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Wilson’s ties single-game scoring record, helps push Las Vegas past Atlanta

The Las Vegas bench greets two-time MVP A'ja Wilson after tying a league-record with 53 points. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Two-time league MVP A’ja Wilson has claimed record after record this season but none may have been bigger than what she accomplished Tuesday night.

Wilson tied the WNBA’s single-game scoring record while helping to lead Las Vegas to a, 112-100, win over Atlanta Tuesday, Aug. 22. The Aces came into the game on the heels of their first home loss of the season.

“She’s just a handful,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “You kind of have to foul her when she’s rolling like that, there’s just no other way to kind of get her under control.”

Through four games this year, Las Vegas swept the regular season series while improving to 13-3 away from home this season.

“It was a very physical game from the jump,” Hammon said. “A’ja was obviously special tonight but this is one game. I thought it was really important that we get this game.”

Tuesday’s matchup with Atlanta marked the start of a four-game road trip that lasts more than a week. During this journey, the Aces are expected to visit the White House Friday, Aug. 25 as part of the coronation for winning last year’s WNBA championship.

First, the team will head to Chicago for a date with the Sky Thursday, Aug. 24.

“We’re coming out of five games in nine days,” Hammon said. “Now, we’re going into four games in seven days so it’s not very often a player even has the opportunity to even get to that number, I would’ve had the whole group mad at me if I took her out.

“So I’m going to roll with what’s best for my group, my team to see a really special person have a really special night on the basketball court.”

Aces star A'ja Wilson and Dream star Rhyne Howard hug after a record-breaking performance by the latter. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Atlanta opted to put three players on Wilson down-the-stretch in hopes of not allowing her to reach the 50-point plateau. Ultimately, it was a foul that sent the reigning MVP to the free throw line with a chance at 50. At the time, she already was sitting on a career-high 49 points.

“I was shocked because I don’t normally get those calls at all,” Wilson said. “I get bumped like that every single game honestly, that’s just the basketball way.”

Dream head coach Tanisha Wright disagreed with the call and would be ejected from the game following her response. As a result, Wilson went to the free throw line for points 52 and 53, tying the single-game scoring record set by former teammate Liz Cambage in 2018.

“I’m dying the whole time [because] I don’t want her to get hurt,” Hammon said. “They were putting three people on her, I don’t know if – it kind of got to the point where I’m sure their coach was saying, ‘Anybody but A’ja.’ But when someone is having a special night like that like I said, I’m going to let her go.”

En route to her career-high outing, Wilson made 20 of her 21 free throw attempts. In doing so, Wilson became the third player to score at least 50 points joining Cambage and last year’s title-clinching game hero Riquna Williams.

After scoring 40 points earlier this season, Wilson talked about never feeling any different as her points came in the flow of the offense.

“Honestly, I was just doing what I was doing,” Wilson said. “Moreso, it was my teammates saying, ‘Go, go, go.’ Throughout the whole game when they were trying to force it in, I was like, ‘No, get your shot, you’re open.”

Las Vegas guard Chelsea Gray looks to set up the offense on the road against Atlanta. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

During Wilson’s historic performance, Las Vegas was able to pull away in the second half, leading by 22 points at one point after holding a one-point lead at halftime. It started early for Wilson as she raced out the gates with 16 first quarter points on her way to 22 points in the first half coupled with two blocks.

By game’s end, Wilson had compiled 53 points on 16-of-23 from the field with four blocks. This comes just three nights after scoring 25 points on 21 field goal attempts.

“She’s just different man,” guard Kelsey Plum said. “I said this on the broadcast after the game but I really feel like we’re watching generational talents and I think that we’ve gotta stop comparing people and just let them be great.”

Plum added 20 points of her own with seven assists and two steals followed by 16 points from fellow guard Chelsea Gray, who also tallied 12 assists and nine rebounds.

“Chelsea was flirting with a triple-double,” Hammon said. “So she had another special performance. But I thought Plum was super solid, staying in attack mode, distributing – I mean we had 25 assists.”

Aces guard Kelsey Plum goes up for a tough layup during the team's road win at Atlanta. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

The game’s opening quarter saw both teams combine for 67 points with Atlanta shooting better from the field at 60% versus 56% from Las Vegas.

Dream guard Rhyne Howard had 12 points in the first quarter, starting her night a perfect 3-for-3 with two made threes including a 4-for-4 mark from the free throw line. In the prior three meetings against the Aces this season, she averaged 11 points per game.

Howard kept it going in the second quarter, finishing with 21 first half points on 7-of-9 shooting. Her previous high against Las Vegas this season was 15 points. Coming into the game, she was averaging 17.5 points per game.

Former Ace Danielle Robinson also turned in a season-high 17 points.

However, Las Vegas turned up the defensive pressure in the second half, winning the 20 minutes by 11 highlighted by a 26-13 third quarter.

“I thought we had better attention to detail on Rhyne Howard first of all,” Hammon said. “We felt like we could do a better job of cleaning up some of her coverages and then just being able to play out of our defense.”


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