May 28, 2022 

Daily Briefing — May 28, 2022: OPPORTUNITY KNOX — Carlos Knox earns first win with Indiana Fever

How many minutes can the Liberty find for Han Xu?

Happy Saturday! Quite frankly, the weekend couldn’t come fast enough. Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W and NCAA roundups, the daily Watch List and Yesterday’s Recap. Day 20 of the WNBA season has arrived, with a midday matchup between the Las Vegas Aces and Chicago Sky to look forward to. Yesterday, the Indiana Fever snapped their five-game losing streak with a memorable win over the Los Angeles Sparks, guided by a new interim head coach, former Fever assistant Carlos Knox. And in Seattle, the Storm delivered when it mattered most as the New York Liberty sputtered in overtime.

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But first read (and watch)…

  • For Sports Illustrated, Ben Pickman details the process of returning to the WNBA from overseas through the eyes of Kayla McBride and Satou Sabally, who went from playing as teammates to playing as opponents in just six days.
  • The Seattle Times’ Percy Allen forecasts Breanna Stewart’s future, reflecting on a free agency period that saw Stewart test the waters outside Seattle, including the mythologized meetings with New York.
  • Joe Cook covers Jackson State freshman Alexis Roberts’ golden return home from the Deaflympics for WAPT News Jackson. (On May 13, Team USA took home gold at the Deaflympics in Caxias do Sul, Brazil, with a 91–77 victory over Italy.)

W Roundup

NCAA Roundup

Transfer portal

Out of the portal:

  • Alyza Winston: The guard out of Mississippi State committed to FGCU. She had transferred from Michigan State to Mississippi State last December.
  • Abby Streeter: The guard out of Hartford committed to Rutgers. She shot 41.7% from three on 6.2 attempts last season, making her one of seven players to shoot as well or better on that many attempts, per Her Hoop Stats (minimum five games played).
  • Kai Carter: The guard out of UNC Asheville committed to Rutgers. She was selected to the All-Big South second team for the 2020–21 season.

Watch List

(All times in Eastern, Game of the Day in bold)

Las Vegas @ Chicago, 3 p.m., ABC, Sportsnet (Canada)

Washington @ Connecticut, 7 p.m., NBA TV (Local: NESN+, Monumental Sports Network, NBA TV Canada)

Friday, May 27 recap

Indiana beat Los Angeles, 101–96. Be gone, losing streak! With an interim head coach in former assistant Carlos Knox at the helm, the Fever leaped ahead of the Sparks with a 6–0 run to start the game. Opportunistic scoring from LA and miscommunications on both sides of the court from Indiana kept the score close for the rest of the first quarter. Yet the Fever’s transition offense and defensive control in the paint earned them a healthy lead through the mid-second and third quarters. Notably, the Fever outshot the Sparks from the free throw line by 22 percentage points (on 29 attempts to the Sparks’ 28) and shot 11-for-21 from three to LA’s 7-for-14. Though the Sparks tried to mount a comeback in the fourth with a 9–2 run and back-to-back transition baskets, Indiana’s consistency at the free throw line ultimately secured the team’s third victory of the season.

With 101 points, the Fever broke the century mark for the first time this season, and Knox secured the third-highest all-time debut score for a WNBA head coach, per Across the Timeline. Indiana was led by point guard Kelsey Mitchell, who had 22 points on 7-for-14 shooting from the field (3–6 3pt, 5–6 FT). Mitchell also logged three assists and two steals against two turnovers. Forwards NaLyssa Smith and Emily Engstler combined for 30 points on 12-for-24 shooting from the field. Smith paired her share with five rebounds and three fouls, while Engstler logged nine rebounds (seven offensive, tying her season high) and a season-high four blocks against four fouls. Point guard Danielle Robinson had a season-high 11 assists, frequently to Mitchell and Smith. Robinson was also perfect from the free throw line; she sank six, four of which came in the final minute to help clinch the win.

TDB Emily “got her own offensive rebound” Engstler watch: 2 (Q2, 7:28; Q4, 9:19)

Robinson uses a long rebound to push ahead for the Fever, drawing in three Sparks defenders as she charges toward the basket, only to kick out to a wide-open Mitchell, who sinks the 3-pointer.

Sparks power forward Nneka Ogwumike led all scorers with a season-high 30 points on 12-for-18 shooting from the field (3–5 3pt, 3–4 FT), which she paired with 10 rebounds (one offensive), two steals, and two blocks on two turnovers and just one foul. The loss was her 40th career game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Small forward Katie Lou Samuelson notched a career-high 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field (3–5 3pt), while center Liz Cambage cashed in from the free throw line (nine of her 13 points came from the stripe). Cambage also had nine rebounds (five offensive) but fouled out with 8.8 seconds remaining. Guard Brittney Sykes provided much-needed momentum off the bench for LA, especially after point guard Lexie Brown went down with a right calf injury mid-game. Sykes helped push the pace in the final minutes and logged five assists, four rebounds and eight points on 2-for-8 shooting from the field (4–8 FT).

Seattle beat New York, 79–71 in overtime. Doom and gloom continued for the injury-ridden Liberty in their meeting with a Storm team that was also missing key players. Despite an early lead from New York, Seattle was able to gain control by the end of the first quarter. For New York to tie the game, it took a 14–2 run deep in the third and a rallying effort until the final seconds of the fourth, including back-to-back clutch buckets from guard Rebecca Allen. The Liberty shot a perfect 14-for-14 from the free throw line and snagged 50 rebounds to the Storm’s 38, and Seattle kept its game tidy, with just 11 turnovers to New York’s 24 and 15 fouls to New York’s 27. As the minutes dragged on, the cleaner play eventually prevailed: With two key Liberty players sitting at six fouls in the opening minutes of overtime, Seattle had both a stronger closing five and extra trips to the free throw line to help secure the win.

Power forward Breanna Stewart led the Storm and all scorers with a season-high 31 points on 7-for-19 shooting (2–7 3pt, 15–18 FT (career highs in attempts and makes)) alongside nine rebounds (two offensive), four assists and three steals on three fouls. Alongside her was shooting guard Jewell Loyd, who had 21 points on 7-for-22 shooting from the field (2–7 3pt, 5–5 FT). This is only the 12th time in WNBA history that a pair of teammates have won while combining for 14-for-40 shooting or worse, per Kurtis Zimmerman of Across the Timeline. With center Ezi Magbegor and forward Stephanie Talbot both in health and safety protocols, power forwards Gabby Williams and Jantel Lavender saw expanded usage. Williams had nine rebounds, three blocks and a career-high six steals, while Lavender had eight points on 4-for-8 shooting and a season-high nine rebounds (two offensive).

Loyd and Williams secure the steal on the defensive end, and Williams converts an offensive rebound into points on the following possession.

For the Liberty, power forward Natasha Howard had 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field (3–5 3pt) and nine rebounds (three offensive) but fouled out in overtime. Guard Sami Whitcomb had just eight points on 3-for-9 shooting and fouled out with 36 seconds remaining in the fourth, but she logged eight assists and a season-high eight rebounds on three turnovers. Center Han Xu scored 12 points on 3-for-9 shooting (6–6 FT) and grabbed eight rebounds with zero fouls in just 19 minutes.

Written by Isabel Rodrigues

Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a contributing editor for The Next from upstate New York. She occasionally covers 3x3 and labor in women's basketball.

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