September 8, 2021 

How Teaira McCowan can take the next step

McCowan has proved throughout the season that she’s entirely capable of putting up MVP-type numbers

On Aug. 31, the Indiana Fever claimed their sixth win of the season in dramatic fashion. After Los Angeles’ Brittney Sykes, a 75% free throw shooter, missed two attempts from the line that would’ve tied the game with just over a second remaining. Ironically, it was Indiana’s worst free-throw shooter (min. 10 attempts) — Teaira McCowan — that had given her team the lead with two makes just 14 seconds earlier.

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McCowan had left her fingerprints all over just the victory against the Sparks — she finished with 15 points, refreshingly connected on 9 of 11 attempts from the free-throw line, and tied a career-high with 19 rebounds. She helped the Fever out-rebound the Sparks by a whopping 39-20 margin overall.

“When I’m getting rebounds, kicking it out to my teammates, they’re getting down the floor,” McCowan says. “It’s a good equation.”

McCowan has proved throughout the season that she’s entirely capable of putting up MVP-type numbers — the game over the Sparks, a 21-point, 14-rebound game against the Atlanta Dream in July, a 20-point, 13-rebound performance against the Chicago Sky in June, and a 22-point, 16-rebound gem on opening night in New York.

But — much like the Fever as a team — she struggles with consistency, as well as performing at her best against more formidable post players she faces in the WNBA. 

The very next game against Phoenix, for example, saw McCowan match up with 6’8 Brittney Griner in the paint — she fared less well, only scoring six points and grabbing eight boards. With all due respect to the Sparks’ Lauren Cox, Amanda Zahui B. and Nneka Ogwumike, Griner is the perfect example of a lengthy, bulky opponent that can push McCowan out of her comfort zones on the court.

On defense, she’s still learning to battle against more of the league’s best — though the Fever fell to the Aces on Aug. 28, McCowan held her own against another 6’8 opponent in Liz Cambage, limiting the center to just 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting. McCowan believes that besides executing the fundamentals, staying locked in for the entire game establishes her for success against these tough matchups. “I just couldn’t let what she does get to me mentally,” McCowan said after the loss. 

“She’s a long player so you know she takes up a lot of space when she has her arms out. I just have to try to move her out, move her up from normally where I’m standing or normally where she’s sitting.” 

This season, Fever fans can almost certainly predict a double-double out of McCowan — but only during every other game. The third-year center has scored in double figures 15 times and single figures 12. She’s posted double-digit rebounds in 13 games, and single digits in 14. 

The Fever know that McCowan, the former 2019 third overall pick, has the skills to be a top post player in the WNBA — but she needs to establish herself against the best opponents of the post-hefty WNBA if they aim to return to contention soon. 

The primary reason? Their current roster doesn’t contain any other true post players — Jantel Lavender and Jessica Breland rarely post up with their backs to the basket, and Betti Határ has only seen limited playing time and battled injuries in her rookie year. Indiana needs somebody to attract attention inside to free up the perimeter for Kelsey Mitchell and clear space for Danielle Robinson to get downhill. 

Written by Ben Rosof

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