It’s a common phrase used in the sport of basketball to describe the ebbs and flows that many scorers go through. For Dallas Wings starting guard Arike Ogunbowale, the phrase fits well.
Ogunbowale, a 2023 All-Star and named to the Associated Press’ All-WNBA Second Team this year with the Wings, sees the floor with a confidence not many guards have. She takes her shot whenever she sees even the slightest of an opening at her disposal, and whether it falls or misses, you feel good about the chances of the former happening when the ball leaves her hands.
The 2023 Wings squad has had a sort of “it factor” surrounding them, and this is not just thanks to Ogunbowale. Players like Satou Sabally, Natasha Howard, and Crystal Dangerfield have given Arike even more room to shine with their own solid play. On top of that bunch, Dallas’ bench has become one of the bigger stories of the season with the addition of Kalani Brown and others who have kept the team afloat during slumps throughout the season.
With that said, Ogunbowale’s ability to grab the spotlight has been storied this season. Earlier in the year, she had one of the most dramatic exits from a game, accepting a standing ovation from the College Park crowd after being ejected from the Wings’ June 20 game against the Atlanta Dream.
Arike Ogunbowale got a standing ovation then signed an autograph after getting ejected 🤣 pic.twitter.com/cU4qth2Omg
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 21, 2023
It was just one of many moments when Ogunbowale’s ability to rally support from the crowd, her teammates, and viewers at home was on display.
In addition to the spark and interest she brings to this team, Ogunbowale’s numbers also back up her importance to this Dallas team. This season, Ogunbowale played all 40 games and averaged a mind-boggling 37.2 minutes per game (MPG), which led the league. She averaged 21.2 points per game (PPG), and she attempted the most three-point shots per game of anyone in the league. She shot 34.3 percent from long range and 39.8 percent overall from the field.
Ogunbowale does more than just score, however. On the boards, she grabbed 3.4 rebounds per game (RPG). She dished out 4.5 assists per game (APG) as well, good for 11th overall among guards. She also flashed her defensive prowess this season, recording 1.7 steals per game (SPG).
Ogunbowale has already carried over her impressive play into the playoffs. In just Game One of the Wings’ series against the Atlanta Dream, which they won in a thrilling fashion, she recorded a stellar stat line—24 points in 38 minutes of play along with nine rebounds, seven assists, and an incredible four steals. She, along with Sabally, dug Dallas out from a 20-point deficit at the half to get the win, bringing the Wings one step closer to moving on to the semifinals against a Las Vegas Aces squad looking to become the first repeat championship team since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002.
However, in the Wings’ Game 1 loss against the Aces on offense, Ogunbowale shot just 28 percent from the field and did not offer much help on the boards against such a good Las Vegas paint defense, grabbing only three rebounds.
In Game 2, despite the loss, she was more efficient on offense, shooting 41 percent from the field and hitting six three pointers. She also had two steals and four assists, doing what she could to keep her team in the game alongside Sabally and Howard.
Dallas, and especially Ogunbowale, has the chance to spoil the Aces’ hopes. The Wings have been considered a dark horse candidate all season long due to their skillful frontcourt, but the presence of a determined Ogunbowale will be huge as they face Las Vegas.
In the Wings’ four regular season games against the Aces, Ogunbowale struggled—the guard only averaged 14.7 PPG along with 3.7 RPG and 4.5 APG. She was still productive on defense, recording 3.0 SPG, but the offense was missing her explosiveness. Arike’s struggles on offense were at least partially due to how tightly Las Vegas is able to play in the paint on defense against a guard like Ogunbowale. Her drives were taken away, and as a result, she settled for many ill-advised jump shots to try to get herself going.
It could have been the want and desire to beat such a lauded team like the Aces, or it could have been the amazing defensive capabilities of a Las Vegas squad that features A’ja Wilson, or it may have been a bit of both. Whatever it was in those four games, Ogunbowale did not look herself. She was not the it-factor player we know her to be and who has often given the Wings chances in games they likely would not have had chances in otherwise.
Nevertheless, the playoffs are a whole new game, and Arike has a chance to step up her play against the Aces during the semifinals. Knowing her strength from this past regular season of being a player able to lock in when it counts, it should be a fun battle as she looks to help the rest of the Wings continue to have us hold our collective breath, contend with the Aces, and go on to compete for what would be Dallas’ first-ever WNBA championship.
Stats as of Sept. 27. Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of WNBA.com.