Defending champion Indiana Fever take first game of the season with 79-64 victory over San Antonio

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SAN ANTONIO – After a shaky first quarter and falling behind 10-0 in the first three minutes, the Indiana Fever removed the cobwebs off their defense and roared back to beat the San Antonio Silver Stars 79-54 in the first game of the 2013 WNBA season. The Fever now lead the all-time series between the two teams, 13-12.

“We figured that San Antonio would start off like gangbusters,” said Fever head coach Lin Dunn. “It’s opening night with a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, and they did. They knocked down about five or six shots in a row, they were hitting their threes, and I think we did a good job of not panicking, not overreacting and weathering the storm. We let everything settle down and were able to chip back into the game.”

Tamika Catchings and Shavonte Zellous led the Fever with 19 points and five rebounds each. Catchings also had four blocks. Katie Douglas, returning from missing most of the playoffs last year due to an ankle injury finished with 18 points, four assists and four steals. Erlana Larkins led her team in rebounds with 12, a  regular-season career-high, plus eight points.

While San Antonio ended the first quarter ahead 19-14, the Fever outscored them 20-16 in the second quarter. At the half San Antonio had a slim 35-34 lead. The Fever pulled away in the third quarter on the strength of their trademark defense, shutting down San Antonio in the paint. While Indiana only outrebounded the Silver Stars 32-29, they scored 46 points in the paint to San Antonio’s 16.

“We did a much better job not letting them get those open looks and we defended much better in the second half,” said Dunn. “We felt more comfortable with their sets, their plays and we disrupted them by throwing them a little off balance. I thought we did a really good job attacking them with the pick-and-roll, exploiting some of their post players that were a little slow, and then we were pushing the ball. We got some rebounds, pushed the ball, separated and that was the ball game.”

Douglas, who was agile on the floor showing no signs of a surgically-repaired ankle was instrumental in the Fever’s second half dominance.

“I thought we came out and San Antonio gave us a really good effort in the first half,” said Douglas. “We didn’t play really well in the first half, but I thought we kept our composure and stayed in the game. Then we made some adjustments, got comfortable in the second half, and played well on the defensive end. We were able to lock them up and were able to make some easy shots that were missing in the first half.”

The Fever shot  5-of-16 in the first quarter but improved to 55 percent (27-of-49) for the rest of the game. They led by as much as 20 points in the last quarter.

Second-year guard Shenise Johnson led the Silver Stars with 14 points and five rebounds. Veteran forward Shameka Christon added 10 points. The Silver Stars could not handle the pressure of the Fever in the third and fourth quarter, getting outscored 23-13 in the third stanza.

“Well it’s the first game but I think you learn something in every game,” said Silver Stars head coach Dan Hughes. “I hope we learned something. To me, there are things that show we’re a bit of a work in progress.”

Both teams were shorthanded and had only nine active players for the contest. Indiana Fever rookie Layshia Clarendon did not travel to San Antonio in order to attend her college graduation at California-Berkeley. Other Fevers players out of commission include Erin Phillips (torn right meniscus), Jessica Davenport (left tibia stress fracture) and Jeanette Pohlen (torn left ACL). The Fever re-signed rookie forward Jasmine Hassell as a replacement player in order to have nine active players.

For the Silver Stars, Sophia Young is out for the season with a torn ACL in her right knee. Becky Hammon broke her right middle finger in practice this week.

The opening night attendance was 8, 054. The Silver Stars host Los Angeles Saturday June 1. The Fever head home to host Atlanta next Friday.

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