After some early flashes of promise, the Indiana Fever’s rebuild has settled into the pattern everyone expected of last year’s six-win team. The opposite appears to be true of the Dallas Wings, who seek their fifth win in seven games Friday night when they host the slumping Fever.
Not much was expected of Dallas (4-7) following the trade of superstar Liz Cambage in the offseason as first-year coach Brian Agler learned what to do with his remaining players. The Wings stumbled out of the gate, losing their first five contests – including a pair of defeats to the Fever (5-9) – but have since regrouped and are coming off an 89-86 victory over Minnesota on Sunday.
Kayla Thornton hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 35 seconds to play, and Kaela Davis preserved the lead by drawing a charge with 14 seconds left. Rookie Arike Ogunbowale’s rollercoaster season continued as she scored 15 of her 19 points in the second half, successfully bouncing back from a 2-for-23 shooting night in Dallas’ loss to New York last Friday.
The fifth overall pick in the draft hit 3 of 4 from 3-point range and 7 of 12 overall, and is averaging 19.3 points over her last four games. Ogunbowale, named the WNBA Rookie of the Month for June, has also scored 17 points per game during Dallas’ four-game home winning streak.
She likely will have to continue the scoring load for the Wings as Azura Stevens is sidelined indefinitely with a foot injury. Dallas is also waiting on starting forward Glory Johnson to return stateside after Montenegro was eliminated from the Eurobasket tournament.
“Azura has had an ongoing issue with her foot since before the start of the season,” Wings President and GM Greg Bibb told the Dallas Morning News. “Tried various treatment methods and the foot hasn’t responded so the decision was made to shut her down, try a couple of different treatment methods and give the foot some rest. She’ll be out for the foreseeable future.”
Indiana, which started the season with three wins in four games, is trying to avoid a fifth consecutive defeat and a winless three-game road swing. The Fever were on the short end of a 102-97 overtime loss at Las Vegas on Saturday as they had no answers for A’ja Wilson in regulation and Liz Cambage in overtime, with the latter scoring 12 points in the extra period.
Kelsey Mitchell scored 21 points and Candice Dupree added 20, but even a franchise-record 30 assists and 13 3-pointers were not enough for Indiana, which was outscored 26-6 at the foul line and outrebounded 50-32 on the back end of games on consecutive nights.
“We showed some character today,” said Indiana’s Erica Wheeler, who had a team-high eight assists. “We lost a hell of a game. It was a mental game for us. We flew in this morning, got some sleep and played a tough game tonight. We needed to grind. We need to take this effort and keep this intensity.”
Ogunbowale only played in the first game between the teams, a 79-64 Fever win in Indianapolis, and shot 2 of 14. She missed the second game, a 76-72 Indiana victory in Dallas on June 13, due to a sprained ankle.
(Arike Ogunbowale photo courtesy Dallas Wings official Twitter account)