July 31, 2020 

Wings show signs of growth in win over Liberty

What Dallas can take from an early victory

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PALMETTO, FL- JULY 29: Satou Sabally #0 of the Dallas Wings handles the ball against the New York Liberty on July 29, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. (NBA Content Network.)

Ten rookies populated the matchup between the Dallas Wings (1-1) and the New York Liberty (0-2) Wednesday night, with Dallas prevailing, 93-80.

Last season, it took Dallas six games to earn its first win. The Wings’ backcourt led the way, with Arike Ogunbowale leading the team in scoring with 20 points, followed by Moriah Jefferson with 13 points. It was Jefferson’s first time in double figures since Aug. 11, 2018. With Ogunbowale’s 20 points tonight, it marks her fifteenth straight game of 15 points or more.

But for Wings head coach Brian Agler, it was the performance at the other end of the floor that made the difference, a game after allowing Atlanta to score 105 points.

“I thought our defense improved from Sunday, team-wise, and I thought we were more focused and played to the scout pretty well,” Agler said in his opening statement in the post-game Zoom call. “Sabrina [Ionescu] got it going and had a great stretch towards the end of the first half and we didn’t do great in that moment. I was impressed by her competitiveness… From our standpoint, we improved and had good minutes off the bench, Allisha Gray is a huge part of this. She didn’t get the minutes tonight but when she comes in the game we don’t drop off at all offensively.”

The Wings forced NY into 18 total turnovers in the game and limited them to just two fast break points. The team’s offensive depth helped as well. Katie Lou Samuelson notched a career-high 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and rookie Satou Sabally added 12 points of her own. Rookie Bella Alarie scored the first basket of her WNBA career at the 7:43 mark of the second quarter.

The Wings have scored more than 90 points in the first two games of the season for the first time in franchise history and are doing so after not scoring more than 89 points in a single game last season. From Ogunbowale’s perspective, it was their communication defensively that helped them get those stops.

“Intensity,” Ogunbowale said, on the biggest difference between tonight and Sunday’s game. “I felt like, starting from the bench, we were louder there and on the court. Defensive communication, getting out in transition and getting stops that translated into offense.”

In Dallas’ win over the Liberty, Ogunbowale showed those flashes of great decision-making and passing ability many thought she was lacking last season. One example, late in the first quarter the Wings had a nice sequence in which team defense forced a turnover and this young team got out and ran. They got out in transition as Sabally tracked down the ball and found Ogunbowale trailing, where she could’ve put up a shot of her own over her defender, but decided to make the extra pass to Samuelson for an easy basket.

This game featured a total of 14 players who were rookies or in their second year and those four second year players also saw game action as well. Dallas looked like a completely different team against the Liberty and their younger players looked more confident this time around. A win like that, no matter who it was against, builds confidence for the team going forward.

What the Wings must worry about now is staying consistent. The Wings will look to continue their winning ways and face the Indiana Fever (1-1) on Friday at 8 PM EST.

Written by Drew Ivery

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