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Aces off to best start in franchise history at 9-1

Las Vegas forward A'ja Wilson hypes herself up during the team's win over Connecticut. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Las Vegas closed last week by beating the defending champions and started this week by taking down the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Aces downed the Connecticut Sun, 89-81, Tuesday, May 31 from the Michelob Ultra Arena.

That makes seven straight wins for the franchise.

“We’re just working on our identity,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “It really doesn’t matter the opponent. We want to continue to be who we are and fortify who we are. In moments like this you’re going to get tested and later down the road, we’re going to get tested.”

Las Vegas is now 5-0 on its homecourt and are 9-1 through the first 10 games of the season.

The team’s 9-1 record through 10 games is a franchise-best for a team playing under a first year head coach.

“I think it’s really important that we got off to a good start,” guard Jackie Young said. “It started in training camp, we all just came ready and locked in and just really excited for the season.”

Thursday the team is back in action against this same Connecticut team from the Michelob Ultra Arena.

“It is hard to beat a team twice in a row,” Hammon said. “It is almost like a series, a little bit of a playoff feel when you have to play such a good team so close together.”

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

“I think we did a lot of things well,” guard Kelsey Plum said. “But we definitely have a lot of things to clean up. Especially, late game when we were up by 15 and ended up winning by eight.”

Early in this first contest, neither team was able to build a lead larger than four. The first quarter produced three lead changes as the home team took a two-point lead into the second quarter.

Two early ties at 23 and 25 respectively were quickly undone as the Aces were able to get out in transition.

“[The Sun] are very elite at hitting the offensive glass,” Hammon said. “But it’s hard to be elite on the offensive glass and get back in transition defense. If we could rebound decently and not let the offensive glass get away from us, we felt like we could run the other way.”

Before long, Las Vegas would build a seven-point lead by the media timeout with 7:16 left in the first half. To that point, that was the largest lead of the game.

Las Vegas used 16 points off 10 Connecticut turnovers in that first half.

In addition, the team held the Sun to just two fast break points during the course of the entire game.

“I think that’s going to be our mindset against,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “When you have a team like CONN that gets up-and-down – that’s their bread and butter. It can be tough to stop that, and we’re undersized.”

The Aces had a 19-0 advantage in terms of fast break points at halftime on the way to a 22-2 finish by the end of the game.

Wilson recorded an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double in the first half of play.

Earlier in the week, she was named Western Conference Player of the Week for the eighth time, which is a franchise-record.

Las Vegas celebrates after a made basket during the team's eight-point win over Connecticut. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“It’s key for us,” Wilson said. “Like I said, we’re undersized when it comes to the post with me at the five spot. Those rebounds are possessions that we’re going to need.”

Wilson finished with a game-high 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting and 14 rebounds.

“I’m getting in my groove,” she said. “My teammates are finding me in my groove and finding me in my spots. My spots are a little different this year.” On the other end of the floor, Wilson helped lead the defensive charge that held last year’s league MVP, Jonquel Jones, to eight points on 3-of-4 from the field.

“She’s super important on both ends of the floor,” Hammon said. “There were a couple of games early on where she didn’t shoot the ball as much as I wanted her to – I didn’t get her the ball to score enough. But no matter how many shots she’s taking, she’s always playing the other side of the ball.”

Young added 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting to go along with five rebounds and three steals in 36 minutes of play.

She posted 10 points and all three steals in the first 10 minutes of play.

Plum poured in 18 points on 7-of-15 from the floor to go along with a game-high seven assists.

Las Vegas guard Chelsea Gray looks up at the clock while dribbling against Connecticut. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Guard Chelsea Gray was the last Aces player in double-figures, ending the night with 13 points and six assists.

Las Vegas currently sports the highest-scoring starting lineup in WNBA history. In addition, the team leads the league in scoring at 92.1 points per game.

Before the end of the game, the Aces built a lead as large as 20 points. Yet, the Sun made several runs and cut the deficit to as little as eight points before the final buzzer.

“I feel like they were doing a lot of hard hedging,” Hammon said. “Throughout the course of the game, I thought we attacked it well. Then all of a sudden, the last two or three minutes, people want to hold onto the ball and you can’t.”

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