With the first four days of training camp in the books, the Dallas Wings played host in their first preseason game that ended in victory over the Chicago Sky, 75-70.
“I’m going to sleep better tonight, but I know we have a long way to go,” Wings’ first-year head coach Latricia Trammell said on her first win in the WNBA. “This is just one step to see how the players work together and what happens under the big lights. I appreciate [Dallas Wings President & CEO] Greg Bibb coming in and giving me the game ball, and you know the players and [I] having a special moment. Hopefully, there is more to come, but we got a lot to work on before May 20.”
Entering the fourth quarter facing a four-point deficit, 60-56, Dallas outscored Chicago 19-to-10 in the final frame powered on an 11-2 run. With less than a minute remaining in regulation, Wings’ guard Crystal Dangerfield went into overdrive, connecting on a clutch three-pointer and two free throws to boot, putting the Sky away for good.
Teaira McCowan is primed for liftoff
Wings’ star center Teaira McCowan let the world know what she was capable of after the All-Star break last season, leading starting centers in points per game (16.2) while placing second in rebounds per game. (10) and field goal percentage. She picked up right where she left off, leading all scorers with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, and totaled three blocks and two assists. Both of McCowan’s assists came as a result of passing out of double teams and locating cutting teammates. Although the box score only shows two assists, her passing led to numerous visits to the free throw line for her teammates. Of her game-leading eight rebounds, five of them were corralled on the offensive glass.
“It felt good to be back with my team, we have some new pieces, so we’re still working the kinks out,” McCowan said. “But it felt good just to be there, be in that moment and also just do what I’ve been doing the whole season overseas and just bringing it back for my teammates.”
In 23 games for Galatasaray, her overseas team in Poland, McCowan averaged nearly 19 points (18.6), and 11.6 rebounds.
Out of 14 players that saw the court last night, half of them finished with at least four attempts at the free throw line. The overarching explanation is the pick and roll. No matter if it was Kalani Brown, Teaira McCowan, or Natasha Howard, the Sky couldn’t defend the action. Elizabeth Williams and Isabelle Harrison had five fouls a piece with Kahleah Copper tallying four of them herself.
From the first whistle until the very last, the Wings were the loudest team on the court on both sides, but the defensive side is what piqued my interest. For a team that’s had such limited practice time before their first exhibition, Dallas moved as one more times than not, especially when guarding Copper. The active hands of Diamond DeShields and Arike Ogunbowale took a lion’s share of the responsibility of guarding Copper and thrived in doing so. Satou Sabally’s help side defense played an integral role in defending the second step that Copper has made famous time and time again.
Decision-making down the stretch
Despite the late game heroics of Dangerfield helping generate the 19-10 run, it was clear that the team still has kinks in their armor – as expected – when facing adversity. When the Sky locked in on defense with several minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Wings’ goodwill built over the first three quarters was all but wasted as ill-advised jump shots were taken instead of driving to the rim.
“When we had a timeout [I said] we weren’t even looking to pass we would just come down and let it fly,” Trammell said of her team’s decision making. “Coaches always joke about this, that if it goes in, we’re clapping and going that’s exactly how I drew it up. We took too many quick shots, so that’s a little area that I will show them on film and that’s an area that we will enhance prior to Indiana.”
Natasha Howard’s fit
When the trade for three-time WNBA champion Natasha Howard was announced, my first thought was how it will impact McCowan’s development positively as well as aid the Wings. McCowan is a traditional post player with a budding mid-range jump shot. In order to get the most out of her potential, the deal was a no-brainer. Like McCowan, Howard is lethal around the basket but possesses the ability to step outside for a timely three-pointer. Defensively, McCowan can occupy the paint, while Howard checks one of the opponent’s best wings. That’s exactly what we saw last night. The synergy was thriving as McCowan has shared this week after training camp.
“I like that she looks for the bigs inside so playing with her is going to be great this year.”
The Wings wrap up their preseason play in Indiana taking on the Fever next Saturday at 12 p.m. CST.