Indianapolis – The Indiana Fever used a franchise record 40-point first quarter to make quick work of the New York Liberty (98-77) on Thursday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The historic start also tied a WNBA record for most points in a quarter. Indiana also set a franchise record for most points in a half (63) while connecting on a season-high 14 3-pointers, just one shy of a franchise record.
“I’m really proud of our team for bouncing back,” Fever head coach Stephanie White said. “It was gut-check time for us. We had really good energy. When you make the extra pass and you get high percentage looks, odds are you’re going to make them.”
Indiana shot 53.8 percent from deep in the contest while assisting on 25 of 31 field goals. They were sensational from the free-throw line again, hitting 22-for-24, all on the heels of two struggling offensive performances following the Olympic break.
Marissa Coleman and Shenise Johnson responded to White’s pregame call to be shotmakers. Johnson tallied a team-high 21 points while Coleman added 19 points and six rebounds. Both players shot 60 percent from the floor and 60 percent or better from outside the arc.
“The rim was an ocean in the first quarter,” Johnson said. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. But we just had a great game. Marissa had a breakout game. We’ve been looking for her to do that all season. We had fun tonight.”
Tamika Catchings led the way in rebounds and assists as she posted 14 points, nine boards, four dishes and two steals in a well-rounded night. Briann January added 11 points while Erica Wheeler scored all seven of her points in the first period.
New York’s Tina Charles was her usual self, tallying 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Brittany Boyd chipped in 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Liberty in a losing effort.
A personal 7-0 run for Coleman started the game and the Fever were off and running. Coleman notched 11 of her 19 points in the first period before Johnson and Wheeler added 10 and seven, respectively, capping the historic quarter. Indiana shot 13-for-23 from the floor and 6-for-7 from 3-point range in the opening period.
With the 40-18 advantage, the Fever never looked back. They shot 64.3 percent from 3-point land in the first half, 50 percent from the floor and 91.7 percent from the free-throw line, all while committing just three turnovers en route to a 63-38 halftime lead.
New York concocted a brief 7-0 spurt in the third quarter before being halted by another Coleman triple. The Liberty outscored Indiana in the third, but it wasn’t enough to make things interesting in the fourth as the Fever cruised to the 21-point victory.
“We depend on (Johnson and Coleman) to give us production,” White said. “There’s no question that, when they do that, we have an opportunity to be successful. We’re going to continue to need that from them and we’ll need others to continue to step up as well.”
With both Catchings and New York’s Swin Cash retiring at the end of the season, Thursday night could’ve been the last time the two WNBA legends shared the court together. Cash scored just two points and grabbed five boards.
Indiana gets a much-needed win at a critical point in the playoff hunt. They improved to 13-14 while dropping New York to 19-9.
The Fever will be in action again on Sunday in Los Angeles against the league-leading Sparks. Sunday’s game is slated for 7 p.m. ET.