INDIANAPOLIS — Despite the loss of Elena Delle Donne in the opening minutes, the Washington Mystics defeated the Indiana Fever Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 72-58. The 58 points were the least scored by Indiana this season. Washington led by as many as 25 and never trailed in the contest.
“We needed to win badly,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said. “We got out of sorts offensively in the second half without Elena, but our defense was terrific the whole night.”
The Mystics snapped a three-game losing skid in the process while handing Indiana its fourth straight loss; the longest losing streak since 2014.
In the absence of Delle Donne, Emma Meeseman packaged 15 points and five rebounds to lead Washington. Krystal Thomas added 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting and seven rebounds. Tianna Hawkins added 11 points for the Mystics while Tierra Ruffin-Pratt added just six points but snagged a game-high 11 rebounds.
Candice Dupree battled foul trouble all night and failed to reach double figures in scoring for the first time since May 30. She finished the night with just four points on 2-for-8 shooting.
Briann January led the Fever with 15 points and four assists while Tiffany Mitchell was the only other Fever player to reach double figures (10). Mitchell also garnered a team-high eight rebounds. Natalie Achonwa recorded seven points and five boards in her first start of the season.
“I think we got off to a really slow start on both sides of the basketball,” Fever head coach Pokey Chatman said. “What hurt us in the first half was that they went to the free-throw line 21 times.”
Delle Donne suffered a right ankle sprain just over three minutes into the game and did not return. Washington led 6-4 at the time of the injury and immediately launched a 14-2 run to set the tone for the game.
Leading 26-11 after the opening period, a three from Meeseman kickstarted the second-quarter scoring for Washington. The lead ballooned into the 20s within minutes as the Mystics continued to get the free-throw line before taking a 50-28 advantage into the half. The 28-point first half was Indiana’s lowest scoring first half of the season as well.
The Fever’s first-and-only three of the game came from January with 4:32 left in the third quarter. Indiana outscored Washington in both the third and fourth quarters, holding the Mystics to just 13 points and nine points, respectively, but the deficit was too deep. From the early minutes of the first period, Indiana trailed by 15-or-more until cutting the deficit to 14 points at game’s end.
Washington’s size, even without Delle Donne, proved too much for Indiana inside. The Mystics outscored Indiana 30-14 in the paint.
“Last time we played them, we felt like we had an advantage inside,” Thibault said. “If we just pound the boards and set good screens to get people open, we’ll end up helping ourselves.”
Indiana shot just 27.3 percent from the field and notched only the one triple from January on 16 attempts; a total of 6.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Fever also committed 16 turnovers.
“It’s easy to look at the stat sheet and talk about the shots you didn’t make,” Chatman added. “The next layer is to think about the shots you didn’t take because you turned it over 16 times.”
Indiana’s Jazmon Gwathmey and Washington’s Tayler Hill both suffered game-ending injuries as well. It was Indiana’s second game since Shenise Johnson was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.
The Fever fall to 7-11 on the year while Washington improves to 11-8. Indiana will be in action again on Monday in Los Angeles to begin a four-game road trip out west.