DALLAS – Kelsey Mitchell scored 26 points and hit four free throws in the final minute as the Indiana Fever came back from a 17-point deficit to beat the Dallas Wings, 71-66. Rookie guard Paris Kea added 11 points and put the Fever ahead for good with 41 seconds to play as Indiana finished its preseason schedule 3-0
Mitchell shot 8-of-12 overall and 4-of-5 from 3-point range and contributed 17 points in the second half as the Fever cut into the 17-point lead midway through the third period. Kea, a third-round draft pick out of North Carolina, scored seven points during the rally – a 3-pointer for the Fever’s first lead since the game’s opening moments and a layup in the final minute.
“At the end of the day, Kelsey Mitchell really stepped up big,” said Fever coach Pokey Chatman. “She goes into every game with the other team keying on her. They know she’s going to take the big shots. She deserves all the credit for her play when we needed it.”
Dallas free throws from Imani McGee-Stafford knotted score at 60 with 5:50 to play and Kayla Thornton’s layup staked Dallas to a 66-65 lead with 2:20 remaining. But Kea’s layup with :41 to play put the Fever back in the lead for good and free throws by Mitchell put Indiana on top 69-66 with 22 seconds to go.
Thornton’s turnover on the ensuing possession forced the Wings to foul, and two more charity tosses by Mitchell sealed Indiana’s comeback win.
“Being a preseason game,” Chatman added, “the ‘win’ for me was that we maintained a high level of defensive consistency, and that’s a really good thing when we’re working out the kinks on offense. To do that without Erica [Wheeler] and Tiff [Tiffany Mitchell], down two of our top perimeter players, that was big.”
Wheeler and Tiffany Mitchell both sat out the final preseason game for precautionary reasons after being banged up in Thursday’s win over Chicago. Minus two top guards, the Fever shot 5-of-15 from 3-point range overall, with all five coming from Mitchell and Kea.
The turning point though, for the third straight game, stemmed from Indiana’s defense and rebounding. Indiana limited the Wings to just 37 percent shooting overall and 29 percent from beyond the arc. The Fever outrebounded the Wings during the decisive second half with rookie first-round pick Teaira McCowan hauling in all six of her game-high caroms after halftime.
After Indiana led in the game’s early moments, Dallas commanded a 39-27 lead at intermission and led 48-31 following a jumper by Kaela Davis jumper with 6:59 left in the third period.
And then the Fever exploded on a 25-4 run to close the third period as the 17-point advantage evaporated in just over six minutes.
Spurred by a pair of technical fouls called against the Wings, Indiana scored six straight points to cut the lead to 11. After trailing 50-37, the Fever reeled off 13 points in-a-row with Kea’s big 3-pointer breaking a 50-50 deadlock as Indiana led for the first time since 8-5. A 3-pointer from Mitchell staked the Fever to a 56-52 lead heading to the fourth.
“When we were down 17, it didn’t feel like it,” said Chatman. “That is a sign of trust in the process. We believed in ourselves. It’s nice to be 3-0, but what’s most important is we’ve gotten better every day.”
Veteran forward Natalie Achonwa added 10 points for Indiana who closed the preseason unbeaten for the first time since a 2-0 mark in 2016. Shenise Johnson added seven points and a game-high six assists.
Reserve guard Brooke McCarty-Williams scored 14 points to lead all Dallas scorers.
Indiana opens its 2019 regular season next Friday in New York, then play at Connecticut before opening its home schedule on Saturday, June 1 with a 20th Anniversary Celebration delivered by Papa John’s, in a 7:30 p.m. rematch against the Liberty.