Before tip-off Saturday night, Dallas Wings head coach Latricia Trammell listed her keys to a much-needed win over the Connecticut Sun when speaking to the media. To snap the team’s three-game skid, Dallas needed to set the tone early regarding physicality, limit turnovers, and initiate their inside-out strategy right from the start.
Despite a late run from the Sun, the Wings executed their game plan to near perfection, giving way to their first win over Connecticut this season, 91-81. Dallas is the only team in the WNBA to claim victories over the Sun, defending champion Las Vegas Aces, and New York Liberty.
Lacking a spirited approach in the first quarter of their last three games heading into last night’s matchup, Trammell couldn’t have asked for a better start.
Dallas went to star center Teaira McCowan as early as the second possession. Noticing an apparent mismatch with 5’8” Sun guard Natisha Hiedeman attempting to deny her the ball, McCowan called for it immediately. After corralling the pass, McCowan had the ball in the air as soon as Sun forward DeWanna Bonner rotated from the weak side.
The inside-out game was working as planned as McCowan scored six points in the opening frame while collecting four assists. After several questionable calls, McCowan fouled out halfway through the third quarter. She finished with eight points, seven rebounds, and a season-high six assists. Each starter recorded at least three assists overall.
McCowan and I have spoken ad nauseam this season detailing her court vision with her back to the basket and how she enjoys finding cutters and open shooters, especially when facing a double team. The script was flipped ever so slightly against Connecticut as she was dishing from everywhere. Her ability to organize the offense away from the basket at 6’7” paired with the advantages it provides is not to be overlooked.
Here’s her first assist. Out above the free-throw line with Hayes and Hiedeman taking Ogunbowale and Dangerfield out of play, McCowan sees a wide-open Satou Sabally. Knowing by the time the pass gets to her that she won’t be, Sabally immediately cuts to the rim for an easy reverse layup.
With the ball in her hands, McCowan has an uncanny knack for getting it where it needs to be without hesitation. It all starts with Natasha Howard seeing her in single coverage and proceeds to take advantage.
As soon as the ball reaches her hands, McCowan garners the attention of every Sun player in her vicinity, including Hiederman who was guarding Dangerfield on this possession. Knowing the double is coming, McCowan delivers a jump pass to an open Dangerfield who connects on the three. She finished with 16 points, four assists, and two steals.
McCowan’s sixth and final assist of the night may have been her most impressive from a pure IQ standpoint. Instead of threading a pass that could be turned over, she waited for the right opening which was created by Dangerfield with the pin down. McCowan whips it across her body to Sabally on the other side of the court for the three-pointer, one of her three makes of the night. The pass was just high enough for the 6’4” Sabally to gather herself without the chance of a deflection.
The Sabally Sensation
In the first half of the season, Sabally averaged 3.5 assists. Since the All-Star break, she’s averaging five per game. During pregame, I asked her what she sees differently as an initiator in the second half of the season compared to the first half.
“I think we’re moving really well and that opens up free cuts for easy passes and dump-offs,” she said. “Our posts are phenomenal, so it’s only smart to pass it inside and give them the ball, and they do the rest. I’m just grateful for a great team. If we move around, then other numbers increase.”
It’s almost as if Sabally spoke it into existence. For her second assist of the night, Arike Ogunbowale initiated the give-and-go with Sabally as she found her teammate cutting to the rim. After going 3-for-10 in the first half for nine points, Ogunbowale responded rather loudly in the second half, leading all scorers with 14 points on 50 percent shooting from the field.
Facing one of several double teams sent at her in the second half, Sabally passed out of it to an open Howard who hit the spin cycle on Sun forward Dijonai Carrington as she made her way to the rim.
The Wings had 22 assists on 30 made field goals, largely in part due to the performance of the frontcourt. McCowan (6), Sabally (5), and Howard (5) accounted for 16 of them. A bulk of the assists were collected between the three of them.
Satou Sabally, folks.— Across Candace Parker's Timeline (@WBBTimeline) August 13, 2023
She's the 1st player in WNBA history to finish a game with:
Sabally led all scorers with 28 points, tying her career-high. Not to mention eight rebounds and two blocks. In her 11th game scoring 20 or more points this season, she made nine baskets from the charity stripe to shoot a perfect 100% on her free throws for the 16th time this season. Sabally additionally led the team, with five steals, tying her career high. This is your Most Improved Player for the 2023 season.