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Fever play well in 89-87 win over Sky

The Indiana Fever got an exciting 89-87 home win over the defending champion Chicago Sky Sunday, as rookie NaLyssa Smith lead four players in double figures with a career-high 26 points.

Indiana overcame a 15-point deficit by outscoring Chicago – without Candace Parker for the second straight game due to injury – 35 to 20 in the third quarter. With the Fever down 87-85, Smith made a shot on the left block, and was fouled. She hit the free throw to get the 88-87 lead, and Indiana then got a couple of stops to seal the victory.

Smith shot 11-of-17 from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds while looking comfortable all game long, and playing with tremendous confidence. Coach Carlos Knox said he has been impressed with Smith’s learning curve and work ethic.

“I think it was awareness for her approach to this game, her approach this week,” Knox said of her performance. “She’s just in a different mindset now, and she understands the significance of what it takes to be a professional basketball player. Now she’s turning the corner when it comes to understanding, and she will still have ups and downs because she’s a rookie.”

The former Baylor star said she knew she had to show up big for the 5-13 Fever to pull off the upset.

“I came into this game just knowing I had to have a dominant performance to get the win,” she said.

Indiana did a great job making sure Smith got touches, and they went to her down the stretch.

Their bench played well on Sunday, scoring 33 points. Emma Cannon led the way with 11 points, and rookie Lexie Hull added a career-high 10 points in 24 minutes. Hull’s biggest move, however, was coming away with a huge jump ball in the game’s final minute to help close out the win.

Knox said Hull has been resilient in working her way into the rotation after not getting much playing time to begin the season.

“I wanted to make sure that Lexi was kind of rewarded for some of the work and effort that she’s been doing,” he said. “Lexi has been executing in practice. Lexi is a very good player, and she’s one of the players that can bring a lot to the table with her length her IQ, just her ability to score the basketball. She just has to get comfortable.”

Rookie Emily Engstler also played a scrappy game, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking three shots in a tough defensive display.

Leading scorer Kelsey Mitchell scored 13 points and shot just 5-13 from the field, but she did an outstanding job getting her teammates involved by dishing out nine assists. Mitchell was the point guard down the stretch for the Fever.

“Kelsey is understanding that she draws so much attention as a potential all-star for our team,” Knox said.” She can be on the floor in different positions and open up the floor for our offense in such a great way, and tonight I think she displayed that.”

This Fever win could be a great building block for the team. Knox trusted his rookies, and they rewarded him with good play. The entire squad must continue to play through Smith, and Mitchell must continue to play make at a high level. The next step for this young team is to improve on defense and hit open shots.

Indiana’s next game is Thursday, as they head to Dallas to take on the Wings.

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