In a battle of 7-7 teams, it was the visiting Connecticut Sun that came away with a victory, defeating the Indiana Fever 91-85, Saturday afternoon. Shenise Johnson led the Fever with 22 points, and grabbed six boards. Erica Wheeler scored 16 points and dished five assists. Candice Dupree added a double-double, with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Jonquel Jones scored a career-high 29 points and pulled down 15 rebounds for for the Sun. Jasmine Thomas added 22 points, and Alyssa Thomas put up 15 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. Johnson’s scoring output was two shy of matching her career-high, but the focus in the Fever locker room postgame was all on the other side of the ball.
“We have some disconnect going on right now on the defensive end, but we’re in here right now talking about it,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to find solutions.”
Connecticut scored 44 points in the paint, as opposed to the Fever’s 30. “As a guard, I need to be putting more ball pressure on their guards so they don’t see openings in the post, which will give our post players time to set up defensively,” Briann January said. “There’s multiple ways to deter teams from throwing it into the paint, and we need to do a better job of doing that.”
Jones, the league’s leading rebounder, has been a thorn in the Fever’s side in her two games against the team this year. She scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds before fouling out in the Fever’s 81-79 win on May 20. In this game, she had a double-double midway through the second quarter.
“Jones is a true stretch-five who can step out and hit a jumpshot,” coach Pokey Chatman said. “Sometimes when players are stretch-fives, they don’t crash the boards. Nobody has ever told her not to do that. It takes a tremendous effort against her.”
The Sun took the lead 4-2 with 8:45 in the first quarter, and trailed just once past that point, when Indiana took an 81-80 lead after a pair of Erlana Larkins free throws with 2:48 left in the game. Connecticut built up a 15 point lead in the second quarter before Indiana rallied to make it a 47-40 game at halftime.
“Anytime you give any team in this league, especially one of the hottest teams in the league, comfort early on in every aspect of the game, you’re digging a 10-foot hole with a nine-foot ladder,” Chatman said. “You can’t feel the positive things you do, like coming back to close the gap and take the lead, when you do that and don’t win.”
The Sun shot 53.8 percent from the field, the seventh time the Fever have allowed their opponent to shoot at least 50 percent. Connecticut was even better from deep, connecting on 56.3 percent of their 3-point attempts.
“We allowed them to do what they wanted,” Erica Wheeler said. “When we came back, it was because we took their schemes away and made their shots more difficult. We just need to communicate more and be more accountable.”
The players were already discussing ways to improve their defense after the game, and January said that their performance tonight will serve as a wake-up call.
“It’s all about consistency. In the past we’ve been a great defensive team, and we know our philosophy, we just have to commit to it,” January said. “We have enough offense to compete, and if we are committed on defense it can really take us to the next level.”
Indiana falls to 7-8 while Connecticut is now 8-7. While the Fever have a better home record this season, they’ve won their past two road games. Next up for Indiana is a road trip to Atlanta to take on the Dream on July 7.