Indianapolis – A resilient Indiana Fever squad got back to .500 after outlasting the Chicago Sky in an up-tempo shootout, 95-88, on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana saw five players reach double figures while shooting 50.8 percent from the floor. Indiana is now 8-0 when scoring 90 or more points.
Chicago was without star forward Elena Delle Donne while the Fever donned the pink jerseys for breast cancer awareness in front of 10,500 screaming Fever fans, the second largest crowd this season.
“It wasn’t clean, but it’s probably not going to be at this point in the year,” Fever Head Coach Stephanie White said. “Everyone’s fighting for something, and we found a way to gut it out at crunch time.”
Briann January led Indiana with a season-high 20 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including the Fever’s last seven points in the final minute, to go along with six assists. Erica Wheeler gave an encore performance to her career-high 20-point game on Tuesday by pouring in 16 points on a career-high three 3-pointers. She added five rebounds and four assists for the Fever as well.
“Coach has been telling me to be aggressive and not second guess myself,” Wheeler said. “She’s been in my ear saying, ‘if they don’t stop you, keep moving.’ And that’s what I’ve been doing, just being aggressive.”
Marissa Coleman and Lynetta Kizer added 14 apiece for Indiana. Erlana Larkins contributed 12 points and six boards while Tamika Catchings added six points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Cappie Pondexter led Chicago with a game-high 22 points. Courtney Vandersloot added 15 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Sky.
Chicago surfaced early with a 9-8 edge just minutes in–their only lead of the game–before the Fever strung together numerous transition baskets to grab a 27-20 lead at the end of the first. January scored nine of her 20 points in the opening quarter.
Chicago reeled off a quick 8-1 run to tie the game at 28-all just 2:32 into the second period, but Wheeler immediately answered with back-to-back triples on the next two Indiana possessions. Wheeler buried a third trifecta minutes later as she tallied 11 of her 16 points in the second quarter.
Indiana took a 52-44 lead into the break behind seven second-quarter points from Lynetta Kizer, too. Kizer and Wheeler combined for 18 of Indiana’s 25 points in the second period.
Indiana coasted through the third quarter and carried a 10-point edge into the fourth, but Chicago used an 8-0 run to tie things up at 82-all with just 4:08 to play.
After trading baskets down the stretch, the Fever regained an 88-86 lead before January scored Indiana’s final seven points from the free-throw line in the final minute to seal the victory.
Friday’s game had the second-highest overall attendance of any Fever game this season; a factor that aided Indiana’s resiliency down the stretch.
“Our crowds are amazing,” White said. “They give us a lift. They did that tonight. You could just feel the energy in the building when we needed a stop and they got loud.”
Indiana improved to 15-15 while dropping Chicago to 15-15. With a win on Sunday, Indiana will clinch its 12th consecutive playoff appearance; a WNBA record. The Fever will open a two-game road trip with Washington at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon.