WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The New York Liberty used 13 3-point field goals to get past the Indiana Fever, 78-75, on Sunday afternoon, and the last was the biggest.
Former Indiana guard Marissa Coleman hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 16.1 seconds remaining to help New York snap a two-game losing streak and win for the second time in five games at Westchester County Center. The Liberty’s 13 3-pointers were an opponent record against Indiana.
Sugar Rodgers paced the Liberty with 16 points that included five 3-pointers and a free throw. Former MVP Tina Charles finished with a season-low 13 points, while Bria Hartley scored 12 and another former Fever star, Shavonte Zellous, netted 10.
The Fever lost their eighth straight game to open the 2018 season, but not without a dramatic effort and a few 3-pointers of their own.
Sunday though, after Indiana built its largest lead of the contest, 55-50 on a third-quarter bucket by Jazmon Gwathmey, New York reeled off 10 unanswered points in a run that was capped by Rodgers’ 3-pointer to begin the fourth period. Rodgers later hit two more 3s in the period to lift the Liberty to a 66-59 advantage, and a pair of free throws by Charles staked the home team to a 68-61 lead with five minutes to play.
Indiana rookie Victoria Vivians sparked a matching 10-0 spurt by the Fever, hitting a free throw and her first 3-pointer to open the run. A jumper by Tiffany Mitchell and cutting layup from Natalie Achonwa put Indiana back into the lead, 69-68, to register the 17th lead change of the afternoon.
Vivians capped the run with another pair of free throws 16 seconds later, but Hartley 3-pointer tied the score at 71 with 2:06 to play. Hartley scored a layup with 1:11 on the clock and Indiana missed a chance to tie when Kelsey Mitchell missed the first of two free throws at the 58-second mark. Hartley hit another bucket for a 75-72 lead and the Fever tied it with 33 seconds left when Kelsey Mitchell found Vivians for a tying-3-pointer, her second of the quarter.
With Indiana defending Charles in the paint, New York used four passes to finally find Coleman open on the winning bucket. Indiana used its final timeout, was unable to get off a shot on its final possession.
The back-and-forth contest was measured by 18 lead changes and 14 ties. New York led 38-36 at intermission following a sluggish first half in which each club led by four points.
“We battled. Battled. Battled. We just came up short,” said Fever coach Pokey Chatman.
“We know that we are right there,” noted center Natalie Achonwa, referring to capturing that elusive first win. “We know we need one more stop; one more shot; one more rebound; one more deflection; one fewer turnover. Everybody needs to improve just one percent more. We know that we’re right there.”
Indiana got a game-high 19 points from Kelsey Mitchell. Spanning her college and pro careers and dating to December 2015 as a sophomore at Ohio State, it was the 100th consecutive game that scored a 3-pointer, adding two against the Liberty. Fellow first-round draft pick Vivians also hit a pair of 3s to finish with 11.
Tiffany Mitchell tallied 14 points for Indiana, reaching double figures for the seventh time in eight games. Natalie Achonwa had 10 points and a game-high 10 rebounds to register the second double-double of her career and help Indiana to a 31-22 rebounding edge.
The Fever return to Indianapolis and hope to secure their first win while hosting Las Vegas at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.