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Without Young, Aces use defense + Plum career-high to down Wings


Las Vegas guard Kelsey Plum soars in for a layup against Phoenix. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Aces

Despite coming into the game as the league’s highest-scoring team, the Las Vegas Aces used defense en route to a bounce back win.


The Aces beat the Dallas Wings, 84-78, Sunday, June 5 from the Michelob Ultra Arena on Pride Night.


“Every game isn’t going to be pretty,” guard Chelsea Gray said. “Every game isn’t going to be a 10-point blowout or it’s not going to be a one-point game. Sometimes it’s going to be those that’s right in-between and the gutsier team has to get the ‘W.’”


Las Vegas was coming off its first home loss of the season, a loss that ended a seven-game win streak for the team.


Now, the team currently sports a 10-2 overall record and currently lead the Western Conference by three and a half games. Dallas is the team that sits just below Las Vegas in the standings.


The Aces will now have six days before its next contest, which will be a road game against the Los Angeles Sparks.


“We’ve got a week here – well almost – before the next game,” head coach Becky Hammon said. “So hopefully, we can get some legs back underneath us, get some people back healthy and regroup a little bit before we go back on the road.”


That marks the first of a two-game road trip for Las Vegas, where it holds a 3-1 record away from Michelob Ultra Arena.


Turnovers were the story early and proved to be the difference by the final buzzer.


“I thought our activity on the defensive end – actually, that probably was the single factor that was able to help us win the game,” Hammon said. “Because we certainly did not box-out. We didn’t do it on that end but we also played great defense after we gave up the offensive rebound [...] You’re playing 22 seconds of great defense and then just hand over your paycheck. You have to finish out the defensive possession with a board.”


Las Vegas forced Dallas into three early turnovers at the start of the game. To that point, the Wings were only able to attempt two shots.


By the end of the first quarter, the Aces had forced its opponent into seven turnovers while committing just one on the other end.


This performance allowed the home team to take a one-point lead into the second quarter despite being outshot 44% to 35%.


“Our defense kept us in it,” Gray said. “We were missing shots, especially in the first half, that we normally make.”


Las Vegas would ultimately force 17 Dallas turnovers while committing 10 of its own. Furthermore, the Aces were able to race out for 19 fast break points while the Wings came up with 12.


Hammon once again pointed to the discrepancy in rebounding as cause to pause. Las Vegas was only outrebounded by one but lost the offensive rebounding battle by 14. Dallas was able to secure 10 second chance points off its 19 offensive rebounds.


Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale was limited to 2-of-10 from the field including 0-of-7 from three-point range before exploding in the third quarter.


Prior to the start of this one, Ogunbowale was 15-for-62 from the field in her last three games against the Aces.


“The goal was to just make her shots tough,” forward Dearica Hamby said. “She’s a high-volume shooter so we knew she’d get up around 20 shots. And I think 24 points on 21 shots, we’ll take that.”


Ogunbowale finished with 24 points on 8-of-21 from the field including going 3-of-15 from deep.


Las Vegas limped into this one without guards Jackie Young and Riquna Williams.


Young left last Thursday’s game against Connecticut with a right ankle sprain while Williams was missing her 10th game of the year.


“We beat a very good team, a very well-coached team without some key players for us,” Hammon said. “I thought overall, given the circumstances we battled and we were able to find a way.”


Forward Theresa Plaisance started in place of Young and turned in five points and four rebounds in more than 30 minutes of action.


Plaisance previously spent four seasons with Dallas.


Plum tied a career-high with 32 points and got it going early, scoring 11 points in the first 10 minutes.


She helped the Aces go on a 7-0 run to start the second quarter and eventually go up by as many as 13 points before the final buzzer.


By the end of the contest, Plum had tallied 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting with four made threes while playing the entire contest.


“Yeah, I was fine,” Plum said. “I was a little short on a couple of threes and [Williams] was telling me to make sure I get my legs under me. Listen, we have six days before we play and with Jackie being out…I’m trying to win. I told Becky, ‘Don’t sub me unless I suck.’” Hammon confirmed after the game saying, “She wouldn’t let me take her off the court.”


Gray added 18 points, five rebounds and four assists while Hamby was the last Aces player in double-figures with 12 points.


For a brief moment in the third quarter, Gray left the game after appearing to re-open her stitches that she was given after the team’s last outing against the Sun.


Forward A’ja Wilson was limited to a little under 24 minutes on the floor after she fouled out.


“A’ja needs to be getting more respect,” Hammon said. “Point blank. On both ends of the floor. She hasn’t gotten it and she deserves it. It just comes down to feel – she’s a former league MVP. I didn’t like how the game was officiated, that’s two games in a row if you can’t tell.”


In her limited time, Wilson recorded eight points and seven rebounds.

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