Nearly everything went well for the Indiana Fever on Saturday. Shots were falling, the bench played great and the home-crowd energy — after a five-game road trip — was refreshing.
Sounds like a great day, right? Remember, nearly everything went well.
Even with a breakout performance off the bench from Teaira McCowan, the Fever weren’t able to put away the Chicago Sky, dropping a tight one, 83-79, at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Indiana (1-11) was frustrated postgame after its seventh-straight loss, but the team was also positive. After losing to Chicago on the road Wednesday, it was good to return home and build up some momentum … even if home looked a little different.
With Bankers Life Fieldhouse under renovations, the Fever played in a redesigned Indiana Farmers Coliseum for its first home game since May 25. It made no difference if it was the Coliseum, Bankers Life or even Hinkle Fieldhouse, being home with fans that wanted to see them succeed was a positive for Indiana.
“It makes a difference being back home, everybody wants to play in front of their home fans,” Fever coach Marianne Stanley said. “I think it gives our players a lift, but also having a couple days to just actually attend to the things that need improvement. We haven’t had that for the first two weeks of the regular season.”
The Fever’s homecourt adjustments paid off early. McCowan, who’s come off the bench the past two games, was in rare form. She led the Fever with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Even though she’s used to starting, McCowan said it doesn’t matter when she plays.
“Honestly I don’t care if I come off the bench, I don’t care if I start. Just know when I get in you know what I’m going to do,” McCowan said.
McCowan’s performance was just the headliner for a great day out of Indiana’s bench. The Fever got 44 points out of its reserves including a career-high 12 points and six assists from Lindsay Allen.
Kelsey Mitchell and Tiffany Mitchell combined for 26 points to carry the starting lineup. It would take every player to keep up with the Sky.
The Fever struggled to slow down Candace Parker. Parker had a quiet night on Wednesday, scoring only three points in 18 minutes.
But on Saturday, the former WNBA champion and two-time MVP heated up. In the first half, she had 15 points and was able to find her shot at any spot. After an exciting half, the Sky lead 56-49.
Heading into the locker room, Stanley knew her defense would have to step up in order to keep up with Chicago. Indiana answered the call, holding Parker to five points in the second half and the Sky to only 27 points.
“We got good defensive cohesiveness most of the time and that’s been something we’ve been asking for,” Stanley said. “I told our team before the game that I wanted to see what kind of team we really were.”
Heading into the fourth quarter down by a point, the Fever looked like it could finally break its losing streak. Defensively the Fever kept it close all game, but offensively it lacked the firepower to overtake Chicago.
Tied with 1:58 to go, Chicago’s Allie Quigley scored seven points in just over a minute. Letting her heat up after holding her in check for most of the day was one of the few lapses the Fever had on the afternoon. And it cost them.
Still while nobody likes losing, coming up short by four is certainly a step forward for Indiana. The team returns back to the Coliseum on Tuesday for the first game of a two-game series with Seattle. Stanley said she feels like Saturday’s game could be the sign for something good to come.
“I think we took a big leap forward as a team today,” Stanley said. “I think this is a game that we can build upon to keep getting better.”