McCowan hits buzzer-beater in her first game to help Fever win 81-80

Indiana Fever rookie center Teaira McCowan battles for a rebound during Indiana's preseason game against the Chicago Sky on May 16. Photo by Kimberly Geswein
Indiana Fever rookie center Teaira McCowan battles for a rebound during Indiana's preseason game against the Chicago Sky on May 16. Photo by Kimberly Geswein /

McCowan makes her presence felt inside and scores the winning basket in her WNBA debut.

After a week of training camp, Fever head coach Pokey Chatman said she wanted to keep things simple for rookie Teaira McCowan as she adjusts to the WNBA.  Chatman told her rookie to run the floor, post up, and get rebounds.

Did she also tell McCowan to hit a buzzer-beater in her first WNBA game?

McCowan took a pass under the basket from Candice Dupree with 1.1 seconds left and laid it in as time expired to give the Fever a dramatic 81-80 victory on opening night.  Dupree was hounded by Tina Charles as she drove the lane on the game’s final possession, but she managed to get the ball to the rookie for the winning layup.

“[Candice] always tells me in practice to keep my hands ready, so I knew when she passed it that I had to finish it on the other side and it went in,” McCowan told reporters after the game.

“That’s the case of a seasoned veteran trusting a rookie,” Chatman said about the game-winning play.

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McCowan’s teammates have been saying all training camp that her presence brings excitement to the team and it showed early on.  The Fever trailed 12-2 with 3:40 left in the first quarter when McCowan checked into the game.  Just 2 minutes and 47 seconds later, Indiana finished off a 12-2 run of their own to tie the score at 14.

The rookie center from Mississippi State finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks, but the stats don’t measure the intensity she brought to the team during her 13 minutes of action.  She frustrated some Liberty players who were called for fouls while battling with McCowan for rebounds.  There were a few times when she fell to the floor with a Liberty player while fighting for a rebound.

She showed exactly why the Fever drafted her with the third overall pick in the draft.

“I told myself, don’t take any possessions off, just go hard the whole time you’re out there,” McCowan said when a reporter asked her to describe her first WNBA game.

McCowan had to leave the game when she picked up her fifth foul with 5:07 to play, so she will have to learn how to avoid fouls while playing physically in the pros.  Chatman kept McCowan on the bench during New York’s last possession, when Charles got fouled while grabbing an offensive rebound and made two foul shots to give the Liberty the lead.  McCowan also got to the line 10 times, but only made five of her attempts.  She was a 77% foul shooter last year at Mississippi State.

Any struggles she had in her first game were dwarfed by the impact she made in the paint.  The Fever also have to feel good that they’ve generated some buzz around their team after last year’s disastrous 6-28 finish.

“It was a nice way to win on the road, and even sweeter with the rookie adding the finishing touch,” Chatman said.

Guard Tiffany Mitchell led the Fever with 22 points. Mitchell made 13 of 14 free throws, which tied her for third in team history for most foul shots made in a game with just one miss.  Mitchell helped the Fever come back from a seven-point deficit in the final quarter with some timely jumpers and foul shots.  Guard Erica Wheeler added 16 points while Dupree finished with 12.

McCowan’s heroics overshadowed a monster game by Charles, who led all players with 32 points and 12 rebounds.

The Fever return to action on Tuesday when they play at Connecticut.  That game tips at 7:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on CBS Sports Network.

The Liberty’s next game is a rematch with the Fever in Indianapolis on June 1 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

(Howard Megdal contributed reporting from New York.)

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