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5 things we learned from the Wings-Sun preseason matchup

After a disappointing WNBA debut, Arike Ogunbowale’s 19-point performance Tuesday night led Dallas to its first win of the preseason. Here’s what else we took away from this game.

Arike Ogunbowale recorded 19 points for the Dallas Wings in her second professional game. Dallas tipped off against the Connecticut Sun on the road, on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Considering Monday night’s decisive win for the Connecticut Sun and forgettable loss for the Dallas Wings, last night’s game could have followed that trend. The Sun could have notched a second-straight big win, this time over a seemingly hapless Wings team poised to repeat their 2018 woes.

Instead, the Wings fought back from a 21-14 first-quarter deficit to eke out the 71-67 win on Connecticut’s home floor. Dallas led for much of the way, with the four lead changes and five ties mainly taking place near the beginning and the end of the game.

With two quick preseason games under each of these teams’ belts, here are five takeaways from Tuesday night’s contest:

Both teams seem set in their starting fives

While some teams have experimented with their starting lineups this preseason, neither the Wings nor the Sun has. With just one preseason game left for each team, it’s a good thing the coaches feel set in what they’re doing.

Down two key starters from last season, the Wings are going young in their replacements, with Kaela Davis (who started six games in 2018) at forward and rookie Arike Ogunbowale given the daunting task of replacing Skylar Diggins-Smith at point guard. Meanwhile, Glory Johnson (who started 17 games last season) seems poised to be the starting center, while Allisha Gray and Kayla Thornton will resume their 2018 starting roles.

The Sun, meanwhile, are playing an almost identical starting five to last season. The only difference? With 31-game starter Chiney Ogwumike now in Los Angeles, 16-game starter (and 2018 Sixth Woman of the Year) Jonquel Jones looks to be going back to her 2017 role as a regular member of Connecticut’s starting five.

Connecticut’s bench could be dangerous

Although it was an off night for the Sun’s starters, only amassing 21 points, the Sun’s bench kept the team in the game. Bria Holmes’ 14 points and Brionna Jones’ 10 points led all Connecticut scorers (Jonquel Jones also had 10 points) in comparable playing time to the starters.

With all 15 Sun players getting off the bench last night, it’s no wonder things were a little more spread out — points- and minutes-wise — than they might be once the season begins. But it’s clear the Sun has talent that’s ready to step up when needed. In addition to Holmes’ and Jones’ contributions off the bench, Morgan Tuck scored eight points and Bridget Carleton added seven.

Wings rookies are flying high

All things considered, Arike Ogunbowale’s four-point showing to open her WNBA career could have been a lot worse. But Ogunbowale clearly wasn’t going to risk a repeat of that performance last night, scoring a game-high 19 points in addition to grabbing three rebounds and dishing two assists.

Ogunbowale took a game-high 14 shots, three of which were made three-pointers. She also went 4-for-4 from the charity stripe, maintaining her career free-throw percentage at 100 percent.

Besides Ogunbowale, fellow rookie guard Kennedy Burke maintained her double-digit scoring average with 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting. Burke, likewise a (two-game) career 100 percent free throw shooter, also grabbed her first five WNBA rebounds. If her production continues, Dallas could end up with a solid substitution option for Allisha Gray.

Jonquel Jones is a one-woman show

Not that we didn’t know this already. Jones’ 2017 season was her best by far, and she showed shades of that double-double average last night in her 10-point, 14-rebound performance. Now back as a starter for Connecticut, the sky is seemingly the limit for this dominant center.

Even in limited minutes last season, Jones still managed to average 11.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. She also improved her field goal percentage to 55 percent. However, that aspect of Jones’ game has yet to shine in the Sun’s two 2019 preseason games — eight of her 10 points last night came on 4-of-14 shooting.

Wings can bounce back on demand

After losing 11 of their final 12 games last season, it has to be nice for new head coach Brian Agler to see promise in a Wings team that can lose badly one night and come back and win a close game the next.

Indeed, the Wings’ 23-point loss to the Dream on Monday was nothing short of demoralizing. And with the Liberty nearly taking down Atlanta in last night’s first game in Connecticut after being demolished by the Sun Monday night, Dallas could have gone in scared. And maybe some part of them did, resulting in that 21-14 first-quarter deficit.

But the Wings fought back, immediately putting up a big quarter that ended up being the difference-maker. Agler certainly wants more consistently dominant outings in the future, though that’s what whittling down the roster is for. But Dallas being able to hang on to a lead for most of the game — especially when they briefly gave it up near the end — had to inspire some confidence in this team moving forward.