Indianapolis – The Indiana Fever lost a heartbreaker to the San Antonio Stars 87-85 in overtime on Friday (July 1) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana relinquished a double-digit lead in the final minutes of regulation before a buzzer-beating put-back layup from San Antonio rookie Moriah Jefferson broke the tie at the end of OT.
Jefferson was a burst of energy all night for the Stars. She scored 31 points on 13-for-18 shooting and posed problems for Indiana in transition. Kayla McBride added 17 points for San Antonio as well.
“I’m really proud of our team,” Jefferson said. “I think we won the game because of our defense (in the second half). We had to get to loose balls and get rebounds. We were playing pretty good defense but they kept getting second chance opportunities (in the first half).”
Despite the loss, Erlana Larkins put the league on notice with a 16-point, 17-rebound performance. She shot 6-for-10 from the floor and had three assists almost entirely from pick-and-roll sets–where the Fever were extremely effective through three quarters. Larkins’ 17 boards were a season-high and it was her fourth double-double of the season. The combination of points and rebounds was her second-highest point-plus-rebound total (33) of her career.
“I think our spacing was just good in the first half,” Larkins said. “Down the stretch, our spacing wasn’t good. We were standing on top of each other and we just let this one slip through our fingers.”
Briann January packaged a solid night with 11 points, seven assists and a pair of rebounds. Shenise Johnson added 14 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Tamika Catchings chipped in 12 points and five assists while thieving a season-high six steals. Devereaux Peters and Erica Wheeler added eight points apiece and Peters corralled a season-high eight boards.
Jefferson pushed the tempo for San Antonio early in first quarter–scoring nine first quarter points almost solely in transition–before Indiana adjusted and held Jefferson to just two second quarter points.
The Fever edged San Antonio at the half of a neck-and-neck game, 43-36. The first half saw seven lead changes while Indiana outrebounded San Antonio 18-10 thanks to Larkins’ 10 first-half boards, matching San Antonio’s entire team at the break.
Indiana grabbed the first double-digit lead of the game (48-38) with 8:37 left in the third quarter following a Catchings-to-January and-one. The Fever lead quivered between six-to-12 points throughout the second half until San Antonio cut it to five (75-70) with 1:12 left in the game.
January converted 1-of-2 from the free-throw line after being fouled with 33 seconds remaining to make it 76-70, but Jefferson answered with a layup and a foul on the other end to bring the game within three (76-73).
After electing not to foul, the Stars let Indiana run the shot clock down before January’s attempt was blocked by Jayne Appel-Marinelli with 8.8 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, Jefferson knocked down a 3-pointer with 1.6 remaining that sent the game to overtime.
Trailing 83-85 late in the overtime period, Indiana forced Jefferson into a contested shot. Peters pulled down the rebound and immediately called timeout with 13 seconds.
On the final Fever play, Catchings got caught in traffic just shy of the free-throw line. She pump-faked, pivoted to avoid a defender and rolled in a floater to make it 85-85 with 3 seconds remaining.
But on the final play following a San Antonio timeout, a corner three air-ball from McBride was tipped in by Jefferson as time expired.
“I’m disappointed because we had an opportunity and we didn’t take advantage of it,” Fever head coach Stephanie White said. “We didn’t deserve to win that ball game. San Antonio did.”
The Fever held a 37-27 rebound advantage–highlighted by Larkins’ performance–and a remarkable 21 assists on 30 made field goals. Turnovers were key in the loss as Indiana committed 22 giveaways, including eight in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Indiana falls to 7-10 on the season while San Antonio improves to 4-12. The Fever go back on the road for a three-game trip beginning next Wednesday (July 6) with Los Angeles.