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Commissioner Cup clinched after Vegas dumps Dallas

Las Vegas forward A'ja Wilson puts up a jumpshot during her 25-point outing against Dallas. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

In the last 10 days, Las Vegas has beat Dallas two times including its most recent win on the road.

The Aces downed the Wings, 92-84, Wednesday, June 15 from the College Park Center.

“We’re trying to build championship culture,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “That starts with mentality, that starts with your mental approach, your physical approach [...] There’s a lot that goes into building championship culture.”

It was the second of a two-game road trip for Las Vegas, where the team went undefeated and are now 5-1 on the road.

In addition, the win clinched the Western Conference spot in the Commissioner’s Cup, set to be played later this season.

“I want to win every game we play in,” Hammon said. “Commissioner’s Cup, non-Commissioner’s Cup – we prepare and prep the same way for every opponent. I do love that there’s extra incentive for the players. Anytime the league can throw a little bit of extra cash the players way, I’m all for it.”

As of now, the Aces are 12-2 on the year and are headed back home.

Upon returning home, Las Vegas will welcome the Minnesota Lynx into the Michelob Ultra Arena Sunday, June 19.

Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.

A late first half run that trickled into the second changed the complexion of the game and led the Aces to the win.

“Really feel like it was a tale of two halves for us,” Hammon said. “I thought we came out of the gates lethargic [and] they came in more focused and more hungry.”

Las Vegas closed the second quarter on a 12-5 run to go into halftime down nine points.

Less than two minutes into the third quarter, that run had been stretched to 20-7 dating back to the first half.

“Just a different level of intensity and mental focus,” guard Kelsey Plum said. “I think we came out and we were really trash.”

Aces guard Kelsey Plum takes a jumper in front of Wings' guard Alisha Gray. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

That third quarter produced the first lead of the game for the road team before eventually leading by as many as nine points.

Earlier in the contest, Dallas had built a lead as large as 16 points the other way.

It started early when the team built a double-digit lead in the first quarter behind seven points in the first 10 minutes from guard Arike Ogunbowale.

“I don’t know if we slowed [Ogunbowale and guard Marina Mabrey] down,” Hammon said. “They just missed some shots.” Ogunbowale turned in 17 first half points on her way to 28 points on 8-of-18 from the field.

She helped lead another surge from the Wings that cut the deficit to as little as two points in the fourth quarter.

“In order to close out games, there’s two main things you have to do,” Hammon said. “You’ve got to get stops and get the board after it and then you have to take care of the ball. And you just work for good shots, some nights they go in and some nights they don’t.”

While scraping back into the game, Plum and forward A’ja Wilson combined for 12 first quarter points, six apiece.

Aces forward A'ja Wilson fights through tough defense on her way to the basket. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

“Defensively, we were just a step late,” guard Chelsea Gray said. “Whether it was pick-and-roll, going in transition – they had so many transition points and if they didn’t score, they were able to get offensive boards.”

Both Plum and Wilson accounted for 28 of the team’s 35 first half points while trying to keep Las Vegas afloat.

It was actually a three-point make from Plum that gave the Aces their first lead of the game.

She would finish with four makes from downtown en route to a team-high 27 points with four rebounds and three assists.

There was a third quarter sequence where Wilson knocked down a three-pointer on one end, got a steal and completed a layup on the other end to put Las Vegas up eight.

“I think she’s just figuring out spacing,” Hammon said. “She’s figuring out where her spots are, she didn’t really play in the off-season so I think some of this stuff is just rust.”

Wilson finished with 25 points on 11-of-16 from the field to go along with five rebounds and four blocks.

Las Vegas guard Chelsea Gray takes a deep jumper in the team's win over Dallas Wednesday, June 15. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Gray and forward Dearica Hamby each chipped in with 16 points apiece while the former dished out eight assists and the latter hauled in 12 rebounds.

“She’s just the motor out there,” Hammon said. “I mean, she never stops. She just moves fast all the time, it doesn’t matter what she’s doing. She just goes fast at everything, sometimes I’d like her to slow down just a little bit but her pace, energy, defensive mindset and really her rebounding has been helpful this year.”

It was the first game back in two outings for guard Jackie Young who returned from a sprained right ankle.

“That was Jackie’s first go there in a few weeks,” Hammon said. “I thought she did great, she said she felt great so we went with it. She’s a special athlete. She could not play for a month and I don’t think she’d ever let herself get out of shape.” Young finished with eight points on 3-of-12 shooting.

The Las Vegas bench went scoreless on a combined 0-of-4 from the floor.


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