San Antonio – When San Antonio rookie Kelsey Plum finally entered the game for the first time, toward the end of the first quarter of the Stars’ home loss to Dallas Thursday, you could literally hear a pin drop.
That’s because the most of the crowd was holding their collective breath as Dallas guard Kaela Davis was slowly helped to her feet directly under the San Antonio basket, after a nasty tumble as a result of a collision with Star center Isabelle Harrison, while scrambling for a rebound.
Plum, who was waiting to enter the game as a substitute before the play occurred, replaced third-year guard Kayla McBride once Davis made her way towards the bench unscathed, but the fans barely noticed her name being introduced over the loudspeaker.
Plum and her Stars teammates couldn’t withstand an exhausting 31-11 Dallas surge to close out the game, and fell 94-82, to effectively spoil one of the most highly-anticipated debuts in recent memory.
Karima Christmas-Kelly lead the visitors with 18 points, while Skylar Diggins-Smith and Allisha Gray each had 17 to send the Stars to 0-4 in front of a season-high crowd of 9,621 at the AT&T Center.
Plum, who missed her first shot from the field, finished with four points, five turnovers, an assist and three fouls in twelve minutes of action after returning to practice from an ankle injury on Wednesday. She had not played since training camp one month ago.
“It’s one thing to come in as a rookie, but another thing to sit for almost a month and then go in and try to play,” said Plum, who missed her team’s first three games. “It’s a learning experience, and I just have to get better next game.”
Second-year guard Moriah Jefferson – the Stars first-round pick in 2016 – also made her 2017 debut after missing the first three games with a sore left knee.
Jefferson played 22 minutes and finished with nine points, three assists with four steals for the Stars, who led for much of the game until a 12-2 Dallas run helped the Wings seize momentum.
It was the first time all season that San Antonio head coach Vickie Johnson had her full arsenal on display, and for the first three and a half quarters they forced the action and played the aggressor in building an advantage early in the third quarter, with Kayla McBride’s 20-foot jumper giving them a 71-61 cushion.
A few possessions later Dallas responded with Diggins-Smith factoring in on their next eight points.
Diggins-Smith completed a pair of three-point plays to pull Dallas back to within 71-67 after fouls on Harrison and Jefferson and then fed Glory Johnson for the go-ahead bucket that would push Dallas ahead 76-75.
Harrison’s double-double paced San Antonio as she tallied a career high 18 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Plum looked a little out of sorts early, but appeared to get more comfortable as the game progressed.
“It was good (having Kelsey back). It’s going to take time for her to get into a rhythm,” Johnson said. “Having all 12 of my players on the court for the first time was amazing. We were out of sync as far as our rhythm was concerned in the first half. But we had a lot of breakdowns in the second half and we didn’t play tough. They actually just put the ball on the floor and attacked us off the dribble. We’re tougher than that.”
McBride believes positive things are ahead for Plum and the rest of the Stars, despite the loss.
“With Kelsey and Moriah back, all the pieces are kind of filling in. It was definately a good feeling to see them on the court but they are still figuring it out,” McBride said. “We are still trying to fit in those pieces and that is part of the process. That is thebeauty of it and that is the journey, and that is what we are trying to figure out.”
The Stars shot 53 percent in the first half, including 68.8 percent in first quarter alone but a disappointing run of 2-for-16 over the final 10 minutes sealed their fate as the Wings (2-1) took off with Diggins-Smith scored nine of her 17 in the pivotal third quarter run.
San Antonio will travel to unbeaten Minnesota on Sunday looking to get their first win and Plum is excited to get back on the court.
“I am a competitor and I expect myself to play at a certain standard,” Plum said. “I know what I can do, and so I knew it was going to be difficult coming out without a lot of time to prepare, but it is what it is.”