Tied with 12.5 seconds left, Connecticut’s Allison Hightower missed a free throw and Indiana’s Tamika Catchings ripped down the rebound and whipped it downcourt to the streaking Briann January.
January drove to the basket but missed the layup. But she didn’t pout. The rebound sailed toward the Connecticut bench and January raced after it, dove to the floor, tapping the ball to teammate Shavonte Zellous before she slid out of bounds and into a chair.
Zellous took a step past Connecticut’s Ashja Jones and hit a jumper with 0.5 seconds left to lift Indiana to a 78-76 victory and tie the best-of-3 series at 1-1. Game 3 will be Thursday night in Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun Arena beginning at 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2) The winner advances to the WNBA Finals against defending champion Minnesota.
“Obviously, we thought we gave ourselves a chance to win down the stretch,” Sun coach Mike Thibodeau said. “Give Zellous credit. She made a good shot. Good thing for us is that we’re going back to Connecticut. Our turnovers lead to points by them.”
Connecticut nearly qualified for the WNBA finals for the first time since 2005. Down by two, Hightower drove to the basket with 12.5 seconds remaining to tie the game at 76-76 and was fouled by a swat to the head by Erlana Larkins. But Hightower missed the free throw.
It was nip and tuck down the stretch. The Sun had leads of five points with 4:54 remaining and 4:17 remaining but Indiana would not go away. Former Sun All-Star Katie Douglas sank six of Indiana’s final 10 points to keep her team in the game.
Kalena Greene’s baseline jumper with 4:17 remaining gave Connecticut a 72-67 lead. But Douglas cut that to three with a pair of foul shots with 4:01 left and trimmed the lead to one with a right-handed layup off the glass with 2:02 remaining. With 56.5 seconds left, Douglas drove past Tina Charles, sank the basket and was fouled. Her foul shot gave Indiana a 74-72 lead.
Douglas finished with a game-high 24 points for Indiana while teammate Tamika Catchings finished with 21 points. Catchings was dynamic in the first half with 17 points but she had just four in the second half but they were crucial points.
Catchings’ drive past Jones with 21.3 seconds gave the Fever a 76-74 lead. And Catchings’ got the big offensive rebound off the Hightower miss with 12.5 seconds left.
Kara Lawson led Connecticut with 18 points while Jones added 17. Charles, double-teamed virtually the entire evening, finished with 15 points. Connecticut had a 13-2 run in the fourth quarter but after that the Fever finished the game with a 13-6 run of its own to grab the victory.
“Fortunately for us, we have another game,” Lawson said. “We made a lot of mistakes in this game. We need to do a much better job protecting the ball. In game one, we made some mistakes as well that we need to improve upon. This is what to expect in playoff basketball. We played hard. They just made one more play than we did.”
Connecticut began the game with an 11-0 run and led 13-2 but hard work and effort from Indiana brought the Fever back into the contest.
NOTES: After shooting 10-12 FG between them in the first half, Connecticut’s Tina Charles and Ashja Jones shot a combined 3-12 FG in the second half. … Including her 24 points tonight, Katie Douglas has topped over 20 points in each of the last three games. She has averaged 25.0 per game in that span.
Indiana 78, Connecticut 76
Connecticut (76): Green 2-4, 1-1 5, Jones 7-10 2-3 17, Charles 6-14 2-2, 15, Hightower 4-11 0-1 9, Lawson 6-10 3-3 18, Montgomery 2-8 0-0 6, Mims 2-6 2-2 6, White 0-2, 0-0 0. Totals 29-65, 10-12, 76
Indiana (78): Douglas 9-19 5-6 24, Catchings 7-16 5-6 21, Larkins 3-8 3-4 9, Phillips 3-7 0-0 8, January 3-7 0-0 6, Zellous 2-6 0-0 4, Davenport 3-5 0-0 6, Pohlen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-68, 13-16, 78
Connecticut 24 19 14 19 — 76
Indiana 20 26 10 22 — 78
Three point goals: Indiana 8-18 (Douglas 1-6, Catchings 2-4, Phillips 2-3, January 0-1); Connecticut 5-14 (Jones 1-1, Charles 1-1, Hightower 1-3, Lawson 3-5, Montgomery 2-6, White 0-2); Rebounds: Connecticut 35 (Jones 10); Indiana 30 (Larkins 11); Assists: Connecticut 17 (Jones 4); Indiana 6 (January, Douglas 2); A – 9, 225