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3 takeaways: Aces surge in record quarter, hold on to end 3-game skid

Updated June 13, 2024 - 11:34 pm

The Aces’ three-game losing skid is no more, and the team accomplished the feat after posting its worst opening quarter of the season.

The two-time defending WNBA champions beat the Phoenix Mercury 103-99 on Thursday night at the Footprint Center in Phoenix.

The victory came after the Aces (6-5) were down 16 points to end the first quarter. They mounted a historic comeback in the second, scoring a franchise record 42 points in the period. The offensive explosion was made possible by the team’s 10 3-pointers, the most in a quarter in WNBA history.

Jackie Young led the Aces with a career-high 34 points. A’ja Wilson had 32 points and 15 rebounds. She now has the most consecutive 25-point games in WNBA regular-season history (eight).

Brittney Griner led the Mercury (6-7) with 25 points.

“We’re still figuring ourselves out,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “But I’m starting to see glimpses of not only who we are, but who we can become this year. At the end of the day, you should expect a little adversity in anything you’re trying to accomplish.”

The Aces finished 2-3 in the Commissioner’s Cup and won’t advance in the in-season tournament.

Instead, the Aces will turn their attention to a Finals rematch with the New York Liberty at noon Saturday at Michelob Ultra Arena.

Here are three takeaways from the much-needed win:

1. Colson provides spark

Wilson had 10 of the Aces’ points in a first quarter that ended with them down 28-12. The only other points for the Aces in the opening frame came from Kelsey Plum at the free-throw line.

The Aces desperately needed momentum to open the second quarter, and that’s exactly what Sydney Colson provided off the bench.

A quick 3-pointer made her the first on the board in the second quarter, and she made a driving layup on the next play. Colson was up to eight points midway through the quarter, and she ended her run by sending the ball flying to Alysha Clark for a Hail Mary fast-break layup with a little over three minutes remaining in the first half.

Colson was a game-high plus-11 in the box score in 18 minutes. After the win, Hammon called her the “consummate professional,” for consistently adapting to her sporadic minutes. The reserve guard later explained her standout performance as simply being ready when her number was called.

“Those first 10 games of the season. That really wasn’t us. Even in some of the wins. And so we knew that we needed to get back to a certain style of play,” Colson said. “I just knew when I got in, (I should) try to help make something happen defensively. … I happened to hit some shots, and Jackie was on a heater.”

2. ‘Silent Assassin’

It’s safe to say Young isn’t under the weather anymore.

An illness that struck the guard last week in Dallas impacted her performance for the past three games. While Young said postgame that she still doesn’t feel like she has her “wind” at full capacity, she showed that she’s feeling a lot better.

“The Silent Assassin” scored 21 points in the second quarter, which was another career high for her. She had seven of the Aces’ 10 3-pointers in the period, which was three shy of the WNBA’s single-game record for made 3s in a game.

“I asked the group how you’re wired when things get hard. And I think Jackie told me exactly how she’s wired,” Hammon said.

“I just got hot for a little bit,” Young said.

3. Olympic preview

If you wanted an early look at what Team USA might look like during the upcoming Paris Olympics, Thursday’s game was a perfect opportunity.

The Aces have four Olympians in Wilson, Young, Plum and Chelsea Gray. All were active other than Gray, who could have made her season debut Thursday, as she was upgraded to “questionable” and warmed up before the game.

But Hammon said before tipoff that she would need to see Gray play five-on-five a few more times before she would feel comfortable seeing her season debut.

The Mercury’s Griner, Diana Taurasi and Kahleah Copper will join the Aces at the Olympics. While Copper went off for 37 when the Mercury beat the Aces in Las Vegas last month, she was held to 18 points Thursday.

Contact Callie Lawson-Freeman at clawsonfreeman@reviewjournal.com. Follow @CallieJLaw on X.

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