INDIANAPOLIS – Kelsey Mitchell broke a WNBA record with nine 3-pointers and set a franchise record with 38 points on Sunday afternoon to pace the Indiana Fever to a 104-76 victory over the Connecticut Sun, on the final day of the regular season.
Mitchell scored early and often, starting for the first time in 15 games and tying a WNBA record with seven 3-pointers in the first half. In fact, she tied the franchise record for 3-pointers made in a single game during the first half, alone, and her 30 points by halftime were already a career scoring high.
Mitchell’s scoring placed an accent on Indiana’s biggest win of the season and its highest scoring effort in regulation since 2015.
While second-place Connecticut (23-12) rested starters in the second half in preparation for its upcoming playoff schedule, Indiana (13-21) attacked the Sun from start to finish in what was its final game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for a couple of seasons. Due to scheduled renovation, the Fever will temporarily move its home games to storied Hinkle Fieldhouse beginning in 2020.
The Fever delighted its crowd by leaping to a 23-20 lead after one quarter and a 48-39 advantage at intermission on the strength of Mitchell’s performance beyond the arc. Mitchell opened the contest shooting 6-of-7 overall and 4-of-5 from long distance, finishing the opening quarter with 16 points to tie another franchise record.
Ten minutes later, she had collected another 14 points in the second quarter with another three treys. She sat one 3-point basket shy of the WNBA single-game mark while leaving the court at halftime.
Indiana kept its foot on the gas pedal in the second half with rookie center Teaira McCowan returning from early foul trouble. McCowan played all but 30 seconds in the third period and finished with 10 points in the quarter as the Fever raised its lead to double digits. In the fourth, point guard Erica Wheeler was perfect on three 3-point attempts while Mitchell added her record-breaking pair.
In all, Indiana’s 15 3-pointers tied a club record, with Wheeler adding four and Kennedy Burke two. The Fever shot 57.7 percent beyond the arc and their 58.5 percent shooting overall put an exclamation point on the best percentage in team history.
Lost in the hot shooting excitement was still another franchise record broken on the final day of the season as McCowan’s nine rebounds pushed her past Erlana Larkins’ 2014 Fever-record record of 303 rebounds. McCowan finished her rookie campaign with 305 rebounds, the sixth highest by a rookie in league history.
With Connecticut keying on McCowan early, and McCowan’s strong play after halftime, it opened the door for the Fever’s perimeter stars.
“Teams have to adjust to Teaira and, obviously, when that happens, it opens possibilities for her teammates,” said Fever coach Pokey Chatman who saw her team finish 7-6 after the All-Star Break. “She is a phenomenal young player who just continues to get better and better.”
On Mitchell and her progression, Chatman added, “She’s capable of doing what she did tonight, but what I liked seeing was that she’s starting now to score off screens and other movement, in addition to creating shots off her own dribble. She’s learning. She’s learning the playbook of the WNBA, and what I mean by that is not the Fever playbook. She knows that part. But she’s learning how to work around her opponents and she’s learning how to be effective on the defensive side of the ball. She’s always going to be an offensive threat.”
For the Sun, Brionna Jones scored a career-high 14 points off the bench and matched a career best with 10 rebounds. It was her first double-double of the season. Jonquel Jones pitched in 12 points for Connecticut.
The Fever turned 14 Connecticut turnovers into 26 points and kept the Sun from thoughts of a comeback with their sharpshooting and ball movement. Among Indiana’s 26 assists on 38 made baskets were a career-high seven from Betnijah Laney, who also had two steals.
Joining Mitchell in the Indiana scoring parade were McCowan who shot 7-of-9 from the floor to finish with 17 points, and Wheeler who stuffed the box score with 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals. Burke and Candice Dupree each added 10 points for Indiana.
Dupree finished her 14th WNBA season tied with Katie Smith as the fifth-leading scorer in league history with 6,452 points. She ended the season with an 11.6-point average to join Tamika Catchings (15 seasons) and Tina Thompson (14) as the only players in WNBA history to average double-figure scoring through at least 14 consecutive seasons.