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Aces open title defense campaign with 41-point pounding of Storm

Updated: May 20, 2023

Las Vegas breaks its pregame huddle prior to its season opening win over Seattle Saturday afternoon. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

While we have yet to learn where the championship defense trail ends, but for now, it's off to an historic start.

The Las Vegas Aces opened their new campaign with a crushing, 105-64, win over the Seattle Storm Saturday, May 20 from the Climate Pledge Arena. The 105 points put up by the defending champs is tied for the second-most points ever scored in a WNBA season opener.

In addition, the 41-point difference is the largest in a season opener in league history.

“[Beating] anyone in this league is going to be a hard win but its a good win,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “We’ll take it, everyday I’ll take a win in this league.”

The team also put on the performance in the absence of head coach Becky Hammon, who served one of her two-game suspension following an investigation by the WNBA in the aftermath of the trade of former Ace Dearica Hamby. In her absence, assistant coach Tyler Marsh filled in as the acting head coach.

“What you saw today was a team and a staff that wanted to get a win very badly for their head coach,” Marsh said. “We know who Becky is to us and who she’s been for us so the best thing we can do is come out and get this win for her.”

Marsh is the son of a basketball coach, who was in attendance for his unofficial head coaching debut along with his wife and son.

Aces acting head coach Tyler Marsh works the sidelines during the team's season opening win. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“Man, y’all gone make me get emotional,” Wilson said. “This was huge obviously for us because it’s our first game of the season but when you have someone like Tyler – I don’t think anyone sees the work he does for us. It is so incredibly awesome to see him get this win.”

The road trip to start the year for the defending champs continues with a visit to the Los Angeles Sparks. Las Vegas is looking to become the first back-to-back champions in the league since Los Angeles did it just over 20 years ago.

That game will mark the first meeting between the aforementioned Hamby and her former franchise. Arena will be the venue as the two teams will face-off Thursday, May 25 with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.

An early 11-0 run in the second quarter that dated back to late in the first allowed the Aces to takeover the game for good. All five starters combined for 85 of the team’s 105 points as all players reached double-figure scoring.

“I think on any night it could be someone’s night,” guard Jackie Young said. “As long as we share the ball and give the ball moving, everyone is going to get a chance to score and I think that showed tonight with six [players] being in double-figures.”

Young scored six straight points in the first quarter as part of her 11 first half points. She finished with 23 points on 8-of-13 from the field to go along with five rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block to open her fifth year in the league.

“I just tried to prepare early in the week,” Young said. “Just to be locked in and come in with an aggressive mindset. I think that’s the biggest thing for me, just being aggressive and being confident.”

Las Vegas guard Jackie Young slices through the Seattle defense during her 23-point performance in the win. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Fellow guard Kelsey Plum shared the team-high with 23 points on 50% from the floor including 12 points in the fourth quarter. Las Vegas grew its lead from 24 points to 41 points in the final 10 minutes on the way to winning the quarter, 31-16. Overall, the team won the second half, 62-36.

“It’s just a testament to how hard they continue to play,” Marsh said. “There’s never a feeling of satisfaction, we want to play to the best of our ability at all times until the clock hits zero.”

Finals MVP Chelsea Gray opened a new year with a solid stat line of 14 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Wilson set a franchise record for double-double with the 55th of her career, posting 13 points and 13 rebounds on 6-of-13 shooting with a block. Last season, Wilson picked up the second MVP award of her career while adding her first Defensive Player of the Year award.

Wilson officially played in the frontcourt with new teammate Candace Parker for the first time as the 37-year-old put up 12 points, five assists, four assists, a steal and three blocks.

“Candace brings Candace,” Wilson said. “She’s one of the legends of our league. She brings her voice, she obviously brings her skill, her IQ and that’s what we need. So it’s super dope to actually be her teammate now and play together with her.”

Aces forward Candace Parker gets ready to go back on defense during the team's 41-point win over the Storm. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Forward Alysha Clark also made her team debut and poured in 10 points from the bench to become the sixth and final player in double-figures for Las Vegas. Clark spent the first nine years of her career in Seattle as a member of the Storm.

Everybody in uniform played for the Aces with nine of the 10 scoring at least two points. The team still played without reserve guard Riquna Williams who missed the opener with lower back spasms.

Las Vegas played a much different Seattle team, one without former league MVP Breanna Stewart and four-time champion Sue Bird. The last time the Aces visited the Climate Pledge Arena it was to put the finishing touches on a 3-1 series win over the Storm, effectively sending Bird into retirement and Stewart into free agency.

With all attention focused in her direction, Seattle guard Jewell Loyd went scoreless in the first quarter with five misses from the field. Loyd didn’t score her first basket of the game until the 5:31-mark of the second quarter.

Seattle guard Jewell Loyd is hounded by Las Vegas forward A'ja Wilson as part of her 7-for-25 shooting night. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“Ultimately, we just wanted to make it tough for her,” Marsh said. “We wanted her to feel our presence and feel our bodies as much as possible. Just to not let her get into a consistent rhythm because once she does, it’s hard to get her out of it.”

Loyd finished with 22 points on 7-of-25 from the field including going 3-for-8 from three.

As a team, the Storm didn’t make their first three-pointer of the game until late in the first half, going 1-for-10 in the first 20 minutes in the process.

The Aces also controlled the paint, swatting away eight Storm field goal attempts with six players recording at least one. Parker led the way with three blocked shots in her team debut.

“When you look at us, we’re a pretty big team,” Wilson said. “So if we can get our hands on the 50-50 balls, if we can just defend and rotate and be there for one another then that’s us. That’s what our identity can become.”


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