Aces topple defending champions, 83-77

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Photo credit: Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

By Shawn McCullough

It’s always a good test when playing the 2019 WNBA champions to assess a team’s potential.  The Aces proved that they could very well be an elite team in the league.

Forward A’ja Wilson scored 20 points and pulled down eight rebounds to lead Las Vegas to an 83-77 win over the Washington Mystics at the IMG Bubble in Bradenton, FL.

Wilson scored 20 or more points in three of her first five games of the season, averaging 19.8 per game.

Guard Danielle Robinson came off the bench and also scored 20 points, shooting 7 for 12 from the field in just over 23 minutes.

Guard Kayla McBride dropped 14, while forward Angel McCoughtry added 13.

The Mystics all-star forward Elena Delle Donne did not play in the game after opting out of the 2020 season in the bubble.

With the win, the Aces improved to 3-2 heading into their next game on Friday against the Los Angeles Sparks.

Las Vegas Aces – http://aces.wnba.com

Game Notes:

  • The Aces shot 49.1% from the field and held the Mystics to just 41.9%.
  • The Mystics took 26 shots from 3-point range, making eight.
  • Dearica Hamby registered a double-double scoring 12 and pulling down 13 rebounds.

Game Starters:

F – 22 A’ja Wilson
F – 35 Angel McCoughtry
C – 4 Carolyn Swords
G – 15 Lindsay Allen
G – 21 Kayla McBride

Aces pull to .500 with 79-70 win over Dallas

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Photo credit: Steve Nesius/AP

By Shawn McCullough

After a tough loss to Phoenix on Friday, the Aces needed a bounce back game and got it with a balanced team effort.

Five players had 10 or more points as Las Vegas beat the Dallas Wings, 79-70, at the IMG Bubble in Bradenton, FL.

“Important win for us, at 1-2, we needed this win very badly,” said head coach Bill Laimbeer.  “Overall our defense was solid.  We’ll take the win.”

Forward A’ja Wilson led the team with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Kayla McBride and Lindsay Allen added 11.

“I am very proud of how we performed tonight,” said Wilson.  “I think that we really found our groove towards the end of the game and that is all that really matters.”

Guard Lindsay Allen re-joined the team after registering an “inconclusive positive result” from a COVID-19 test last week.   She tested negative twice since then and was able to re-enter the bubble.

With the win, the Aces improved to 2-2 heading into their next game on Wednesday against the defending WNBA champions, the Washington Mystics.

Las Vegas Aces – http://aces.wnba.com

Game Notes:

  • The Aces held the Wings to just 36.8% from the field.
  • Las Vegas out rebounded Dallas, 40-30.
  • The Aces were just 3 for 14 from 3-point range.

Game Starters:

F – 22 A’ja Wilson
F – 35 Angel McCoughtry
C – 4 Carolyn Swords
G – 15 Lindsay Allen
G – 21 Kayla McBride

With an “unacceptable effort”, the Aces fell to Phoenix 102-95

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Photo credit: Shawn McCullough (Sports Radio Service)

By Shawn McCullough

Head coach Bill Laimbeer was not happy with the effort of his team.

A’ja Wilson and Angel McCoughtry combined for 35 points but lost to the Phoenix Mercury, 102-95, at the IMG Bubble in Bradenton, FL.

“The effort that we put forth was unacceptable,” said Laimbeer.  “They didn’t bring the intensity necessary in this league to win games.”

The Aces got down 23 points in the 2nd quarter and rallied back, but allowed the Mercury to shoot 57.6% from the field.

“My basketball teams will not play like that.  We will play as hard as we can every second that we are on the floor and if we had, we would have won this basketball game,” said Laimbeer.

Despite scoring 17 points in the game, Wilson was very hard on herself for her performance.

“I went 7 for 19, that is unacceptable for me,” said Wilson.  “I take full accountability of that.  I have to be there for my team, knock down my shots and I was just not focused.”

The Aces finished  in fourth in the WNBA standings last year and Laimbeer believes that they will probably finish around the same or lower this season.

“Are we going to be the top one or two teams in this league?  I don’t think so,” said Laimbeer.  “I see us fighting for a playoff spot, hopefully four, but maybe five, six, seven or eight.”

With the loss, the Aces fell to 1-2 heading into their next game on Sunday against the Dallas Wings.

Las Vegas Aces – http://aces.wnba.com

Game Notes:

  • The Aces shot 45.7% from the field and went 7 for 14 from 3-point range.
  • Five Aces players scored in double figures (Wilson, McCoughtry, McBride, Rodgers and Hamby)
  • Guard Lindsay Allen was held out of tonight’s game due to the third-year guard registering an “inconclusive positive result” from a COVID-19 test Thursday evening. She will be isolated off campus until testing negative twice before returning.

Game Starters:

F – 22 A’ja Wilson
F – 35 Angel McCoughtry
C – 4 Carolyn Swords
G – 3 Danielle Robinson
G – 21 Kayla McBride

Aces bounce back with blowout win over Atlanta, 100-70

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Photo credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack (Associated Press)

By Shawn McCullough

A superstar is emerging in the WNBA.

Forward A’ja Wilson dropped 21 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as the Las Vegas Aces rolled over the Atlanta Dream, 100-70.

“She makes other players better,” said head coach Bill Laimbeer of Wilson.  “She is really coming into her own right now and she knows that this is her time to help lead this ball club.”

Wilson has scored over 20 points in her first two games of the season, scoring 22 points against Chicago on Sunday.

“I embrace it,” said Wilson on being the team leader.  “I don’t see it as pressure and I am taking it all in stride and having fun with it.”

Dearica Hamby came off the bench and scored 20 points, while Angel McCoughtry dropped 12 against her former team of 10 years.

“It was different,” said McCoughtry.  “It was a little weird after being on that team for so long, but I am where I belong with the Aces.”

With the win, the Aces improved to 1-1 heading into their next game on Friday against the 0-2 Phoenix Mercury.

Las Vegas Aces – http://aces.wnba.com

Game Notes:

  • After shooting 0-5 from 3 point range on Sunday against Chicago, the Aces went 6 for 9 from beyond the arc tonight.
  • Las Vegas dominated on the boards, out-rebounding Atlanta 47-25.
  • A’ja Wilson registered a double-double in back to back games.

Game Starters:

F – 22 A’ja Wilson
F – 35 Angel McCoughtry
C – 4 Carolyn Swords
G – 15 Lindsey Allen
G – 21 Kayla McBride

Aces fall to Sky in tough loss, 88-86

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Photo credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack (Associated Press)

By Shawn McCullough

The improbable WNBA season began for the Aces, but not as they had hoped.

After the Aces led for most of the game, the Chicago Sky rallied back with an 11-0 run to finish the game to beat the Aces, 88-86, at the IMG Bubble in Bradenton, FL.

“We have a lot of potential, but we just let it slip in the last two minutes, we had the game,” said forward Angel McCoughtry.

McCoughtry scored 25 points and pulled down eight rebounds in her first game with the Aces after signing with Las Vegas back in February.

Aces All-Star forward A’ja Wilson added 22 points with 11 rebounds, combining with McCoughtry to score 47 of the Aces 86 points.

“We need scoring and they [McCoughtry and Wilson] are the two people who can provide the scoring,” said head coach Bill Laimbeer.  “Those are the two horses.”

The Aces finished the game 0 for 5 from 3-point range, while the Sky went 9 for 27 from beyond the arc.

“We had control of the game throughout and just didn’t make the right plays,” said Laimbeer.  “But our team played better than I thought that we would play and I thought that overall it was a good showing for us.”

With the loss, the Aces fall to 0-1 to start a 22 game schedule in which Las Vegas will play each of the other 11 WNBA teams twice.

The entire WNBA is playing all games in Bradenton, FL in the IMG Bubble to protect players, staff, referees and media from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“You are so locked in, it really didn’t feel any different honestly,” said forward Dearica Hamby about playing without fans.  “It still felt like a real game.”

The Aces will next play on Wednesday against Angel McCoughtry’s former team, the Atlanta Dream.

Las Vegas Aces – http://aces.wnba.com
Game Notes:

  • The Aces shot 46.8% from the field.
  • Las Vegas out-rebounded Chicago 42-33.
  • The Aces turned the ball over 17 times.

Game Starters:

F – 22 A’ja Wilson
F – 35 Angel McCoughtry
C – 4 Carolyn Swords
G – 15 Lindsey Allen
G – 21 Kayla McBride

Headline Sports podcast with Barbara Mason: Washington minority owners trying to get out of ownership; Six coaches over 60 heading to WNBA bubble in Florida; plus more

espn.go.com file photo: Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said he’s heading down to the WNBA Florida bubble. Thibault is one of six coaches over 60 heading to Orlando and said the bubble is a controlled environment it shouldn’t be a problem

On Headline Sports with Barbara:

#1 Washington football team minority owners Fred Smith, Dwight Schar, and Robert Rothman are seeking help from an investment banking firm to help them find buyers to buy their shares of ownership of the Washington football as majority owner Dan Snyder has refused to change the name Redskins to another name.

#2 Snyder has said he will explore changing the name with Washington head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera said that changing the name would be awesome.

#3 Barbara, five coaches in the WNBA are over 60 and in an interview with the Hartford Courant 69 year old head coach of the Washington Mystics Mike Thibault who has a likely chance to contract the virus is still heading to the WNBA bubble in Florida and said it’s a controlled environment but could he and the other coaches be making a big mistake?

#4 Barbara, there are six teams vying for the last and eighth spot in the NBA Playoffs Memphis, Portland, Sacramento, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Phoenix. The Mavericks have a magic number of one win and one Grizzlies loss to gain the seventh spot which is very possible.

#5 Former Penn State guard Rasir Bolton said that Penn State basketball head coach Pat Chambers had made racial remarks about a noose. According to Bolton in Bolton’s 2018-19 freshman year Chambers said to Bolton “I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck,” Bolton’s parents went to see the Athletic Director about the remarks and Chambers who attended the meeting said he was impressed how “well organized” and “well spoken” Bolton’s parents were which are racial reference connotations assuming that black people are not organized or articulate.

Barbara Mason does Headline Sports every Tuesday night at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Boot the Utes: Balanced Bears outlast Utah, 86-79 in overtime

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–Fewer mistakes, staunch defense, more and varied contributors, the Cal Bears are starting to play better basketball.

Could they be ready to take the show on the road?

By outlasting Utah 86-79 in overtime on Saturday, the Cal Bears assured they won’t finish in the conference’s basement for the third, consecutive year. So with two regular season games and the conference tournament remaining, could the Bears..

Knock off No. 14 Oregon on Thursday, and put the Ducks conference title aspirations on hold? The Bears hadn’t won on the road, or beaten a ranked opponent. Now that they’ve done both (won at WSU, beat No. 21 Colorado) could they double down and accomplish both feats in the same game?

Sweep the Oregon schools and finish .500 in conference play? Talk about the ultimate, confidence builder, that would send the Bears into the conference tournament with a four-game win streak and momentum.

Maybe, maybe not, but by consistently elevating their play, Coach Mark Fox’s Bears have changed the discourse surrounding the program.

“I got sick of everybody telling us how bad we were going to be because I just didn’t think we would be,” Fox said. “I wasn’t going to accept that and I wasn’t going to let our team accept that. We’re not anywhere near where we want to be but the perception and the feelings about our team and this program are drastically different than what I heard all this summer.”

In beating Utah, the Bears (13-16, 7-9) had to climb off the mat twice, the second time when the Utes wiped out a six-point deficit in the game’s final minute to force overtime.

The Bears regrouped, scoring nine of the first 12 points of overtime to take control. Matt Bradley contributed six of those, the last of his team-leading 21-point performance. The Bears sealed it by making nine of their ten free throw opportunities in the extra session.

Bradley’s often excelled without help this season, but on the occasion of Senior Day at Haas Pavilion, the Cal star performed as a piece of a quartet.

Grant Anticevich had a big second half, finishing with 17 points, eight rebounds. Senior Paris Austin, who was honored before the game along with Jacob Orender, David Serge and Kareem South, contributed 15 points, four assists. And Andre Kelly had 15 points, nine rebounds and a career-best five blocks in 31 minutes off the bench.

Bradley and Kelly led the Bears to a 19-14 start to the game only to see Utah finish the half on a 14-5 run to take a lead at the break. Alfonso Plummer had nine of his 23 points for the Utes before halftime.

The Bears scored the first seven points of the second half to regain the lead. Austin’s layup put Cal up 31-28 with 18:23 remaining.

Timmy Allen led Utah with 26 points. Guard Both Gach appeared to create a three-point opportunity in the final seconds that could have given Utah the lead, but the referee waved off Gach’s bucket, ruling Austin’s foul came before the shot. With two seconds remaining, Gach made both free throws to force overtime.

With the loss, Utah (15-14, 6-11) finished 0-9 in conference road games. The Utes conclude their schedule against Colorado on Saturday at home.

Aces fall, eliminated from playoffs in 94-90 loss

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Photo credit: AP Photo/John Locher

By Shawn McCullough

The dream of a WNBA championship for the Las Vegas Aces faded away on Tuesday night.

The Washington Mystics won the best of five series, three games to one, with a 94-90 victory over the Aces at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

“At this point, obviously, we’d like to win our home games and move on to game five and throw it up and see who wins, but it didn’t happen,” said head coach Bill Laimbeer. “I told our players to hold their heads high.  I think that this was not a brutal loss.   We got beat by a basketball team that out-executed us and they played very well.”

Liz Cambage led the Aces with 25 points and 12 rebounds, while Dearica Hamby came off the bench and added 18.

“It was a very interesting season, but definitely my favorite season that I have ever had in the WNBA,” said Cambage.

The Aces will head into the 2020 season with five unrestricted free agents: Liz Cambage, Tamera Young, Sugar Rodgers, Carolyn Swords, Jaime Nared.

“Going forward, we are all excited about this situation,” said Laimbeer about their team for next season. “We will make some changes, obviously every team does.  We know some pieces that we need.”

“I love this team, I love my teammates, I love this city,” said Cambage. “This is hands down the best organization that I have ever been a part of and hopefully they will have me back for next season because I don’t want to be anywhere else.”

Las Vegas Aces – http://aces.wnba.com

Series Results:

Game 1 – Mystics 97, Aces 95
Game 2 – Mystics 103, Aces 91
Game 3 – Aces 92, Mystics 75
Game 4 – Mystics 94, Aces 90

Game Notes:

  • A’ja Wilson scored just four points in 26 minutes, going 1 for 4 from the field.
  • The Mystics will return to the WNBA Finals in back to back seasons.
  • The Aces out-rebounded the Mystics 39-29.

Game Starters:

F – 22 A’ja Wilson
F – 21 Kayla McBride
C – 8 Liz Cambage
G – 0 Jackie Young
G – 10 Kelsey Plum

Cambage scores 28 to help Aces stave off elimination 92-75

photo from reviewjournal.com: Las Vegas Aces guard Kayla McBride (21) high fives Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum (10) before the start of Vegas’ WNBA semifinals game with the Washington Mystics on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, at Mandalay Bay Events Center, in Las Vegas

By Jeremy Kahn

Las Vegas Aces Head Coach Bill Laimbeer was furious after he did not get a crucial timeout in the waning seconds of Game One against the Washington Mystics, but his team stepped up when it counted most.

With their back against the wall, as the Aces trailed the Mystics two games to none in the best of five semifinal series, Liz Cambage was the leader on this night.

Cambage scored 28 points, as the Aces defeated the Mystics 92-75 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

”Our focus is win our home games,” said Cambage, who finished 12 of 15 from the field. ”It would have been nice to win one in Washington, but we know coming back here we’d have our fans to lift us up, we’d have our homecourt – we just had to get the job done tonight. It’s a playoff series, that’s the beauty of it, you learn on the run and all of the mistakes we made in the first couple of games, we really focused on fixing them and getting the job done tonight.”

The loss by the Mystics stopped a eight game winning streak, as they last lost on August 23 against the Chicago Sky.

AJa Wilson scored 21 points, and Kayla McBride chipped in with 18 and the Aces forced a game four on Tuesday night in Las Vegas.

WNBA MVP Elena Della Donne led the Mystics with 22 points, Kristi Tolliver scored 14 and Aerial Powers dropped in 14.

‘I thought that they got into their post game better tonight, we didn’t do as good a job,” Washington coach Mike Thibault said. ”They put more pressure on us and we didn’t shoot the ball well. The same people that made a lot of shots the other night didn’t make shots today and that was the difference. This is the first really stinker of a game we’ve had in a long time.”

The Aces took the lead for good In the second quarter, as they trailed by two; however, after a 12-0 run over a four minute period, the Aces took a 10-point lead and never gave up the lead.

Playoff Schedule:
Game 1 Mystics 97, Aces 95
Game 2 Mystics 103, Aces 91
Game 3 Sunday, September 22 Ace 92 Mystics 75
 Game 4 Tuesday, September 24 Mystics at Aces
Game 5 Thursday, September 26 Aces at Mystics (if needed)

NOTES: Kelsey Plum was in the starting lineup after coming off the bench in the first two games of the series, and scored nine points and also dished off nine assists.

UP NEXT: The Aces and Mystics will meet on Tuesday night in Game Four at Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Associated Press contributed to this report

Aces on the brink of elimination after 103-91 loss

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Photo credit: Nick Wass (Associated Press)

By Shawn McCullough

The Aces went down two games to none in the best of five playoff series after a 103-91 loss to the Mystics in Washington, D.C.

“Washington did what they are supposed to do, win their home games,” said head coach Bill Laimbeer. “Now it’s our turn to go back to Las Vegas and now it’s our turn to go back to our home court and then come back here [Washington, D.C.] and go at it again.”

The Aces trailed at halftime 50-49, but the Mystics pulled away in the third quarter outscoring the Aces 30-20.

Liz Cambage recorded back to back double-doubles, scoring 23 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.

“We aren’t done, we are just getting started,” said Cambage. “This is serious for a reason.  We get to go home and go back to the house and play in front of our fans who lift us up every game.”

Kelsey Plum added 19, going 9 for 15 from the field.

“They [Mystics] capitalize on every mistake that you make and they are such a good team in terms of how they execute,” said Plum.

The two teams will next play game 3 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Sunday.

Las Vegas Aces – http://aces.wnba.com

Playoff Schedule:

Game 1 – Mystics 97, Aces 95
Game 2 – Mystics 103, Aces 91
Game 3 – Sunday, September 22 – Mystics at Aces
Game 4 – Tuesday, September 24 – Mystics at Aces (if needed)
Game 5 – Thursday, September 26 – Aces at Mystics (if needed)

Game Notes:

  • The Mystics shot 52.1% from the field, while the Aces shot 49.3%
  • Las Vegas out-rebounded Washington again 35-28.
  • The Aces turned the ball over 12 times to the Mystics six.

Game Starters:

F – 22 A’ja Wilson
F – 21 Kayla McBride
C – 8 Liz Cambage
G – 0 Jackie Young
G – 10 Kelsey Plum