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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Fever fall to Wings despite huge performance by Kelsey Mitchell

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The Fever took their 12th-straight loss on Sunday in a 96-86 defeat against the Dallas Wings. Indiana has not won since June 19 against the Chicago Sky.

Indiana came out swinging as the Fever led 23-17 following the first quarter. The team made 55.6 percent of its shots in that quarter, and they played a swarming, aggressive defense that bothered the Wings. However, Dallas took the lead with 6:05 left in the second quarter and never gave it back. 

“I thought we lost contact a couple of times on shooters,” Fever interim head coach Carlos Knox said. “It’s just about learning from every experience and keeping our focus for 40 minutes.”

The Fever went on a run in the fourth quarter, as it was just an 89-84 lead for Dallas with 1:35 left. The Wings closed the game on a 7-2 run to avoid giving up what was once a 19-point lead.

“Our team is resilient,” Knox said. “I think we pick our spots when we’re playing extremely efficiently and it hurts us.”

The Wings, who started the Fever’s losing streak on June 23, had 62 points in the paint. Dallas only made four 3s in the game, but they consistently got inside and finished.

“We know we’re undersized,” Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell said. The Fever have just one true center. “They utilized that the entire game.”

“I think we have to have a tremendous amount of ball pressure when they’re making their direct entries and lob passes,” Knox said. 

The Wings were led by All-Star Arike Ogunbowale, who had 22 points. Wings center Teaira McCowan had 17 points, as she was vital to Dallas’ interior offense. McCowan, who the Fever drafted third overall in 2019 and traded this past offseason, shot 8-for-10 for the Wings on Sunday.

“Teaira is a force. It’s hard to stop her,” Knox said. “I didn’t think we were really solid when it came to playing our particular post defense.”

“She’s huge, and she knows it, and she abuses it,” Mitchell said laughingly. Mitchell played with McCowan for McCowan’s entire Fever stint. “I’ll always wish her the best. We’ve established a great relationship,” Mitchell added.

Mitchell dropped a season-high 34 points in a losing effort for the Fever. It was the second-highest scoring game of her career. It was also Mitchell’s 17th game of the season with 20 or more points, which leads the WNBA. Mitchell had five rebounds and six assists to go with her monster scoring performance.

“I just knew I needed a reset,” Mitchell said. Mitchell had failed to reach the 20-point mark in the team’s previous four games. “I just had to settle into a certain mentality.”

“We’ve seen her do this for years now,” Fever rookie NaLyssa Smith said. “Every time she scored I was hype.”

“I thought Kelsey played extremely aggressive. She wanted to win,” Knox said. “I just wanted to make sure that she had the ball in her hands.”

The Fever had 19 turnovers as a team, and the Wings scored 26 points off those turnovers. It was the fourth-straight game for Indiana with 17 or more turnovers.

“We’ve just got to value taking care of the ball,” Smith said. “We see it as the difference in a lot of our games that we do lose.”

“You’ve got to take care of the ball in order to get more possessions,” Mitchell said.

Sunday was the first time a WNBA game has ever been at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Because of construction at Gainbridge Fieldhouse and the upcoming Indiana State Fair at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, the Fever have their final four games at Butler’s historic venue.

“It feels more like the WNBA to me,” Smith said, adding that the bright lights and loud music gave the fieldhouse more of a basketball vibe than the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.

“Obviously it’s not the ideal situation,” Knox said of playing in a third different venue this year. “But it’s a tremendous opportunity to play in such a traditional place like Hinkle.”

“After today, I hope [Hinkle Fieldhouse] manifested some good stuff,” Mitchell said.

The Fever now have a 5-25 record after the loss. Indiana was eliminated from WNBA playoff contention earlier this weekend. The team will have its next game on Friday when it hosts the Las Vegas Aces.

Zion Brown is a sports reporter for NextGen Sports, a collaboration with The Recorder Media Group.

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