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3 takeaways: A’ja Wilson’s historic night propels Aces past Wings

Updated June 6, 2024 - 6:46 am

A’ja Wilson is on a tear that couldn’t even be hampered by a bleeding face or a lost contact lens.

The two-time MVP made history as she led the Aces to a 95-81 win over the Dallas Wings on Wednesday in Arlington, Texas. But the victory, which was part of the WNBA’s fourth annual Commissioner’s Cup in-season tournament, didn’t come without some fight.

Despite the physicality, Wilson recorded 36 points, 12 rebounds and six steals. She’s the first player in WNBA history to have at least 35 points, 10 rebounds and five steals in a game.

Kelsey Plum added 20 points for the Aces (5-2). Jackie Young was listed as doubtful before the game because of an illness, but she contributed 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Arike Ogunbowale had 31 points and seven assists for the Wings (3-5).

The Aces never trailed, although the Wings outscored them 26-18 in the second quarter. That stretch allowed Dallas to cut the Aces’ 20-point lead down to five entering halftime (47-42).

The Aces next host the Seattle Storm at 7 p.m. Friday at Michelob Ultra Arena.

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. ‘Best player in the universe’

It took just over six minutes for the Aces to force the Wings to take a timeout, as Wilson recorded eight points, going 4-for-5 from the field, to give the Aces an 11-2 lead.

By the end of the first half, she had a dominant stat line of 20 points (including a 3-pointer), five rebounds, two steals and a block.

Earlier this week, Wilson was named the WNBA’s Player of the Month for May and the Western Conference Player of the Week. Aces coach Becky Hammon often refers to Wilson as the greatest in the world, but she adjusted during her pregame press conference, calling Wilson the “best player in the universe.”

As such, Wilson now leads the WNBA in points and rebounds per game. The 2023 Finals MVP has notched double-doubles with more than 20 points and 10 rebounds in six of the Aces’ seven games this year.

“This is a privilege,” Wilson said after the game. “This is an honor to be in this league, so I’m not gonna take any game off.”

2. Hammon’s first technical

The Aces outscored the Wings 44-34 in the paint, but each bucket was a battle, especially for Wilson.

She was hit in the face at least three times, none of which resulted in foul calls. Medical personnel had to bandage the bridge of her nose as it bled after she was hit so hard in the third quarter that her contact lens fell out.

A minute later, Hammon was assessed her first technical foul of the season as she reacted to another no-call from the referees. Wilson was roughed up in the paint again, and injured point guard Chelsea Gray had to hold Hammon back from charging onto the court as she yelled at officials.

“I felt like we were getting hit, not getting calls. So I’m gonna let them know about it. (Wilson’s) bruised from head to toe,” Hammon said. “I mean, it was just a very, very physical game. And I definitely deserved my (technical foul).”

Hammon said that Alysha Clark also had “whiplash” after her head hit the court hard when she collided with Ogunbowale in the third.

The impact couldn’t be blamed for Clark’s wild turnover, as she absent-mindedly inbounded the ball to Ogunbowale with three minutes remaining in the first half.

“I’m not sure what I thought,” Clark said on X about her bad pass. “I just knooooow my teammates aren’t letting me live it down.”

Clark later hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter, giving the Aces a 78-61 lead.

3. Hayes makes debut

The Aces signed previously retired veteran Tiffany Hayes on Friday, and she had two days of practice before making her debut Wednesday.

She was first off the bench, entering the game for center Kiah Stokes with a little less than four minutes remaining in the first quarter. Hayes scored her first points as a member of the Aces a minute later, connecting with a finger roll.

She finished with 11 points and six rebounds.

“I’m not gonna lie, I was weird in the locker room. I had to kind of calm myself down a little bit. I felt a little out of place,” Hayes said. “But my teammates have been helping me out a lot. And once I stepped on the court, it was just like riding a bike.”

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

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