August 18, 2022 

How the Dallas Wings can beat the Connecticut Sun

'Everybody has to step up and do 10 percent more'

“We’re always the underdog,” Dallas Wings head coach Vickie Johnson said this week. “I like that.”

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The stage is set and a new season begins. The Dallas Wings are entering the playoffs without their leading scorer, Arike Ogunbowale. There have been various players that have stepped up in her absence and it could end up being the best thing for the team. Fourth-year guard Marina Mabrey said Ogunbowale impacts the game in a million ways and there is not going to just be one person that fills the gap she leaves.

“Everybody has to step up and do 10 percent more to make up for that. No one needs to feel like they need to do it themselves. Basketball is a team sport so we’re going to out there and we are going to put it together,” Mabrey said.

Johnson was named Coach of the Month and center Teaira McCowan named Player of the Month. These are two honors that Dallas has not received before. Johnson said McCowan helps the team in so many ways and fills a void that was missing last season.

“What she does on the offensive side of the basketball and her ability to pass the basketball is huge for us and also being able to set screens is huge for our players because we have a lot of shooters,” Johnson said.

Winning the series against the Connecticut Sun will not be an easy feat. The team is long and they can score in bunches. They had a 46.2 field goal percentage which was second in the league. They were number one in rebounding and steals, averaging 37.1 and 8.8 per game, respectively.

Then there’s the reality of how hard it is to beat any WNBA team three times. That said, this is a very different Wings team from the one that defeated the Sun twice already. In order to beat a team that shoots, rebounds and creates more turnovers, Dallas is going to do something they have struggled with all season and that is playing consistently for all four quarters.

While Dallas will be without Ogunbowale, forward Satou Sabally has been listed as questionable for game one as well as forward Isabelle Harrison. They are game time decisions, according to Johnson. Having both of these players will be crucial. Sabally has missed the last 13 games with an ankle injury — with limited minutes she could still produce. Even if she is just a decoy, she cannot be left open. The Wings will have to rely more heavily on their bench if they want to get out of Connecticut with a win. Dallas’ bench was outscored in four of their last five games, the team will have to start the game strong.

How do Wings match up at the 5?

Center Jonquel Jones will not be easy to contain. She is the Sun’s leading scorer, averaging 14.6 per game, and rebounder, averaging 8.6 per game. Jones is quick and McCowan admits to Jones being able to possibly get her off the bounce.

“I just feel like I have to give her a step or two as well as play in her space,” McCowan said. “It’s just like the last few matches that we’ve had, play in her space, contain her. We’re not going to hold her to zero, but at least contain her as best we can.”

Forward Kayla Thornton, the glue of the team, has taken a step forward offensively averaging 12.2 points in the last five games, but the team is going to need her best defensive effort in order to slow down the Sun.

“Connecticut is a good team and in the past we have really struggled with them, but I think our preparation going into this game and what our coach have gave us, we should be all right,” the seven-year veteran said.

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It has taken McCowan a little while to hit her stride with the Wings, but things seem to be coming together at the right time and how she performs will be what will make or break the team. Playing inside out through her will keep Connecticut on their heels. If Dallas moves the ball and lock in on defense they have every chance to win this series. Even so, it will be unexpected in some quarters, a circumstance Johnson said is nothing new.

“I am sure we are the underdog,” Johnson said. “I am sure that most people didn’t think we would be in the playoffs after Arike [Ogunbowale] went out. They definitely didn’t think we would finish sixth. We are always the underdog. I like that. That just means we have to work a little bit harder and prove people wrong. That is what I love about life. It is not what they say, it is what we do. We are coming out to play. Whatever happens, we are going to leave everything on the court and hopefully it falls in our favor.”

Written by Arie Graham

Arie Graham joined 'The Next' in May 2021 as the beat writer for the Dallas Wings.

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