Behind a strong effort from Kelsey Plum with 32 points, the Las Vegas Aces won the first of two straight home games against the New York Liberty, 100-78, Tuesday night in the Michelob ULTRA Arena. The two teams will square off again on Sunday.
The Liberty (6-4) came into the game a bit shorthanded missing two of its top players in Natasha Howard and Sabrina Ionescu.
Along with Plum’s big night, the Aces (9-2) also had four other players in double figures scoring: Dearica Hamby had 16 points, Liz Cambage added 14, Jackie Young 11 and A’ja Wilson 10. Cambage also had 11 rebounds.
For the Liberty, Jazmine Jones led the way with 17 points while Betnijah Laney had 15 points and six assists. Kylee Shock scored 12 points with nine rebounds and Sami Whitcomb had 10 points.
For newly appointed Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins’ squad, league veterans Laney and Howard have provided much-needed leadership and scoring while complementing the efforts of a walking highlight-reel and WNBA star rookie Ionescu. Like the Aces, the Liberty has five players averaging double-digits in points, with Ionescu also leading the team in assists, averaging just over seven per game. New York’s Laney, Whitcomb, and Ionescu each rank top-five in either league scoring, three-point shooting, or assists, respectively.
Meanwhile, Aces starters Wilson, Chelsea Grey, and Cambage earn top marks over the first third of the season in free throws, assists, blocks, and field goal shooting percentage.
Aces stars lead the way
Liz Cambage’s dual-threat presence continues to pay dividends for Las Vegas. While the 24 blocks and 90 rebounds over 11 games certainly leap off of the page, she’s shooting an astounding 60% from the field and nearly 70% from the charity stripe.
Still, Wilson, never one to be out hustled, is the team’s leader in rebounds with 94 and has only missed four free throws on the season so far. Wilson also continues to find creative ways to generate offense as she’s currently averaging 19.5 points per game and totes the team’s second-highest number of assists with 38. An impressive statistic, she’s still far behind former Duke Blue Devil, Aces guard Grey, who has 72.
In front of a limited crowd of season ticket holders, the Aces looked to continue their home dominance.
The first quarter of play was an evenly matched affair as both teams would hustle hard for loose balls and rebounds. However, the Liberty would out-hustle the home team and secure a four-point 26-22 lead. Though Wilson and Cambage played hard on both ends of the floor, it would be fan-favorite, and UW alum Plum would produce most of the team’s offense going into halftime as coach Bill Laimbeer’s team would take a three-point lead.
Plum would continue her offensive onslaught into the second half of play.
The collective effort would overwhelm the stat sheet. The Aces had more rebounds and assists while also committing fewer turnovers as they outscored the Liberty in the third quarter by 10 to take a solid 73-60 lead heading into the final quarter of play.
While the absence of Liberty starters Howard and Ionescu in the first game don’t go unnoticed, it raises questions as to their health and availability heading into Sunday’s game
The Aces wrap up the back-to-back home series against the Liberty on Sunday at 7 p.m.