Indiana Cuts 17-Point Deficit But Can't Take Lead as Liberty Hold on for 82-76 Win
Tina Charles scored 23 points and tied a season-high with 14 rebounds to pace the Liberty who snapped an eight-game losing streak.
Indiana rookie Teaira McCowan scored a game- and career-high 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the floor and 10-of-14 free throws. She also added eight rebounds.
Indiana erased a 17-point deficit to force a tie at 61, but the Fever's only lead of the contest was at 2-0.
The New York victory forces a three-way tie for ninth place (9-18) in the WNBA standings, with Indiana, New York and Dallas all vying to keep pace with eighth-place Minnesota (13-14) and seventh-place Phoenix (13-13).
Since a 61-61 deadlock with 8:36 to play, the Liberty outscored Indiana 21-15 down the stretch. Liberty guard Bria Hartley hit six consecutive free throws in the final minute to seal the victory. Hartley's 3-pointer with 2:49 to play staked New York to a 74-67 lead and the Fever never got closer than four the rest of the way.
Indiana knotted the score at 61 with a pair of free throws from Natalie Achonwa. It was the first tie score since early in the first period.
Down by 15 after one quarter, Indiana shot 9-of-18 in the second frame to pull within 43-37 at halftime. The Fever outscored New York 9-4 in the last three minutes of the third quarter to pull within two, 61-59, heading to the final session.
New York turned a 13-9 lead into a double-digit advantage with seven unanswered points late in the first period. The Liberty led by 15, 28-13, after one period.
In what was the 100th start of her Fever career, Indiana guard Erica Wheeler had five assists to break the Fever's single-season assist record that had been held since 2005 by Tamika Catchings (143). With seven games remaining in the regular season, Wheeler's current 144 assists are the new Fever standard. She also added seven points and seven rebounds.
McCowan reached double-digit scoring for the 11th time in the past 19 games. Her 10 free throws and 14 attempts both were career highs.
Natalie Achonwa finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Despite wearing a protective splint on her left (non-shooting) middle finger, Candice Dupree shot 4-of-9 to finish with eight points. She is the sixth-leading scorer in WNBA history. Her 6,355 career points are now 98 shy of passing current Liberty coach Katie Smith in fifth place (6,452).
Reserve guard Kennedy Burke scored 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting, with career highs of five rebounds and three steals. It was her first double-digit scoring effort since June 11 against Seattle.
Indiana snapped a three-game win streak at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and ended a three-game win streak against the Liberty.
NEW YORK NOTES:
New York ended an eight-game losing skid.
Charles has scored double-figures in six of the last seven games and had 21 points at intermission. She shot 9-of-15 in the first half and added nine rebounds but was scoreless with five missed shots and no rebounds in the third period.
Charles contributed the seventh double-double of her season, two coming against Indiana.
Kia Nurse reached double-figure scoring for the 11th time in the past 12 games, scoring 20 points on the strength of 6-of-8 shooting overall and 4-of-5 from 3-point range.
Bria Hartley had 16 points with 11 coming in the fourth quarter. Her 3-pointer with 2:49 to play gave the Liberty their largest cushion of the fourth and her six charity tosses in the final minute kept the Fever at bay.
The Liberty hit 17-of-18 free throws on the night including 8-of-8 in the final period.
New York shot 40% from the field and 42.9% from the three-point line. The team shot 100% from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and 94.4% on the night.
-Amanda Zauhi B returned to play after sitting out the last four games. She added seven points and four rebounds to the Liberty effort before fouling out with 3:18 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Reshanda Gray replaced Rebecca Allen in the starting lineup.
Head Coach Pokey Chatman
(on Teaira McCowan)
"Teaira McCowan changes the game. We have to play to her; go through her; and play off of her. We had 20 assists in the game tonight because 'T' was a monster.There's a reason two of their post players were in foul trouble. There's a reason Candice [Dupree] got open shots. So, when we get there, don't have four to six possessions where she doesn't touch it."
"It's a confidence builder for 'T.' It's a learning opportunity for the rest of the roster. This should put everyone on notice. She can be a powerful player for us. I try to tell her, 'if you don't rush, you crush!' She's learning and the more she adapts to this league, she can be an impactful player."
(on defending Tina Charles; 21 points in first half, 2 in second half)
"How do we neutralize Tina Charles? Pace, put her in pick-and-roll situations and plenty of 'T' touches. You have to make her work. We let her hurt us when she was fresh but with 'T' having an impact, by the end of the game, Tina was gassed."
(on plan to reach the playoffs)
"Beat L.A. ... of course, that's something we address early in the year and at other opportunities. It really has to be a singular focus to win each game. You want to have the mindset to take care of your business and not have to depend on someone else."
(on the differential with the points in the paint)
"My teammates found me in transition and ran plays to get the ball through me. The coaches said go through me, to me. Just let it come into the paint and then kick it back out. I just tried to do my best whenever they threw the ball in to either gain defenders and get somebody open for a free throw jumper or a three or even getting an and-one myself."
(Is getting the ball into the post, the focus on our road trip?)
"It definitely it is a focus. I mean anytime the ball touches the paint or no matter who it is it's always something good as a result."
(on the spark she gave the team coming off the bench)
"I just always think every time I get in the game to be aggressive, just do what ever it takes to do well for the team. If it's being a defensive spark, I gotta do that. If it's being aggressive on the offensive end, I have to do that. So, whenever I come in the game, I just try to do the best I can."
(on why the team gets off to just a slow start)
"I think honestly we just have to realize what we have. We have Big T (Teaira McCowan), who can score very efficiently. We just have to look at her all the time because every time she's in the game she's a huge spark for us. We just gotta look for her more."
NEW YORK QUOTES:
Head Coach Katie Smith
"A win. We battle, we play hard and we haven't been lucky in the past. I thought we played well. I thought we moved the ball. I thought we had some really good glimpses of driving and kicking. People sharing the basketball. And then I thought our defense has been pretty solid, over these last couple games. Tonight, it came through towards the end. But they put pressure on, McCowan (Teaira), Dupree (Candice), their guards... [The Fever] are a tough match up."
"Just happy that we came out with a win. We definitely needed it."
(On the importance of this game due to similar records)
"Coming in I knew that they were undefeated this month. So, I just wanted to make sure that I told my teammates to know that they're very confident when they're on their home court floor. So, I'm just happy we were able to get an early jump on them."
(On the difference between the first and second half)
"It was gutsy. McCowan made a big difference. You know she plays like that, she can be very dominant in this league. Her rebounding, her posting up, just how big and strong she is, she's able to get position. So I would say McCowan was the difference, as far as them being able to cut the margin."
"I think it was great for us to finally get a win under our belt, after the long stretch that we've had. It was a great team win. I thought we moved the ball really, really well, both offensive and I think as a team defensively we were really, really good today. So that was fun to see."
(On the difference between the first and second half)
"I think obviously in the first half, we played exactly into our game plan. And for us, Tina (Charles) is a big part of that and her ability to score down low against anybody that we're playing. I think she did a great job not only finding her shots but getting the ball out and then we moved it really well from that point on. And that got us really, really going in the first half. And in the second half was more of a defensive battle for us."
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