We're almost at the halfway point of the WNBA regular season, and it has been entertaining to say the least. No game is guaranteed for any team this year, whether it's with scoring on the court or, well, an earthquake hundreds of miles away. The past couple of weeks have seen some teams flourish (Las Vegas, Minnesota) and others flounder (Connecticut, Seattle), but it'll be a wide open race till the end.
Many teams will get an extra boost in the coming days since the EuroBasket tournament ended over the weekend. Spain beat France to win the gold medal, while Serbia defeated Great Britain to take bronze. Belgium and Sweden finished well enough in the European championships to qualify for the Olympics as well. In all, seven WNBA players who competed in Eurobasket could go on in international play. But for now, the eight teams with athletes who left their respective squads will be more than glad to welcome them back home, especially as we get closer to the All-Star break.
Let's get to the numbers.
2.4: The average number of points scored by Stephanie Talbot of the Minnesota Lynx – before last Tuesday.
Stephanie Talbot is certainly making lemonade out of lemons in her first year with the Minnesota Lynx. The forward was brought into the starting lineup after Damiris Dantas was sidelined due to a calf injury. Talbot made the most of her opportunity last week when she scored a career-high 24 points to lead the Lynx past the Atlanta Dream. While she didn’t score any points in Minnesota's following game, a three-point victory over the Connecticut Sun, her confidence is growing. And that can only be a good thing for a Lynx squad that needs everyone to step up while their teammates are recovering.
11: The point advantages by the Seattle Storm and New York Liberty in the second half of their game.
The New York Liberty are having quite the rollercoaster season thus far; they’ve had both really good and really bad games. Last Wednesday's contest with the Seattle Storm looked like it was going to fit into the latter category at first. After leading by one point at the half, the Liberty entered the fourth quarter with a 10-point deficit as the defending champions, well, stormed back in the third frame. But then, New York went on a run of its own in the fourth quarter, using a 24-13 final frame to get the close win on the road. Liberty star Tina Charles certainly played a big role in that victory, scoring 11 points in a row in the fourth as part of her game-high 26. Kia Nurse added 24 points, while reserve Tanisha Wright added 10 and rookie Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe had eight. That's to say balanced scoring helped the Liberty get the win – and put this game in the "really good" category.
15: The number of games it took the Indiana Fever to match their win total from all of 2018.
As I explained to one of The Victory Press' patrons over the weekend, a WNBA team that has surprised me so far in 2019 is the Indiana Fever. This is despite the fact that their 6-9 record has them sitting in 10th place out of 12 teams. But that sixth win, a 20-point victory over the Dallas Wings Friday night, is a sign of progress, as it matches the total number of wins by the Indiana Fever in 2018. And this year's squad has only played 15 games thus far – one of the higher marks in the league. Indiana used balanced scoring to get the win on the road; Tiffany Mitchell led everyone with 16 points off the bench, while starters Natalie Achonwa (13) and Erica Wheeler (11) also finished in double digits. The Fever also stayed with it during the entire game, winning each quarter by single digits en route to the victory. I could see Indiana making a return to the playoffs this year if the team continues this level of play, but no matter what happens, they will surely make a great comeback from 2018.
22: The number of points scored by Arike Ogunbowale in her first game close to home.
It takes about an hour and 40 minutes to get from South Bend, Indiana, the home of the University of Notre Dame, to Chicago. That was no problem for a group of Notre Dame fans, who got to see former star Arike Ogunbowale play on Sunday for the first time since she joined the Dallas Wings as the 5th-overall pick. And she did not disappoint; the reigning WNBA Rookie of the Month scored a game-high 22 points in her unofficial homecoming.
"My school does well with planning bus trips to see alumni, so I was happy to see them in the stands," Ogunbowale told High Post Hoops after the 78-66 loss to the Chicago Sky. "We have a tight bond. Irish fans are big supporters and they'll follow us, so it's definitely special for them to come out."
Fellow Dallas rookie Megan Gustafson received support of her own from a group of Iowa Hawkeyes fans, some of whom drove up to three and a half hours to see their former star play. Though she only saw the court for nearly two minutes, Gustafson, too, was thankful.
Ogunbowale grew up in Milwaukee, about an hour and a half away from Chicago. Her high school, Divine Savior Holy Angels, posted about her draft night back in April.
6.9: The magnitude of the earthquake that caused Friday night's Mystics-Aces game to be postponed in Las Vegas.
People in Southern California have been recovering over the past few days after two major earthquakes hit the area. The most recent event happened 18km west of Searles Valley, California on Friday night. It – and the consequential aftershocks – could be felt from as far away as Las Vegas, about four hours away from the center of the quake. Many events were happening in Las Vegas Friday night, including a WNBA matchup between the hometown Aces and the Washington Mystics. The game was stopped and later postponed at the halftime break after about 45 minutes. Here is the official word from the WNBA:
Washington was leading 51-36, and we don’t know when the contest will be made up (if at all), but that doesn't matter. Everyone was able to make it out safely. The WNBA season has been so eventful thus far that some had a unique reaction to the event:
Let's hope any commotion is left to the teams as we embark on another week of play. The first four games this week are early starts as teams welcome younger fans from camps and other groups into the stands. Wouldn't that be a fun field trip? Here's the full schedule, now with select broadcasts available in Canada.
Tuesday, July 9
- Los Angeles Sparks (7-6) at Dallas Wings (4-9): 1:00 PM Eastern
Wednesday, July 10
- Connecticut Sun (9-5) at Atlanta Dream (3-10): 11:00 AM Eastern [NBA TV + NBA TV Canada]
- Phoenix Mercury (6-6) at Washington Mystics (9-4): 11:30 AM Eastern [Twitter]
- Las Vegas Aces (9-5) at Indiana Fever (6-9): 12:00 PM Eastern
- Minnesota Lynx (8-6) at Chicago Sky (7-7): 9:00 PM Eastern [CBS Sports Network]
Friday, July 12
- Los Angeles Sparks at Indiana Fever: 7:00 PM Eastern [ESPN3]
- Minnesota Lynx at Atlanta Dream: 7:30 PM Eastern [ESPN3]
- Phoenix Mercury at Connecticut Sun: 8:00 PM Eastern [ESPN2]
- New York Liberty (7-8) at Chicago Sky: 8:00 PM Eastern [ESPN3]
- Dallas Wings at Seattle Storm (8-8): 10:00 PM Eastern [CBS Sports Network]
Saturday, July 13
- Las Vegas Aces at Washington Mystics: 7:00 PM Eastern [CBS Sports Network]
Sunday, July 14
- Los Angeles Sparks at Atlanta Dream: 3:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV]
- Connecticut Sun at Indiana Fever: 4:00 PM Eastern
- Chicago Sky at Dallas Wings: 4:00 PM Eastern
- Phoenix Mercury at Minnesota Lynx: 7:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV + SN1]
- New York Liberty at Seattle Storm: 7:00 PM Eastern
(Photo: @tole_cover / Twitter)