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Defensive Pressure Leads to Late Rally; Indiana Beats Chicago in Preseason Opener

May 14, 2019 - Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) - Indiana Fever News Release

CHICAGO - In a game of spurts, the Indiana Fever opened the 2019 WNBA preseason with a 69-58 victory over the Chicago Sky, getting 11 points from Kelsey Mitchell and using 11 unanswered points to take command early in the fourth period.

Though scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting in the third period, Mitchell triggered the Fever's final run with a 3-pointer that was her only bucket of the second half.

"We were really focused on our defense and rebounding," said Fever coach Pokey Chatman. "Despite using multiple player combinations throughout the game, we were able to maintain a high level of defensive consistency and pressure."

That consistency and pressure resulted in 18 Fever points off 24 Chicago turnovers. Eleven different Fever players collected steals.

"Consistently forcing turnovers was huge for us," added Chatman. "And we outrebounded them and held them to just seven offensive rebounds."

Key in the game if not the box score, were free agent forward Betnijah Laney, who opened her career as a Chicago rookie under Chatman, then the Chicago coach, and rookie center Teaira McCowan. Laney, regarded for her defense, started the game for Indiana and finished with eight points. The 6-foot-7 McCowan scored just one free throw and was 0-of-2 shooting from the floor, but finished with a game-high eight rebounds.

"I told Teaira all I wanted her to concentrate on right now was to rebound," said Chatman. "That's her strength. I told her that for every two minutes she plays, I want her to get one rebound."

McCowan finished with eight rebounds in 16 minutes of action.

Indiana's 12-point halftime lead disappeared after shooting just 4-of-19 in third quarter, allowing the Sky within 53-52 heading to the fourth. Indiana pushed the lead back to 12 by scoring the first 11 points of the final quarter, then coasted to the 11-point win.

The Fever also got seven points from Asia Taylor and six apiece from Shenise Johnson, Erica McCall and rookie Paris Kea. Johnson was making her first appearance for Indiana since a torn ACL sustained in July 2017.

Cheyenne Parker led Chicago with 11 points and five rebounds. Gabby Williams had 10 points and five rebounds, and rookie guard Katie Lou Samuelson finished with eight points and a team-high seven boards.

Indiana trailed early, 19-5 with six-and-a-half minutes gone in the first quarter but rallied behind eight first-half points and a pair of 3-pointers from Mitchell to lead 45-33 at intermission. Indiana's 40-14 turnaround was fueled by 40 percent shooting overall, five Fever 3-pointers and nine Chicago turnovers.

Indiana continues its preseason schedule with a Thursday home game against the Sky at noon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The game is preceded by the Fever's annual Choices for Champions educational program for approximately 2,000 students ranging from 4th to 8th grade.

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