Ogwumike lifts Sparks to 5th straight home winTuesday, Jun 19, 2012
The Sparks are off to their best home start since they went 7-0 in 2006.
Washington dropped its 12th straight road game, dating to a victory at Los Angeles on July 17, 2011. The 31-point loss was the Mystics’ worst defeat of the season.
Ogwumike, the top pick in this year’s WNBA draft, missed last Saturday’s game to attend her graduation ceremony at Stanford. The Sparks (8-3) lost that game for their first two-game losing streak of the season, but they got re-energized in their third game in four nights.
Ogwumike went 11 for 14 from the field. Candace Parker scored eight of her 11 points in the third quarter, and Kristi Toliver added 15 points and six assists. The Sparks benefited from 29 free throw attempts to 13 for the Mystics (2-6) and forced 25 turnovers.
Los Angeles turned that defensive effort into a strong transition game that helped the Sparks score 66 points in the paint.
“I think we did a really good job of containing a lot of their best players,” said Ogwumike, who earned her degree in psychology. “We were having fun out there with our defensive stops. We were getting steals that turned into fastbreak points. I think that if we continue to defend, then offense will really come easier for us.”
Michelle Snow led Washington with 15 points and seven rebounds and Natasha Lacy added 12 points in a reserve role. Leading scorer Crystal Langhorne, who had scored 20 points in each of the three previous games, was held to a season-low two. Second-leading scorer Matee Ajavon was limited to two points on 1 for 6 shooting.
“That was about as good a defense as I’ve seen in a long time,” Sparks coach Carol Ross said. “It was just very impressive to take very good players in Ajavon and Langhorne—they just made their life miserable. It was a combination of a lot of good team defense.”
Langhorne was guarded by Ogwumike for stretches, and wasn’t effective in the paint.
“It’s hard to post the ball when we’re turning it over so much,” Washington coach Trudi Lacey said. “L.A. is a very good team. They came off a tough road trip. We knew they would be fired up to play, and I just think that we responded well.”
Snow also said the turnovers were uncharacteristic.
“We know we have to take care of the ball, and we typically do that,” Snow said. “We just have to bounce back and get back to being who we are and doing what we do best. You give people easy baskets like that—I mean, 30 points in transition. That’s the game right there.”
The Sparks opened the second half on a 12-4 run and pushed their lead to 21 when Ogwumike took a pass from a falling Marissa Coleman and scored on a layup to end the scoring in the third quarter. Ogwumike scored a layup off Alana Beard’s pass in the lane and completed the three-point play to make it 84-54.
“Nneka is quick, she’s athletic,” Ross said. “She’s able to do a lot of things defensively. It allows Parker to do a lot of things defensively, as well. They’re a good tandem on the defensive end as well as the offensive end. It’s great to have her back. I asked her if she was going to be a much smarter player now that she has that degree with that diploma in her hand. I think she was.”
The Sparks led 44-36 at halftime thanks largely to 19 free throw attempts against six for the Mystics. Beard and Toliver went a combined 11 for 13 from the line in the first half, including four in the final minute to push the lead to 41-33.
Langhorne had no points and only two field goal attempts in the first half. Parker was held to three points on 1 for 5 shooting.