UNCASVILLE — This was the type of game the Sun most certainly lost last season. After squandering a 10-point third-period lead, then blowing a five-point advantage in the last two minutes of regulation, the Connecticut Sun held on, pushed the game into overtime, and eventually came away with a 88-85 win over the Indiana Fever before 6,503 fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Tuesday night.
Tina Charles (31) pops in two of her 14 points from the top of the key in Connecticut’s 88-85 overtime victory over Indiana on Tuesday. The Sun are now 2-0 vs. the Fever this season.
The Sun, raced out to an early 11-2 lead, and led by 11 points at the first turn after shooting 52.4 percent from the floor (11-for-21) including 2-for-4 from behind the three-point arc. That, however, proved to be the high-water mark for Connecticut.
Kara Lawson led the Sun with 22 points, while Tina Charles added 14. Renee Montgomery and Kalana Greene scored 12 points each, and Allison Hightower had 10 for Connecticut, which improved to 9-2 overall, and solidified its lead in the WNBA Eastern Conference.
Former Sun star Katie Douglas led all scorers with season-high 23 points, and added a game-high nine rebounds and seven assists, while Tamika Catchings scored 14, hauled down nine boards and handed out five assists, Briann January dropped in 12, Erin Phillips had 11 and Jessica Davenport 10 for the Fever, who fell to 5-4.
“When we were in that timeout [after Connecticut jumped out to the aforementioned 11-2 lead], we just talked about staying together and sticking with it,“ said Douglas, a key player on the two Connecticut teams that reached the WNBA Finals in 2004 and ’05. “We weren’t playing at a high level and we weren’t executing. The wheels had fallen off already. But as a team, we are all about winning together and losing together. We just pulled back together and got our composure back.”
The Fever showed their experience by never hanging their heads—quite unlike the New York Liberty that was beaten soundly in every phase of the game on this same court a week earlier. Down by 11, 54-44, with about six minutes left in the third period, Indiana charged all the way back by going on a 13-1 run, giving the Fever their first lead of the game, 57-55, with just over two minutes left in the third stanza. The charge was capped by a long three-pointer by Erin Phillips, another former Sun favorite who will be competing in the upcoming Olympics for her native Australia.
And this is where the “old” Sun were so predictable. They would take charge early against a veteran team, then simply wait for the sky to fall.
But that was then, and this is now, and the Sun are showing each game how they have matured over last season—when they missed the playoffs for the third straight year.
“It’s a great win,” noted Sun head coach Mike Thibault. “To get your composure back in the overtime and make big plays, that says a lot.”
With the win, the Sun improve to 8-0 against Eastern Conference foes.
The Sun will have no time to bask in victory as both teams caught early flights out to Indiana on Wednesday to prepare for a rematch tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse—the arena formerly known as Conseco. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. There is no live radio or TV, but Sun fans can watch the game either online or on a mobile device by visiting WNBA LiveAccess. Thus far this season Connecticut is a perfect 3-0 on the road.
After tonight’s game—the third between the Sun and Fever this season—Connecticut will take a brief respite with an eight-day respite before traveling to D.C. where they will take on the Washington Mystics on June 29. The Sun return to the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday, July 1, when they will host Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm.