Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale said she would have been content scoring 10 points in her WNBA All-Star Game debut.
Try 26 points instead — and MVP honors against the world’s best basketball team.
Ogunbowale powered Team WNBA to a 93-85 victory over the U.S. women’s national team Wednesday at Michelob Ultra Arena before an announced crowd of 5,175.
Jonquel Jones finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds for Team WNBA. Aces forward Dearica Hamby scored two in her All-Star debut.
For Team USA, Aces forward A’ja Wilson had eight points, five rebounds and four assists, and Aces guard Chelsea Gray added seven points and three assists.
Ogunbowale was in the pool of players eligible for selection to Team USA, but was not picked despite her standing as one of the WNBA’s best scorers.
“All those girls are deserving, so hopefully they go win a gold medal,” she said.
Said Jones: “She’s young, she’s going to have her opportunity.”
The Olympic team had scrimmaged against WNBA All-Stars in the past, but Wednesday was the first official game between the squads. The Americans began training in Las Vegas in preparation for the Tokyo Games, and the All-Stars convened to celebrate their successful seasons.
The Olympians and All-Stars promised a more competitive game than most All-Star Games because of the stakes — Team USA is playing for its seventh consecutive gold medal.
And they did.
Both teams committed to playing intense, cohesive defense, thereby eliminating the fast-break points and uncontested layups that have come to define the All-Star Game. But Team WNBA was a little more crisp with its execution, and Ogunbowale and Jones were all but unstoppable.
“We learned we’re not a team yet,” Olympic staple and Seattle Storm standout Sue Bird said. “We’ve had one practice, and this group has never played together before. We learned it’s never as simple as throwing 12 of the best out there and it just clicks. It’s never been the case. It has not been the case in any Olympics that we’ve played in, and it was a good reminder of that.”
Hamby said she’s going to remember her first All-Star Game experience, and Wilson said she was happy to have the support of the hometown crowd, calling for the game to be played every year in Las Vegas.
“At the end of the day, we gave people what they wanted,” Wilson said. “Of course, we have things to work on from our end. But it was a regular-season game. It’s legit. People see us on TV and try to make a joke about it. But at the end of the day, it is real. We’re very competitive.”
Aces center Liz Cambage did not play for the All-Stars. She will play for Australia in the Olympics.