In the absence of a franchise player, it can be difficult to figure out who to lean on in big moments. The Wings (2-6) currently sit at the bottom of the standings with many signs of progress being made. But they still lack consistency. Dallas mostly struggles to produce points. That’s where the all-time scoring leader at Notre Dame can come in very handy. Time to feed Arike Ogunbowale the rock!
Since it’s start, this franchise has been on the back of a Notre Dame alumni, Skylar Diggins-Smith. So, why not let another former fighting Irish player take over at least for the time being? Arike Ogunbowale is the perfect player to lean on because she loves being in that position and will thrive if given the opportunity. For now, anyone can emerge as the Wings’ scoring engine. But, it needs to change so we can have some focal points on offense to turn to.
In this past Thursday’s 69-54 victory at home over the Mercury, it wasn’t Arike’s night. She put up just 9 points on just 3-for-10 shooting. However it was one of those nights for Kayla Thornton. She notched a near career-high 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting and eleven rebounds. This game also featured one of the best, if not the best plus-minus game of the season. Theresa Plaisance had a +30 plus-minus with 12 points and 11 rebounds. After that win, both victories for Dallas have now been by double-digits. Head Coach Brian Agler is not only big on defense, but he’s also huge on plus-minus.
I’m huge on +/-…..
— brian agler (@brian_agler) June 21, 2019
“I think we are starting to figure out our strengths and our weaknesses,” said Agler on if the team has found itself after a slow start. “I still think (we) have a long way to go. We have to keep getting better, we have to think better. We have to mature as a basketball team and still evolve our offense a little bit. It’s a work in progress, but we like the way we are going.”
This team has plenty of people who can score. It just seems it would be beneficial to lean on Arike, even though she’s a rookie. She’s been on the biggest stage before. At Notre Dame, she hit the game winner in the national championship game. The fighting Irish haven’t been too bad for this franchise so far!
At times, Ogunbowale has held onto the ball too long when being pressured. In college, it is much easier to just dribble out of that traffic and Arike excelled at doing so last year. But at this level, you need to find an outlet fast or it’s going to be hard to get out of jams without committing turnovers. Coach Agler mentioned that very same thing after Saturday’s game in Vegas.
“She can create, there is no question about that,” said Agler on Arike’s performance. “She needs to improve her game from the standpoint [of]when she starts seeing congestion to get rid of the ball quicker. That’s going to help our offense all around. People are really starting to load up on her. You can’t fight fire with fire, they’re bringing numbers at you, they’re pressuring you. If you try to beat it by putting your head down and doing all of this, it’s not going to work, not in this league. You better make it easy on yourself and better for our team to find the right person that’s open at the right moment to give them the basketball. She still going to grow on that, she’s very receptive to it, I’m proud of how she’s working for it but that’s natural for her. I was very happy of how she was aggressive. I like how competitive she was that way.”
Trouble in the Desert
Saturday’s game against Vegas was not at all the result Dallas or the fans were looking for. Of course fans all hoped that the two game winning streak would turn into three. But Liz Cambage decided to put her former team back in the loss column for her trip back. Ogunbowale poured in a career-high 25 points along with two blocks.
Cambage was just on part of the frontcourt issues for Dallas. A’ja Wilson and Dearica Hamby were just as much, if not bigger problems. Hamby finished with a career-high 27 points on 11-for-14 from the field and A’ja added 20 points on 9-for-12 from the field and 9 rebounds. This performance by the Aces frontcourt players isn’t necessarily a negative blow to the Dallas defense. But it just shows how loaded the Aces are.
The Wings do likely feel like they could’ve done a better job against the Aces, which they could’ve. But now, they know how to better prepare going forward. Also, this wasn’t the first time this season that the Aces have had a big win after a bad loss. A similar situation occurred when they were defeated in New York three games ago and then blew them out by 30+ points the next game in Vegas.
Ogunbowale should look to attack the basket going forward this season and not force too many threes. In the game against Vegas, she shot 14 threes and made just four of them. An inefficient night in an inefficient season from three so far for Arike, shooting just 23.5 percent (8-for-34) from deep. Though, one of those threes did look pretty good.
.@Arike_O at the buzzer to give the Wings the lead at the end of Q1! 🚨
She has 11 PTS in the quarter. Wings lead 24-22. #Together pic.twitter.com/icTqY9gi1T
— Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) June 23, 2019
When you have special players that come out of college as good as she is, it’s a luxury. If you can get her even more comfortable in this league, who knows what you could accomplish. It will open up the scoring for the rest of the team and especially Kayla Thornton who has been on fire lately. Arike has not shied away from stepping up as a scorer in any way.
The team just has to keep improving and catch up to the rest of the league offensively, as well as begin winning games on the road. If they can’t win on the road, they can kiss any hopes of making the playoffs goodbye. Home or away, Arike is a huge part of the Wings’ 2019 hopes and it’s time to let her unleash her skills.