Rookie guard Arike Ogunbowale led the Dallas Wings to a massive 87-64 win over the New York Liberty on Thursday at College Park Center.
The 23-point margin marked the biggest win for Dallas this season. Ogunbowale’s 22 points and five assists against the Liberty add to her stellar performances this season, which have seen her lead the conversation for this season’s WNBA Rookie of the Year.
Wings head coach Brian Agler said Ogunbowale has impressed him by coming into the team with huge weight on her shoulders and every team targeting their defense toward her, yet she still shines through.
“If you watch how she’s progressed throughout this season, all those things that went against her and how she’s taken it upon herself to be the go-to player for us,” Agler said. “There’s not many people in this league that’s having a better season, especially a [rookie].”
Tonight’s game marked the University of Notre Dame alumna’s 15th 10-point game and sixth 20-point game of the season, the most of any rookie. Ogunbowale got things started by scoring six points to start the game, including a deep 3-pointer and breakaway layup.
The early half of the first period saw a hot shooting streak as both teams tallied above 70% from the field, which evened out to 57.1% for Dallas and 62.5% for New York by the end of the period.
Forward Kayla Thornton added five points during the second quarter while providing a big block to seemingly tilt the game in Dallas’ favor. The Wings surged during the latter part of the quarter, expanding their lead by 18 points as the half ended 55-37.
Ogunbowale reached the 10-point threshold before halftime and her form continued into the second half, sinking her second 3-pointer of the night to start the quarter and later completing a three-point play after a stolen breakaway.
By the end of the third period, Dallas’ lead grew to 30 points, leading 78-48. Ogunbowale reached the 20-point threshold with her third 3-pointer of the night late in the fourth quarter.
Rookie forward Megan Gustafson saw 27 minutes on the night and helped with 11 points. She said the win could be a turning point for the Wings to end the latter half of the season on a positive note.
“We just really need to string a couple of wins together, and we’ll really get on a roll,” she said. “I think that’s the hardest thing right now, getting that consistency.”
Forwards Thornton, Gustafson, and Isabelle Harrison, and guard Allisha Gray all reached double digits in points. But Agler admitted the team shot much more balanced tonight as compared to the rest of the year, relying heavily on Ogunbowale’s output.
Ogunbowale, unfazed by the rookie of the year talk, has grown in confidence under her new role for the Wings.
“I have half the season under my belt, so I think I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable, especially with my team helping me,” she said. “Coaches talk to me, teammates talk to me. It gives me a lot of confidence as a point guard position.”