Las Vegas, NV – Following a blowout loss at home on Thursday to the Washington Mystics that they would certainly like to forget, the Las Vegas Aces returned to the home court at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday night., and rebounded in resounding fashion, completely dominating the Dallas Wings 86-68. Second-year star A’ja Wilson put in her second straight strong performance, following up a 34-point game on Thursday with another 20 points on Saturday. That being said, Wilson’s scoring was actually not the story of the game on Saturday, as unassuming stud reserve Dearica Hamby poured in a career-high 27 points; even showing a few unexpected wrinkles in her repertoire- as the fifth-year forward out of Wake Forest unexpectedly knocked down a pair of three pointers.
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Superstar center Liz Cambage, the team’s key off-season acquisition, while still rounding her way into top form, had perhaps her most balanced game of the season, contributing in virtually every facet of the game recording 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 blocked shots (somehow at least 3 more rejections by the British-born Aussie center seemed to have not been recorded) to go along with her 11 points.
Rookie Arike Ogunbowale was the lone bright spot for the struggling Wings, as she poured in 27 points, on 9-for-26 shooting. Wings’ first round Draft pick, and notorious Notre Dame big-shot maker, Ogunbowale spent most of the first half tormenting whichever smaller guard was given the unenviable assignment of slowing her down, to the tune of eleven first quarter points, including a how-did-she-do-that contested, step-back three as time expired to end the first quarter.
But on this night, the came up big again and again, as they held the lead from start to finish, and were the early beneficiaries of 12 first-half points from Wilson, who seems to have once again found her groove after an uneven start to the season.
The Aces also got some unexpected offensive output from veteran floor leader Sydney Colson, who’s energy, tenacity and creativity was a major key.
Colson likely made the highlight reel pass of the season, as she harassed a Dallas ballhandler into a giving up the rock, then hustled to corral the ensuing loose ball and then proceeded to make an unbelievable, overhead, on-the-money, no-look pass while facing her own basket leading a streaking Hamby perfectly for the easy uncontested layup to complete an incredible sequence that brought the crowd to its feet.
Later in the second, Colson would look for her own shot, knocking down a pair of threes on consecutive possessions. Midway through the fourth, Colson would again wow the crowd, as she effortlessly lost her defender with a hesitation-crossover move that would have raised Allen Iverson’s eyebrows, then showed her deft touch and court vision as she found the sure-handed Hamby again for another easy bunny.
Rookie Jackie Young seemed poised to really assert herself, as she aggressively got into the Wings’ defense seemingly at will early on, then either dropping off her teammates with nice looks, or looking to score herself. Young’s assertive play helped her generate seven points in games opening quarter.
Laimbeer and the rest of the Aces staff seemed to be a step ahead of Dallas coach Brian Agler and his crew, as they showed superior execution coming out of a timeouts on both ends of the floor all night. There were a couple of forced shot clock violations coming out of timeouts, as well as another instance when the tandem of Wilson and Cambage worked the high-low game to perfection. The dynamic duo later showed another glimpse of heir supremacy, beginning with Cambage stifling a Megan Gustafson shot attempt on one end, then finding Wilson on the other after a perfectly timed backdoor cut to the hoop leading to an easy uncontested layup.
Right before the half Colson would bring the crowd of 4,347 to their feet yet again, as she went backdoor and converted on a contested layup. Just like that, the Aces went into halftime holding a fifteen-point advantage, at 49-34.
The Aces came out strong in the third, as Wilson and Kayla McBride combined for a couple of baskets in transition. Wilson continued to have the hot hand, knocking down a pair of mid-range jumpers in succession, while Cambage, her counterpart in the Aces front court did most of the heavy lifting on the defensive end, effectively protecting the basket and working the boards, effectively starting the Las Vegas break. The Aces lead by as many as twenty in the third, as the Aces’ frontcourt -Wilson and Hamby in particular- had their way and were virtually unstoppable in the quarter.