A double dose of Ogwumike helps Los Angeles surge past Connecticut in home opener, 77-70
Both Ogwumike sisters in double figures in win over Connecticut
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Sparks (1-1) bounced back from a road loss at Las Vegas during the league’s opening weekend to have a successful home opener at Staples Center Friday night. With 12,334 fans on hand providing a loud and boisterous atmosphere in their favor, the Sparks handled the Connecticut Sun (2-1) with the sibling post tandem of Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike leading the way along with guard Chelsea Gray for a 77-70 victory.
While the Sparks led for most of the game, the win did not come easy. With rebounding machine, Sun center Jonquel Jones to contend with, Los Angeles actually lost the rebounding battle, 51-39, compared to the Sun. Jones pulled down a whopping 22 rebounds to go along with her 16 points.
Head coach Derek Fisher commented that his team’s ability to overcome the Sun was basically “just their will to win.”
“As a team, they just didn’t want to lose tonight. It was just that simple. Early season, late season, postseason, there are lot of times you have to win that way, when things aren’t going your way.”
Connecticut started hot as Jones showcased her versatility, scoring her team’s first seven points in an offensive flurry that included a trey plus four points in the paint. However, the Sparks were never far behind as Nneka Ogwumike helped pick up the pace for her team in the second half of the quarter. Her free throws at 6:11 gave Los Angeles a one-point lead.
The teams traded baskets until the Sparks pulled away in the last seconds of the period. Los Angeles went into the second quarter with a 21-19 advantage.
As in the first quarter, Jones scored the first points and tied the game up at 21 all. While it was another back and forth battle initially, both Oguwmikes along with Gray battled fiercely on both ends of the floor. The Sparks’ defense in the latter part of the quarter enabled them to get fast break opportunities that they converted into points.
The home team went into the break with a 38-31 lead.
While the third quarter was a scrappy battle with intense play from both teams, the Sparks managed to earn a double-digit lead after a driving layup from Gray at the 6:46 mark.
With a 54-45 advantage after three quarters, Los Angeles was in a good position to finish out the contest with a victory. However, they sill had hurdles to jump as the Sun was not going away easily. Not only did Connecticut outscore the Sparks 25-23 in the fourth period, they got within one point with 4:33 to go. In the end, it was the effort of the Ogwumike sisters and Gray plus hustle plays from guard Sydney Wiese and guard/forward Tierra Ruffin-Pratt that gave the Sparks the edge.
Both Ogwumikes finished in double figures: Chiney with 20 points plus seven rebounds and Nneka with a double-double of 19 points and 15 rebounds. Gray scored 16 points, pulled down for rebounds and dished out four assists.
Along with Jones’ double-digit output, Sun guard Jasmine Thomas added 14 points and five rebounds. Fellow guard Courtney Williams was also in double figures with 14 points.
Chiney, the younger Oguwmike who came to Los Angeles in a late April trade from the Sun, indicated that she felt confident in her team’s ability to pull out a season-opener triumph and anticipates a very successful summer in Southern California.
“We have our own culture that we’re building,” she said postgame. She discussed coming from small-town Connecticut to the massive metropolis of Los Angeles in the same vein.
“There’s a lot of distractions in L.A. but I’m telling this team is not going to be distracted,” she said. “This team is going to have fun, work hard put on a show. We have the names, now we have to live up to the legacy of three championships, people that are MVPs, people that are champions. We have to reward the fans with our work ethic.”
The Sparks go back on the road for a four-game trip that begins with a contest at New York on June 4. They will also play Connecticut again on June 6 followed by games at Minnesota and Phoenix. They do not return to Staples Center until June 15 when they face the New York Liberty.
Notes: Los Angeles guard veteran guard Alana Beard is still out and day to day with a left leg injury. Forward Candace Parkers also did not play due to a left hamstring injury. Russian center Maria Vadeeva is overseas due to a commitment with her national team for the upcoming bi-annual EuroBasket competition in Latvia and Serbia.
|5||Points off Turnovers||11|
|32||Points in the Paint||42|
|8 (3/19)||2nd Chance Points||12 (5/10)|
|10 (4/7)||Fastbreak Points||8 (3/5)|
|Lead Changes – 7|
|Times Tied – 7|