Sun take first East Conference game through tight defenseOctober 6, 2012
UNCASVILLE, Ct. – A Herculean defense on the part of the Connecticut Sun to hold the Indiana Fever to 38.1 percent (24 of 63) shooting, led the home team to a 76-64 win Friday in the first game of the WNBA Eastern Conference finals.
Tina Charles, the WNBA 2012 MVP, led her team with 18 points and 15 rebounds, most of which led to the Sun’s 15 second chance points. The Fever’s Tamika Cummings, a member of the 2012 Olympic team and one of the league’s elite players, was held to 7 points on 2 of 14 shooting although her teammate Katie Douglas picked up some of the slack with a game high 27 points.’
“We wanted to get this first one out of the way and put the pressure on them,” said Sun forward Asjha Jones, who spent much of her 30 minutes of playing time fronting Catchings and making her work for every shot.
But Jones and her teammates know that they’re in for a tough, physical contest, as the first half played out Friday, when the best of three series moves to Indiana for a Monday night game.
“The last time we were there, we got blown out,” said Jones of a June 21 95-61 Indiana win, “so we know that they are capable of playing a lot better than they did tonight.”
There’s precedent for an Indiana come back. In the Eastern Conference semi-finals, they were down a game to Atlanta but pulled off two straight wins, one on the road, to advance to the conference finals.
“Tonight Catch got seven points,” Jones said of Catchings. “She’s a great player so I’m not expecting her to have the same kind of game two. I’m going to expect her to come out and be aggressive so we’re gong to have to find a way to handle that.”
Although Catchings had trouble scoring from the start, the Fever came out strong in the first quarter building to an 8-point lead as the period ended. Douglas led the way with 10 points, 6 of them easy threes from the corner.
But the Sun started to clamp down in the second period; Douglas was scoreless and their first quarter 52.9 percent shooting dwindled to 15.8 percent in the second 10 minutes sending the teams into the locker room with the game tied at 30 points.
The Sun broke the game open in the third quarter, holding the Fever to 13 points while scoring 22 to take a 52-43 lead heading into the final period.
Douglas got loose again in the fourth quarter, despite the fact that the Sun defense made her work harder for her shots. She scored 13 points to bring her total to 27 for the game, the second highest total she’s scored in a playoff contest.
“We were able to finaly, mid-second quarter to the endof the third quarter, get control of the game,” said Sun Head Coach Mike Thibault, referring to rebounding (Sun 30, Fever 25) and free through difference,” he said. The Sun made 19 of 20 free throws; the Fever only got to the line 12 times, making nine of their shots.
Another Sun advantage was its bench. Led by Tan White, whose 13 points were a career playoff high, the Sun reserves chipped in 20 points and five rebounds.
“They left me open and I knocked them down,” said White. “We’re a deep bench and that provides protection and allows our starters to get rest,” she said. She also said the bench players have a scoring mentality, referring to herself and Montgomery who had 5 points and 7 assists.
Sun players said they fell behind because they missed open shots. “Other people, even me, need to step up and knock down shots,” said Catchings. “We missed a lot of layups...when you shoot 38 percent that is not good enough to win on the road.”
But Monday they’ll be back home and both teams expect a different game.
“We are going to watch this game and learn from it,” said Fever guard Erin Phillips. “We lost the rebounding competition so that will be a key factor and hitting those extra shots,” she said.
“It’s a long series,” said Sun guard Kara Lawson. “We just have to be sound in what we are doing. We have to execute and be focused ... We know that they are going to play with a lot of energy. That’s what teams do when they are facing elimination.”