LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas Aces entered the fourth quarter trailing by 11 against the Connecticut Sun on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. After combining for 52 points in Thursday’s win over Chicago, Kayla McBride (27 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) and A’ja Wilson (34 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks) led the way once again for the Aces.
The Aces pulled within a game and a half of the eight spot in the standings and have won seven of their last 12 overall. More on Saturday’s game:
Park comes up big
Rookie center JiSu Park (6 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks) played 19 quality minutes off the bench. Once again, Vegas got key contributions from one of its bigs in support of Wilson up front. Bill Laimbeer was eager to acknowledge Park’s effort after the game.
“I think the player who won the game for us was JiSu Park,” Laimbeer said. “I thought her defense down the stretch was outstanding. She got big rebounds. And while A’ja Wilson gets credit for the big three point play, she never would have gotten the ball if JiSu didn’t attack the rebound.
“I thought that was JiSu’s best game, her most confident game to date. And hopefully we can get some more production from her like that.”
Wilson’s three-point play with 1:12 to play put the Aces up five and sent the crowd into a frenzy, including superfan Shea Serrano.
“I can’t even put an expression on that. It was the best feeling,” Wilson said postgame of that play. “And it comes from JiSu. If she wouldn’t have tapped that rebound and gone after it, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the basketball. It was really exciting just to kind of say, ‘We’re here, we’re in Las Vegas, and we’re making a statement.’”
Tuck firing on all cylinders
Morgan Tuck (20 points, 4-7 3PT, 5 rebounds) shot the ball well from distance and made some plays around the basket in 26 minutes off the bench for Connecticut. In response to Wilson’s three-point play, the ball found Tuck in the left corner. She pump faked, watched a defender fly by, took a dribble and side-stepped to her left, and drilled a three-pointer to pull the Sun within two.
The Sun came up with a stop on the next Vegas possession. Out of the timeout, Curt Miller drew up a beauty to get Tuck an open catch-and-shoot three from the right side. That one didn’t fall, though, and Moriah Jefferson came away with the loose ball and nailed two free throws to seal it.
Jefferson progressing quickly
“[Tonight] was Moriah Jefferson’s best game,” Laimbeer said postgame. “She gave us so much energy in the fourth quarter, she kind of disrupted the rhythm out there, and it was infectious to the rest of our team to pick up our intensity defensively.”
Jefferson made her 2018 debut July 1 in Los Angeles coming off of knee surgery. (Laimbeer noted that she is currently on a minutes restriction.) McBride and Kelsey Plum played the entire second half. So after getting a glimpse at all three guards playing together Thursday night, Laimbeer went to it more against Connecticut, citing it as a good matchup for that combination to be effective.
“That’s the first game she’s gone all out without thinking about her prior injury, and you can see flashes of what she’s capable of doing,” Laimbeer said of Jefferson. “I’m excited about moving forward with her and looking to see what else we can do with her.”
McBride enjoys having Jefferson back on the floor to push the pace and create some easy looks for others early in the clock.
“I think it’s just her willingness to demand the ball on outlet passes, and she’s not afraid to push the ball up with the pass,” McBride said of Jefferson. “I think with her she’s always about getting the ball out and up, whether it’s into the post or to the other guards. And that really helps us get the ball inside or be able to attack in transition.
“When she comes in the game along with Plum, when you have two guards like that who can push the ball and can score for themselves, it makes it a lot easier for us.”
Jefferson, McBride, and Plum’s combined line: 17-32 FG, 19 assists, zero turnovers.
Both Connecticut and Las Vegas close the season with home-heavy schedules — eight of 12 for the Aces, 11 of 15 for the Sun — as much a relief as possible in a condensed schedule that has been tough on all 12 WNBA teams.
Connecticut will be eager to get Alyssa Thomas (shoulder) and Courtney Williams (personal reasons) back. Vegas, meanwhile, has its two stars humming and an entire team excited about competing for a playoff spot.