The video of Nneka Ogwumike’s injury has been up for a couple days. You can see why it scared the crap out of those of us in the arena.
Afterwards, I interviewed Ogwumike in the locker room. The cut over her eye was pretty big, and trainer Courtney Watson was rubbing antibiotic on it. Ogwumike was in good spirits, but hoarse from yelling, as both teams did all game long.
Me: You seemed to get fired up by your own injury, going on a scoring run after that.
Ogwumike: “It was an and-one, and celebrations can get out of hand sometimes. It was a good team effort to get the play, and when something like that happens, there’s an adrenaline rush. I would definitely say it uplifted the team.”
Me: What got you all going in the fourth quarter after a slow start?
Ogwumike: “It took the coaches getting into us, and then us getting on ourselves. (Assistant Coach) Bridget Pettis really got on us between the third and fourth (quarters), and then we took it upon ourselves to make up for everything. We were trying our best to keep going every single possession.”
Me: Do what do you attribute the team’s slow start tonight?
Ogwumike: “I have a bad habit of playing reluctantly when I get into foul trouble, and I need to understand that my game is being aggressive, and I can be aggressive without fouling. I definitely felt accountable for that. I felt like I wasn’t helping my team do what they needed to to.”
Carol Ross corroborated Ogwumike’s story.
“We came out flat, and they came out inspired, and before we knew it, we’d dug a big hole,” she said of the Sparks’ 19-point deficit at the end of the third quarter.
“Assistant coaches are never praised enough or get the attention they deserve, but Bridget Pettis lit into that team. She’s my Buddha coach – she’s the one that’s always bringing all the positive energy. She unleashed it, and because they haven’t seen her that way, she changed the energy on the bench. I give her all the credit in the world for inspiring them, and I give the players the credit for taking that and going out and getting it done.”
Me: What can you say about the slow start?
“As slow as we started, it was still a one-possession game at halftime,” Ross said. “Our offense wasn’t great, and we’ve relied on it too much. Our defense kept us around the first half, but the third quarter was just bad – it was bad basketball on both ends. But as bad as we were in the fourth quarter, we were excellent in the fourth quarter.”
Me: Candace Parker almost had a triple-double tonight. How did hers and Ogwumike’s performances help the team?
“They’re warriors. I thought Candace took a bid leadership role. Her passion to win was exceptional. It only takes one player to get a team fired up,” Ross said.