In the first game in a two-game homestand, the Indiana Fever came up short against the San Antonio Stars, falling 79-72, Wednesday afternoon.
“San Antonio had a sense of urgency very early, and they deserve every credit for their toughness,” coach Pokey Chatman said. “They were aggressive and got to the free throw line, and I thought their posts hurt us (13-of-14 FG) inside.”
Kayla McBride led the Stars with 18 points, six assists and six rebounds. Erika de Souza added 14 points and seven rebounds on a perfect seven-for-seven shooting performance, and Dearica Hamby added 13 points to lead all bench scorers. Rookie Kelsey Plum set new career highs in scoring, rebounding, and assists, posting 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.
The Fever were led by Candice Dupree, with 14 points and four rebounds. Briann January added 13 points and dished six assists. Tiffany Mitchell scored nine points off the bench, and Natalie Achonwa contributed nine points, five rebounds, and three assists.
Indiana held a 32-25 lead with 4:35 to go in the second quarter after a January layup, but San Antonio scored the game’s next nine points and held a 37-34 advantage at the half. Indiana tie it up twice in the third quarter, but never regained the lead, as San Antonio led by as many as 12 on the way to the final deficit of seven.
“Until we battle on the defensive end for every possession and every second, we’re going to come up short. I’ve been saying it for a while now, but we have to continue making improvements on defense,” Chatman said. “It’s about discipline. It’s knowing their personnel. It’s not always about just effort. I think we play hard, I really do. But some of our errors are missed assignments or missed rotations. We’re just too inconsistent on the defensive end of the floor.”
The Fever cut it to five with 1:41 to go on a January 3-pointer, but was forced to foul in the final minute, and McBride made all eight of her attempts in the final 36 seconds. She finished 12-of-13 at the line in the game.
Indiana outscored the Stars in the paint 44-40, but the Stars outrebounded the Fever 34-27. San Antonio also took twice as many free throws, converting 16 of their 20 attempts. Dupree pointed to the pick and roll as something San Antonio used effectively against the Fever.
“That has kind of been a down fall of ours the entire season. We’ve got to figure out how to do a better job guarding the ball screens,” Dupree said. “I don’t think everybody is on the same page and I’m not sure why because it’s the same stuff that we work on every single day in practice. We have to find a way to clean it up, figure it out.”
The game served as the Fever’s Kids Day contest, and fans showed up in record totals. The attendance total of 12,282 is the best in franchise history for Kids Day.
Neither squad was at full health, as both teams were missing a starter. San Antonio’s Moriah Jefferson is in the league’s concussion protocol, and Shenise Johnson was a late scratch for the Fever with a left knee injury.
Next up for Indiana is a home game against the Washington Mystics. The Mystics are 10-8, and defeated Indiana in Washington, 88-70, on June 11. Despite the tough loss, January believes the team will regroup.
“I do feel like we have a resilient team and we’re going to come in, we’re going to watch the film and see what we need to improve on,” January said. “I think everybody on this team wants the same thing. We want to be successful, we want to win. Hopefully we get to the point where everybody is doing everything they need to do to get us to that point.”