July 24, 2024

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Kaitlyn Clark and Indiana Fever beat Angel Reese and Chicago Sky to earn their first win on home soil, 71-70.

Kaitlyn Clark and Indiana Fever beat Angel Reese and Chicago Sky to earn their first win on home soil, 71-70.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Fever rookie Kaitlyn Clark threw the ball high in the air as time expired Saturday. Veteran guard Kelsey Mitchell just started clapping.

Finally, after four straight home losses, the Fever celebrated.

In the last game between college rivals Clark and Angel Reese, and on a single day, former South Carolina star Camila Cardoso made her regular-season debut in front of another crowd at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Clark finished with 11 points. Eight rebounds and six assists in a 71-70 win over the Chicago Sky on Pride Day.

“It was great, and I think it came at a really great time,” Clark said after winning the Commissioner’s Cup opener. “Our fans were great. They were energized. You know we never shot the ball well collectively as a team, and you know sometimes that’s tough on the fans, like that’s what they see. But I think they really appreciated our great defense tonight.”

Clark got plenty of help from her teammates even before Dana Evans missed the Sky’s first two free throws with 6.6 seconds left to make it a one-point game before Clark layup.

Mitchell scored 18 points. Nalyssa Smith scored 17 points and nine rebounds, while Christy Wallace and Aliyah Boston each scored 10 points. Boston, Cardoso’s former teammate at South Carolina, also grabbed eight rebounds as the Fever (2-8) snapped a three-game losing streak.

However, this competition was much more than just scores or statistics.

It featured three of the top seven picks from this year’s draft — three players in a generational rookie class who could all become the new faces of the WNBA — and a week in which Fever fans were treated to seeing both their top four draft picks and five of the top seven.

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This time, Clark had the upper hand over two of the women who kept her from winning the NCAA Championship Even when she took a bullet to the shoulder from Chindi Carter Before the inbounds pass during the third quarter. The referees described it as a foul off the ball.

Carter said she would not take any questions about Clark.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” Clark said at first. “It is what it is. It’s a physical game. Go make the free throw and execute the offense, and I feel like that’s what we did.”

However, the rematch pits Clark, a two-time NCAA Player of the Year and two-time Division I national runner-up, against Cardoso, who won her second title with the Gamecocks in March, and especially Reese, who led LSU to the championship. 2023 national title, captivate fans.

Rees did not take questions from reporters after the match.

Before the game, Fever coach Christy Sides tried to spark a rivalry between the two Midwest teams, but it was the loud applause for Clark before the game and a few boos that were quickly drowned out by cheers for Reese during pregame introductions that set the showdown apart.

Reese finished with eight points and 13 rebounds in her final outing against Clark while Cardozo played for the first time Since injuring her right shoulder in a preseason game on May 3. Cardoso had 11 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes but was called for a foul that led to a Boston three-point play with 1:19 left, which proved the difference.

“I played good in the first game, too,” said Carter, who had 19 points and six assists to lead the Sky (3-4). “She wasn’t in this position, to shut the game down, so let’s give her some time.”

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Marina Mabrey had 15 points and nine rebounds for Chicago.

Cardoso came on for the first time midway through the first quarter and wasted no time making an impact. She had six points and four rebounds during a six-minute stretch for the Sky to erase a 22-16 deficit, went ahead and kept the momentum going to complete a 15-4 spurt after Cardoso left midway through the second quarter.

Clark helped spark Indiana’s response, a 9-0 run before halftime, giving the Fever a 35-31 lead.

Chicago came back to tie the score at 37 at the start of the second half, but Indiana responded with six straight points and ended the third quarter with a 54-49 lead. The Sky bounced back late after falling to a 68-58 deficit and finished with a 12-3 run — but couldn’t quite come back.

“I thought earlier this season that if we had shot like that, we wouldn’t have won the game because we wouldn’t have had that flexibility and we would have let it affect our defensive play,” Clark said. “So proud of us, I thought we were really brave.”

the next

Sky: Get a short break before hosting the New York Liberty on Tuesday.

Fever: Visit New York for the second time this season on Sunday.

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This story has been corrected to show that NaLyssa Smith received 17 points, not 18, for fever.

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AP WNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-basketball