Fever 60

(15-19, 5-12 away)

Sun 80

(18-16, 10-7 home)

    Coverage: OXYG

    12:00 PM ET, September 19, 2004

    Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT

    1 2 3 4 T
    IND 28 32 60
    CONN 35 45 80

    Top Performers

    Indiana: T. Catchings 30 Pts, 9 Reb, 4 Ast, 4 Stl, 1 Blk

    Connecticut: A. Jones 16 Pts, 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

    Jones led the Sun with a season-high 16

    UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) -- Hobbled by a toe injury and with nothing but pride left to play for, Tamika Catchings gave it her all.

    She scored a season-high 30 points Sunday in the Indiana Fever's 80-60 loss to the Connecticut Sun. Connecticut clinched the Eastern Conference regular-season title for the first time in its six-year history but had to contend with Catchings to get there.

    Now Catchings can finally catch her breath after a whirlwind summer that included playing for the U.S. Olympic women's basketball team that won the gold medal.

    "I'll just sit back and reminisce I guess over what's been going on since the beginning of this year to right now," she said. "I've been on a roller coaster."

    The Fever were already eliminated coming into the game, but Catchings made sure they had plenty of fight left.

    "I didn't want to go out like that. I have a lot of pride in what I do and I love to play the game of basketball," Catchings said.

    The Sun will open a best-of-three playoff series at Washington on Saturday. Games 2 and 3 are scheduled for Monday and Wednesday in Connecticut.

    Asjha Jones led the Sun with a season-high 16 points and made all eight of her free throws. She was part of a group of reserves that accounted for 41 points for the Sun.

    Tiny Debbie Black gave the Sun a big lift off the bench midway through the first half. The pesky 5-foot-3 guard was tenacious on defense and led a group of Sun reserves in a 8-0 run.

    "I think the thing a lot of teams have overlooked is that she's been shooting great since the break," Sun coach Mike Thibault said. "She played calm on offense and she's been a pest on defense."

    The Sun led by as many as 13 when Nykesha Sales hit a wide-open layup on a breakaway for a 29-16 lead.

    But Indiana capitalized on a series of Sun turnovers and climbed back into it with a 10-0 run. Deanna Jackson's jumper capped the spurt and the Fever trailed by three with just 58 seconds remaining in the half. The Sun closed out the period on a 6-2 run that included four points from Katie Douglas and held a 35-28 lead at the break.

    Catchings opened the second with a 3-pointer and Kelly Schumacher hit a jumper to pull the Fever to within three. They would get no closer. Sales scored four straight points to kick off a 7-0 run. Jones and reserve forward Le'Coe Willingham extended the lead, combining for 10 of the next 13 Sun points.

    Sales finished with 14 points and Douglas added 13. Sun guard Lindsay Whalen had a career-high five steals.

    Connecticut led by as many as 18 in the period, despite Catchings' efforts. She scored nine points over a two-minute stretch late in the game. But Jones hit six free throws down the stretch to ice the win and the title for the Sun.

    "Anytime you can get free points like that, it's great," Jones said.

    The Sun are making their second straight appearance in the playoffs. They made the postseason just once in four years as the Orlando Miracle before trading the Florida sunshine for an Indian casino in Connecticut.

    "I think the things we did better than last year was we took care of teams in our own conference," Thibault said. "Every time we got to a game that could be a tiebreaker, that was a focal point for us."

    With the reserves in control for long stretches of the game, Thibault and his starters had a courtside view of Catchings' impressive season finale.

    "She had nothing to play for," Thibault said. "But she showed why she is one of the three or four best players in the league. That was a class act out there."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

      Indiana Connecticut
    Points 60 80
    FG Made-Attempted 21-59 (.000) 22-50 (.000)
    3P Made-Attempted 3-12 (.250) 1-13 (.077)
    FT Made-Attempted 15-17 (.000) 35-43 (.000)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 8-26 9-30
    Assists 10 14
    Turnovers 21 15
    Steals 11 14
    Blocks 3 4
    Fast Break Points 1 0
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 33 (0/0) 16 (0/0)