INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Tamika Catchings became just the sixth WNBA player to score 5,000 points when she made a jumper from near the free-throw line late in the first quarter.
She was just getting started.
The Indiana forward tied a career high with 32 points, and the Fever beat the Liberty 82-71 on Saturday night.
Catchings became the first WNBA player with 5,000 points, 2,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in a career. She already became the league's career leader in steals earlier this season.
``Catch is a multidimensional player,' Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. ``I think sometimes she's not given enough credit for all the different things she can do. She gets assists, she gets steals, she gets rebounds, she scores and she defends like nobody else in the league. It's unfortunate that so much emphasis is put on 'Who's the leading scorer?''
The list of accomplishments has Dunn speaking boldly about Catchings, a four-time defensive player of the year who has never been named the league's top player.
``There's no doubt in my mind she's got all the credentials to be a WNBA MVP,' she said.
Catchings wasn't as thrilled with her effort because she failed to grab a rebound for just the second time in her career.
``Even though I scored as many points as I did, to come out with zero rebounds - I don't even know when was the last time I had zero rebounds. So you scored, but you didn't take care of business on the boards.'
New York coach John Whisenant was impressed with Catchings, but not so much with the officiating. Indiana outscored New York 25-12 from the free throw line, and Catchings set a franchise record by making 17 free throws.
``Indiana is a good team,' he said. ``Catchings is a good player. Catchings got seven calls out of eight.'
Tangela Smith added 10 points for the Fever (17-7), who have won seven of their past eight games. All but one of the wins have been by double digits.
Cappie Pondexter scored 30 points and Essence Carson added 16 for New York (13-11), which has lost three of four.
New York committed 23 turnovers that led to 25 points for Indiana.
Indiana led 38-32 at halftime, then started the second half strong. A steal and layup by Catchings gave Indiana a 45-34 lead and forced New York to call timeout just 80 seconds into the third quarter.
The timeout didn't slow Indiana's momentum. The Fever scored the next seven points, including a 3-pointer by Katie Douglas. The Fever led 64-47 at the end of the third quarter.
``We talked about it at halftime,' Catchings said. ``We knew we would have to pick up the defensive intensity. We knew we would need to jump right on them.'
New York tried to rally late. A layup by Carson cut Indiana's lead to 71-59 with just under 5 minutes to play, but New York couldn't trim its deficit to single digits.
Catchings' points came on just 12 field-goal attempts. She watched new Indiana Pacer George Hill score 50 points in a recent pro-am game in Indianapolis and decided to pick her spots to attack.
``He really didn't do anything out of the ordinary,' Catchings said. ``Simple layups, a 3 here, a couple jump shots, a couple dribble jump shots. He makes it look so simple. Let the floor open up a little more and see what you can do.'
The Associated Press News Service
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