There were times in the past, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said, when Sylvia Fowles would have let the frustration get to her, when a series of difficult calls would have sent her into a shell for the rest of the night.
“There were times when she might have given in,’’ Reeve said Sunday.
There are a number of reasons why the Lynx (11-1) were able to rally from nine down early in the fourth quarter to beat the 0-14 San Antonio Stars 87-78 in front of 9,013 at Xcel Energy Center.
There was backup point guard Renee Montgomery digging down defensively and slowing Stars guard Moriah Jefferson’s roll. There was Maya Moore, who scored 13 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter, putting icing on the win with two late three-pointers.
But let’s talk about Fowles. On a night when the officials called 43 fouls in 40 minutes, the 6-6 center was often the focus.
Two quick fouls in the first quarter sent her to the bench. Another in the second quarter sent her to the bench for all but 3:45 of playing time. Whistled for a fourth foul in the third quarter with the Lynx up six, Fowles had to go to the bench and watch the Stars outscore the Lynx 19-6 over the rest of the quarter to take a seven-point lead into the fourth.
And she wasn’t happy. But she didn’t let it get to her.
“I’ve come a long way,’’ Fowles said. “[In the past] I’d get frustrated and go pitch black. I didn’t want to hear anything, see anything. But I had time to take it all in. You can’t have your fits. There are four others on the floor that need your support.’’
Sitting on the bench, assistant coaches Shelley Patterson, James Wade and Walt Hopkins were in her ear. Patterson offering encouragement, Wade X’s and O’s. Hopkins, simply, told Fowles that she had to play with joy.
That Stars lead grew to nine with nine minutes to play. But Montgomery changed things with her defense, helping force two turnovers in a 12-0 Lynx run, and her three-point lead gave them a three-point lead with 6:17 left.
But it wasn’t over.
Playing far better than their record would suggest they could, the Stars — who got 19 points from Jefferson and 17 from Kayla McBride — didn’t give in. But Fowles took over.
It was 67-67 when Fowles rebounded Natasha Howard’s miss, was fouled and made both free throws. It was tied again at 69 when Fowles rebounded Seimone Augustus’ miss, was fouled and made two more. At 71-71, Fowles took a pass from Augustus and scored. After a Stars turnover, Augustus fed Fowles, who powered through a Kayla Alexander foul, scored and hit the free throw with 3:11 left for a five-point Lynx lead.
Minnesota never trailed again. Like Moore, Fowles scored 13 of her 22 in the fourth. She made all three of her field goal attempts, all seven free throws, had three offensive rebounds and a block in the final 10 minutes.
The victory gave the quartet of Moore, Rebekkah Brunson, Augustus and Lindsay Whalen 122 victories together, most in league history. And nobody had to talk about what would have been a rather big upset.
“The battle tonight was on many levels,’’ Moore said. “Not just the physical battle of playing but mentally staying engaged, focused through some things we didn’t agree with. Syl finding a way to stay with it? We don’t win the game for many reasons, but especially if she doesn’t’ stay focused and determined. That ‘and-one’ was just huge.’’
And just further proof that Fowles has gone to another level this season. Twenty-two points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes? That’s efficient.
“It was vital,’’ Reeve said. “And I told her I’m proud she pushed through that.’’