NEWARK, NJ - The Fever pride themselves on defense and that part of their game spelled victory on Friday.
"We keyed on Cappie (Pondeter) the fourth quarter," Fever coach Linn Dunn said. "I really think that made the difference."
The Liberty backcourt star and primary option scored just seven points on the night. She was 1-for-12 from the field and was scoreless, missing all four attempts, in those last ten minutes. Ever the competitor, Pondexter fought back tears answering questions in a soft tone in the post game New York locker room.
Tamika Catchings was asked to characterize the Fever's 2013 season. A year removed from a WNBA championship, the Fever have weathered a succession of injuries resulting in a long uphill climb.
"Character building," was Catchings' reply to the question posed.
Catchings said the injuries are part of the game, she's proud of her teammates' resolve, and looks forward to the stretch.
Fever mentor Lin Dunn agreed with Catchings' assessment calling this a season of "perseverance".
"We have had a lot of setbacks and just tonight were without Jeanette Pohlen, who we expected to have, as well as Jessica Davenport and Katie Douglas," Dunn said. "Injuries are adversity. We have Karima Christmas starting and last season she was our eleventh player in the rotation. She (Christmas) has stepped up. You get adversity, you deal with it."
Dunn, after acknowledging Cathchings' remarks added, "Tamika has played a big part for us with her outstanding leadership."
Catchings, a game-high 22 point scorer, hit two crucial shots down the stretch to help give the Fever a big road win.
Dunn also praised Shavonte Zellous (21 points) for a significant improvement. Zellous is averaging 15.3 points per game this season. That is a 7.5 point improvement over last year, the best single season increase in the league this season.
"If she’s not the most improved player in the league, I don’t know who is." - @coachlindunn on @SZellous1— Indiana Fever (@IndianaFever) August 31, 2013
Layshia Clarendon, the rookie from California, has adjusted to a new level in the face of a whirlwind season.
"I came in hoping to learn from someone like Katie Douglas," Clarendon said. "With the injuries, especially to Katie, there were nights I had to come out and play the point 35 minutes." Not complaining, Clarendon termed it all, "a great learning experience."
Leilani Mitchell, ever the optimist, still talks playoffs for the Liberty. The Liberty guard is realistic saying, "we have to win every game left on our schedule." She is realistic pointing out this is a monumental assignment. But, as long as there is a ray of hope you have something to hang on to. Given the Liberty season, it is amazing there is a grain of a chance for a 'second season'.
The Numbers of Note:
Possessions Off. Efficiency
Indiana 73 100
NY Liberty 79 85
The Fourth Quarter:
Indiana 16 131
NY Liberty 18 72
Indiana 'won' the quarter 21-13 turning a two point deficit into a victory. The defense, holding the Liberty to a 72 efficiency, was outstanding. The offense, at 131, quite efficient as well.
Mitchell singled out the Liberty's continued offensive struggles as the downfall in this much needed game.
"The final minutes I think we scored one or two field goals," she said.
The Liberty scored four points the last four minutes: a Kara Braxton post up and Katie Smith jumper. The Fever went into the final four minutes with a three point lead which they maintained. New York struggled offensively but credit Indiana for a lot of those struggles.
For Bill Laimbeer and the Liberty the record is 11-18 while the Fever stand at 13-15. The Liberty have five games remaining, three on the road. Indiana has six left, all against conference opponents. That situation, per Dunn, is an ideal one as it leaves playoff destiny in the hands of her club.
For more on Friday's game, check out our New York Liberty season storystream.