Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

WNBA Report: Showstopping Catchings Lights The Way For Indiana in New York

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob1)

Tamika Catchings celebrated her return to “The World’s Most Famous Arena” by delivering a vintage scoring show.

Following Catchings’ lead and playing with desperation of a team trying to make the playoffs, the Fever conducted an exquisite clinic of crisp ball movement, stifling defense, sizzling shooting and tremendous execution to post a 90-76 triumph over New York Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden in front of 8,482 fans.

Playing on basketball’s biggest stage for the first time since the Eastern Conference semifinals of 2010, Catchings sparkled by scoring a season-high 29 points on an efficient 11-of-19 shooting effort from the field.

She was also 4-of-5 on 3-pointers as Indiana matched a franchise record with its ninth road win of the season. While the Garden underwent a massive renovation, the Liberty played its home games at the Prudential Center in Newark during the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Fever, pushing Indiana (14-17) past the Liberty (13-17) in third place in the spandex-tight Eastern Conference standings.

“We love being back here in Madison Square Garden,” Catchings said. “It’s not that New Jersey wasn’t good, but there’s something about being here in New York and the Garden. There’s a history here. I thought as a team we played really well, moved the ball well and displayed a lot more focus and urgency. One through 12 everybody came ready to play tonight.”

Catchings, the third leading scorer in WNBA history, upped her career point total to 6,514. Only Tina Thompson and Diana Taurasi have scored more points than Catchings. Her scoring effort fell three points shy of her career-high of 32, which was set here at the Garden 11 years ago.

She had the look of the mythical and scary character from the Halloween slasher flicks Michael Myers in her eyes from the start as she relentlessly attacked the basket, rained in jumpers from all over the court and found open teammates when she was doubled.

Indiana finished with 23 assists on its 35 baskets and won the rebounding battle, 25-18.

Erlana Larkins finished with 14 points and Shavonte Zellous added 11 points for the Fever. Natasha Howard, Maggie Lucas and Karima Christmas led a spirited effort of the bench for Indiana. The Fever won the battle of the reserves, 28-25.

Despite shooting a season-high 54.7 percent for the game, the Liberty just couldn’t keep pace with the Fever, who shot a ridiculous 61 percent in the first half en route to opening a 51-32 halftime advantage.

Cappie Pondexter led the Liberty with 18 points. Despite missing her first six shots, Tina Charles added 17 points.

Sugar Rodgers energized the crowd with a quick sugar rush as she scored nine points in the second half. She made a 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 58 seconds remaining that reduced Indiana’s once 23-point bulge to 77-68.

Catchings answered on the following possession with a 3-pointer to give the Fever a double-digit edge and quell a late Liberty rally.

The real secret to Catchings’ memorable performance was a slight change in her pregame routine.

She normally does pregame warmups early, but with her shooting far from swell lately, the 13-year veteran decided to alter her normal routine. Instead of conducting pregame interviews on the court, Catchings did them in the quiet locker room.

“I had to try something different,” Catchings said. “Everybody kept saying, you’re older and you have to try something different.

"Our (player development) coach (Carlos Knox) that’s not with us actually sent me a text message, just telling me to not to go out to the floor too early (for pregame shootaround). He told me to wait a little bit longer to go out to the court and warmup. I

"I usually go out before chapel, but I didn’t do that today. I got a couple shots up when I went out, got my rhythm going and came back in the locker room. I think I’ll be doing that from here on out.”

It worked as Catchings was locked, loaded and accurate in scoring 12 of her points in the opening eight minutes to stake Indiana to a quick 20-10 lead.

Her 12 points was the second most she scored in a single quarter this season. She scored 14 points in the fourth quarter on July 17 against the Sky in an 82-64 win.

Overall, the Fever made 10 of 17 shots in the opening 10 minutes.

New York remains home to host the WNBA’s best team, the 26-4 Phoenix Mercury Tuesday night beginning at 7:00 p.m.

Despite the loss, the Liberty were not down following the game. They know have two more shots at the Fever on Thursday in Indianapolis and Sunday in New York.

“That’s a great thing,” Pondexter said. “We face a team who is battling the same way we are for the playoffs. The next two games against Indiana will be great.

"Tamika saw her matchup and it was a little easier for her, but we made some adjustments and going into our next game against Indiana, we know how to guard her.

"She did a good today leading her team offensively and defensively.”

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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