Clinic business

The energetic Dallas Wings set up a fever dominant performance clinic

ARLINGTON — Arike Ogunbowale crossed the half-court line with four seconds left in the first quarter, sprinting to her right but undisturbed by the clock ticking down. She dribbled hard down the right wing, crossed the ball between her legs and came up smoothly from 27 feet.

The ball flew through the net.

“I guess all I think is I see the clock going down, but I’m just doing hoop at the time,” Ogunbowale said.

The buzzer beater capped off a quarter where very little went wrong for the Wings and almost everything went well as they took a 34-19 lead.

An active and energetic Dallas team kept the momentum going for the next three quarters en route to a 94-68 win over the visiting Fever.

“Our players as a whole, they were more boxed in,” coach Vickie Johnson said. “They executed the game plan for 40 minutes, from attacking to defensive aspects. We ended the game with box outs. Everyone moved the basketball.

It’s the biggest margin of victory for the Wings since a 27-point win over Indiana on July 5, 2018.

Although the score never caused the Wings any nerves, the team collectively held their breath when Allisha Gray rolled her ankle in the second quarter.

Gray, in the midst of a breakout season that puts her on the verge of a potential All-Star appearance, remained grounded after landing on someone’s foot. After a short time on the floor under the basket, she left on her own, heading straight for the locker room.

She returned to the bench later in the quarter and said after the game her ankle felt fine. After being honored at halftime as the 2021 USA Basketball 3×3 Athlete of the Year, Gray played seven minutes in the second half.

But his lack of playing time wasn’t due to lingering pain. It was because of Dallas’ big lead, which was 55-38 at the break and never went below 16 points in the second half.

After a lackluster outing in Tuesday’s loss to the Dream, the Wings competed with energy, effort and pace Thursday at College Park Center.

“We were disappointed with the way we came out against Atlanta,” forward Isabelle Harrison said. “We wanted to make sure we took care of business here at home.”

Harrison was aggressive at the low post and through the middle, establishing an inside presence early and finishing with 16 points. Teaira McCowan continued her comeback with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds in less than 15 minutes. Ty Harris led a productive Dallas bench unit that kept the fort going in the second quarter. Awak Kuier’s confidence continued to shine with his attacking moves.

The defensive activity was particularly impressive. The Wings were fast in their rotations and got their hands on the passing lanes. They forced nine turnovers in the first half, leading on 18 points, and finished with 19 forced turnovers.

Dallas faced all 11 active players and all but one scored during the game.

“Our bench leaves when our starters leave,” Johnson said.

Ogunbowale set the tone for the game, being active and aggressive. She had 16 points in the first half, but also had five assists to go along with three steals.

The Wings outscored the Fever by 23 points when Ogunbowale was down. She finished with 24 points, six assists and four rebounds. Ogunbowale also matched his career highs with five steals and six 3-pointers.

“Arike is Arike, what more can I say,” McCowan said. “Everyone in the league knows how she plays. To have her on my team, I’m grateful. For the others, I’m sorry for you.

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