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Aces return to win column in matchup against top pick Clark, Fever

Updated: May 25

Las Vegas forward Alysha Clarks plays defense against Indiana guard Caitlin Clark in the team's, 99-80, win Saturday night. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

The stars were out for the first meeting between the back-to-back defending WNBA champions and this year’s top overall pick in the WNBA Draft.

Las Vegas ousted Indiana, 99-80, Saturday, May 25 from the Michelob Ultra Arena, closing more than a week-plus of games from the valley.

“I feel like I compartmentalize it all,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “Some stuff I see, I hear, I read, I’m like ‘Alright cool, that’s not going to stop me from achieving my goals.’ [...] and I just relayed that to my teammates.”

The Aces pulled out three wins during its four-game homestand to open the new campaign. Next week, the team’s first head out for its first road test of the year.

Las Vegas will travel to Minnesota for a Wednesday, May 29 matchup against the Lynx. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m.

“I think the biggest thing is just the culture that we’ve built here,” Wilson said. “It came along with rings and banners but the starting point of day one with [head coach Becky Hammon] was just ‘Who do you want to be’ and what’s our identity. That trickles down from one to 12.”

Despite missing her first shot attempt of the night, No. 1 overall pick Caitlin Clark drilled her second try from deep while closely guarded by Aces’ guard Kelsey Plum early in the first quarter. She’d only get one more shot to fall in her near 30 minutes of action.

As a team, Indiana went 9-for-25 from three-point range.

Aces rookie Kate Martin matches up against fellow rookie and former Iowa Hawkeye teammate Caitlin Clark for the first time as professionals. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Las Vegas encountered perhaps its slowest start to a game so far this season but would have a 20-4 second quarter run change the complexion of the outing.

The visitors were held to just 10 points in the second quarter as it would fall behind by as many as 16 points before halftime. That lead would eventually swell to 22 points in the second half.

Clark was held scoreless in the second quarter as she ended with eight points, seven assists to go along with six turnovers. On the other hand, the Aces put together a 22-assist, six-turnover performance.

“We actually played [defense],” Wilson said. “I feel like that’s the legit thing, we actually wanted it. In the last games – the wins and the loss – we didn’t want it, we just thought we could outscore [opponents] and this league is too good to do that.”

That second quarter run helped the home team turn an eight-point halftime lead to 16 in the third quarter. Eventually, Las Vegas would lead by as many as 22 points as it won the middle quarter, 46-28.

The Aces’ starting guard tandem of Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young combined for 42 points on 14-of-34 shooting. Plum added 20 while Young poured in 22 as the pair took turns facing Clark as their assignment.

Moments after Clark drained her first made three of the night, Plum countered with a deep trey of her own. A quarter later, Young stripped Clark near halfcourt before finishing the highlight with a layup on the other end. Shortly after, Young drilled a three-pointer from the left wing right in front of Clark.

Wilson led all scorers with 29 points on 12-of-18 from the field coupled with 15 rebounds. She has now become the fifth player in league history to compile at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in four straight games.

Las Vegas forward A'ja Wilson yells out after one her made baskets as part of her 29-point, 15-rebound outing. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Wilson was matched up for most of the night with former South Carolina Gamecock Aliyah Boston.

“It’s what [South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley] does,” Wilson said. “It’s just the way she teaches you professionalism but also discipline. That’s what carries you on, your talent will work out because you’re going to sharpen your tools but what keeps you in this league is how you carry yourself as a professional.”

Clark also reunited with her Iowa Hawkeye teammate-turned-Las Vegas rookie, Kate Martin for the first time as professionals. Former Hawkeye coach Lisa Bluder was in attendance to catch the action as well.

“It’s just really cool,” Martin said. “We’re both living out our dreams right now. We both always wanted to get to this point and we’re doing that right now. We’re just really grateful we’re in this position and we have this opportunity so it's pretty cool to experience that with your best friend.”

Martin responded by tallying her first double-digit scoring outing of her pro career with 12 points and two made threes.

“She’s a basketball player,” Hammon said. “If you don’t know what that means then you shouldn’t watch her. She’s someone who understands angles, being in the right place at the right time, making the right read and she’s just getting her feet wet.”


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