The Dallas Wings (11-15) fell to the reigning WNBA champion Chicago Sky (21-7) 89-83 on Friday, but they didn’t go down without a fight, turning what at one point looked to be a blowout in Chicago’s favor into a chippy, physical and tightly-contested game that wasn’t truly decided until its final minute.
The Wings, who were already without forward/center Satou Sabally (ankle injury), suffered another setback early in the second quarter when Awak Kuier appeared to injure her right foot on a drive to the basket. Kuier had to be helped off the court and did not return to the game, further limiting the Wings frontcourt and prompting Dallas head coach Vickie Johnson to re-insert starting center Teaira McCowan, perhaps earlier than she otherwise would have.
As the game developed, it was McCowan who embodied the Wings’ comeback spirit. Dallas outscored Chicago in the paint 58-46, 15 of those points coming from McCowan, who used every bit of her burly 6-foot-7 frame to shield off defenders and catch and finish plays set up by the Wings’ guards. Chicago’s frontcourt defense, usually active in its denial of post-ups, rarely had an answer for her, and her presence was key in erasing a 14-point Dallas deficit; McCowan finished the second half with a box plus/minus of +10, second on the team to Marina Mabrey’s +11.
Though McCowan herself was ultimately limited to 20 minutes of court time — in part due to a brief altercation with Sky forward Candace Parker midway through the fourth quarter that cued Johnson to remove her from the game — her performance continued a positive trend of individual statistical performance that has come with more playing time. In the month of July, McCowan has averaged 12.3 points (up from 8.3 in June) and 7.3 rebounds per game, shooting 60.4 percent from the field in 23.5 minutes of play.
On Friday, McCowan clearly showed what those numbers only suggest: Her paint prowess and overall physicality adds a valuable dimension to the Wings, one that can be leveraged in Dallas’ favor against teams that don’t have the size to match up with her. That dimension will be especially important moving forward, with Kuier doubtful and Sabally still out for the team’s next game against the Indiana Fever (5-24).