August 19, 2020
Fever notes: Drop critical game to Sun, sign Jenkins, lose Vivians
Indiana falls out of current playoff picture with setback to Connecticut
Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.
Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.
PALMETTO, FL – AUGUST 18: Kelsey Mitchell #0 of the Indiana Fever handles the ball against the Connecticut Sun on August 18, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Indiana Fever dropped their second straight game on Tuesday, losing 84-62 to the Connecticut Sun in a game that carried significant playoff implications.
Indiana entered the contest at 4-6, just half a game ahead of the previously 4-7 Sun for the seventh seed in the WNBA standings. While the result pushed Connecticut into that seventh seed, it simultaneously pushed the Fever out of the current playoff picture. At 4-7, the team entered a tie with the Dallas Wings for the eighth and final spot but currently sits at ninth, as it lost the first of two matchups with the Wings earlier this year.
The Sun began the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s loss trailing by just six, and even cut the lead to 61-57 with just over seven minutes remaining with a corner-pocket three-pointer from Julie Allemand. The Sun emphatically responded with an 18-0 run to extend their lead from narrow to insurmountable, and held the Fever without a point for a 5 minute and 55 second stretch.
“I thought that in the fourth quarter we kind of just abandoned our offense and trying to not let that lead get away from us, we started shooting jump shots,” said Head Coach Marianne Stanley. “We were still missing, it led to easy opportunities and we just dug ourselves a little bit bigger hole.”
Kelsey and Tiffany Mitchell, the team’s two leading scorers, combined to shoot just 11-for-31. The two stars’ struggles represented those of their team, as the Fever finished the game shooting just 39% from the field and 18% (4-for-22) from three-point range.
“There were times we were open and, because we were a little bit hesitant, we missed scoring opportunities [and] shooting opportunities that were there,” Stanley added. “Once you miss an opportunity, sometimes you don’t get it back.”
Connecticut’s DeWanna Bonner — the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week — poured in 28 points, the fourth time she’s reached or exceeded that total this season. She scored nine in the fourth quarter, including two critical makes that stretched the Sun’s lead from seven to 12.
“Really, really heads-up player,” Kelsey Mitchell said about Bonner. “I think we let her get too comfortable as far as her getting to her sweet spots. Ultimately, the more that go in, the rim kind of gets bigger for her.”
Stanley acknowledged the significance of the matchup before the game, despite a daunting upcoming schedule with two games apiece against the Seattle Storm (10-1) and the Chicago Sky (7-4). Indiana will have their shot at revenge when they play their second of two games against Connecticut on September 5.
While the Fever are still very much in the postseason conversation, Tuesday’s result was undoubtedly a blow to the team’s confidence.
Victoria Vivians will require surgery
UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT/USA – June 27, 2018: Indiana Fever guard Victoria Vivians (35) during a Fever vs Sun WNBA basketball game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo Credit: Chris Poss
After missing the entire 2019 season with a torn right ACL, Victoria Vivians will likely miss the rest of this season with what Coach Stanley called a “small tear” in her meniscus.
“Same knee, different injury,” Stanley said before Tuesday’s game. “Not as serious but it’s something she needs to have looked at, it’s probably gonna require surgery.”
Vivians appeared in all 34 games in 2018, making 26 starts during her rookie season. She averaged nine points and three rebounds while shooting 40% from three-point range, first on the team and tenth in the league.
In six games this season, Vivians is posting just 4.8 points in 14.2 minutes per game, while her three-point shooting percentage has plummeted to 18.2. During an ESPN broadcast of the Fever’s game last week against the Las Vegas Aces, reporter Holly Rowe claimed she saw a trainer tending to Vivians for over 30 minutes.
Vivian’s extended absence not only adds to the list of missing Fever players — joining Stephanie Mavunga (broken nose) and Erica Wheeler (COVID-19) — but it also places a heavier load on Fever reserves such as Kennedy Burke and Natalie Achonwa, both of whom don’t possess the same shooting prowess as Vivians.
Burke, who turned in nine points in 11 minutes against the Sun, says she prepares to fill the voids on the roster by maintaining consistent routines to optimize her physical health.
“We have limited players now, we just have to be really mindful of what we do to our bodies,” Burke said. “We have to recover, we have to be really serious with getting enough sleep and eating the right foods. Just be smart about everything.”
The Fever sign Alisia Jenkins
The Fever announced on Monday that they’ve signed Alisia Jenkins, a 6-foot-1 forward who most recently played overseas with TMSE-MTK in the A Division of the All-Hungarian League.
“We are glad to bring in Alisia to join our team because of her rebounding and defensive abilities,” VP of Basketball Operations and GM Tamika Catchings said in a release. “She will be a great asset to our team because of the intensity she plays with on both ends of the floor.”
Jenkins led the league in scoring, averaging 22.4 points, and contributed 12.3 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 2.3 assists in 20 games with the team. She was honored as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year and was twice named as the Hungary-A Division Player of the Week.
“She’s got enough experience overseas now that she’s more of a veteran-type player,” Marianne Stanley told The Next.
Jenkins played from 2012-2016 at the University of South Florida, where she averaged 9.8 points per game and competed alongside other WNBA players such as Courtney Williams and Kitija Laksa. Jenkins finished her career as a Bull as the program’s all-time leading rebounder, securing 1,284 boards over her four years, and third in blocks with 159.
Stanley noted that adding a player mid-season is different is a different procedure from previous years, when a signee simply had to successfully pass a physical before being available to play. Rather than immediately joining the team and seeing time on the court, Jenkins will have to quarantine per the league’s COVID-19 protocol.
“It’s not a quick process, at all,” said Stanley.