Arlington, Texas – Arike Ogunbowale continued to make her case for rookie of the year Wednesday, as her career-high 35 points paced the Dallas Wings to an 84-78 win over the Los Angeles Sparks.
The Wings hadn’t won two in a row since June 20, while the Sparks saw their five-game winning streak come to an end.
Ogunbowale’s scoring run ties her for fifth-most for a rookie in WNBA history, and made her the franchise newcomer leader. She has lead the team in scoring all year, averaging 16.1 points per game, and coach Brian Agler said her performance against Los Angeles was not surprising.
“People can critique on social media; they can do all they want to do, but she is a special player,” Agler said. “There have not been many rookies like her that have come into the league and made an immediate impact. It hasn’t been the easiest road, either, because she hasn’t had that mentor on the team who plays her position to help her. So she has had to learn the hard way, and she gets a lot of attention (on the court).”
It was a night where multiple players had to step up due to only being able to suit up eight players after a weekend in-game fight resulted in three being suspended. Dallas was without their defensive threat, Kayla Thornton, and rookie Kristine Anigwe.
Ogunbowale said the victory was good team effort, and that Dallas had a good flow throughout the match up.
“I think that we just had to fight, we didn’t have a lot of subs, and I think that we’re in shape and good condition,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of players, but we still kept up the intensity when they had a bench full of players, so definitely just good conditioning and good team play.”
Chelsea Gray led the Sparks with 22 points and seven assists, while Nneka Ogwumike added 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds. The Wings outscored their opponents, 28-14 in the fourth quarter, and held All-Star Candace Parker to four points.
Parker said Los Angeles has been plagued with slow starts, whether they win or lose.
“I think us starters have to figure out – like, even our game against Chicago where we won – we didn’t start well,” Parker said. “And I think when we get down 10, 12 in the first quarter, no matter if you are able to come back and take the lead, it’s an uphill battle as opposed to keeping things even and starting the game well.”
Glory Johnson hit a career-high five three-pointers, ending the night with 20 points and six rebounds for the hosts. Johnson was shifted to the three position with the absence of Thornton, and said that it is a different role that she is going to need to get more comfortable with for the second game of Thornton’s suspension.
“It’s a different role that I’m playing this season,” Johnson said. “I’m a lot older. I have kids and I’m not really trying to be physical, but just know that when I need to, I will. When I need to be physical and need to crash the boards, get tough rebounds, I’ll do it, no problem. But doing it the whole 40 minutes is not something that I want to do anymore.”
The Wings are now three games out of the eighth playoff spot. They will have an opportunity to move up the ranks when they face off against the New York Liberty Friday, as they are a half game back from the tenth spot. The Liberty are currently on a six-game losing streak.