets once again, holding onto their lead en route to a victory.
"We started out slow and got outscored the first three quarters of the game with the Fever outscoring us in the third quarter," said McCarville. "But we were able to come back and finish on a strong note."
New York also turned in one of its coldest shooting performances of the season, shooting just 36.9 percent compared to Indiana's 47-5 percent. The Liberty was had problems from behind the arc, shooting 1-for-14 from three-point range after making their first two attempts to start the game.
Second-chance opportunities were another factor, with the Fever scoring more than 20 points on their multiple offensive chances.
Also, while the play of the rookies has been a strong point for the Liberty, both Essence Carson and Mitchell combined for just nine points on an 2-for-15 shooting
Despite the loss, McCarville, who was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday, turned in another spectacular performance. She scored a game-high 23 points while adding four boards, three assists, three steals and one hellacious block.
Supersub Jackson also turned in yet another noteworthy performance off the bench. She scored in double figures for the fifth time this season, tying her season high with 12 points in addition to a team-leading eight rebounds.
"I thought Tiffany came off the bench and gave us a bit of a lift," Coyle said after the game.
In fact, Jackson said it's a role that she's thoroughly enjoyed.
"I like that role," she said. "It gives the team a fresh body out there on the court. I feel very comfortable in this role because it gives our opponents a different look."
Ashley Battle had a strong game as well after not playing in two consecutive games. She recorded just four points and two rebounds, but was a key player in sparking the Liberty on their 11-0 run that got the Liberty within striking distance in the fourth quarter. Christon, meanwhile, continued her All-Star caliber season with 16 points and four rebounds.
The last time the Liberty won at Indiana was on July 19, 2002. It's on that same July 19 date that Indiana and New York will make history when they face each other in the Liberty Outdoor Classic later this season at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, Queens. It will mark the first ever professional regular season game to take place outdoors.
To score tickets to the Liberty Outdoor Classic and all other games, click here to purchase online, visit The Garden Box Office or call 877-WNBA-TIX.