Aces win at Minnesota in first road test

WNBA/Las Vegas Aces
The Aces moved to 4-1 on the season with an 80-66 victory over Napheesa Collier and the Minnesota Lynx.

LAS VEGAS—The Aces took to the road for the first time this season, and they came out victorious in the opening game of their trip Wednesday night. 

They defeated the Minnesota Lynx 80-66, in large part due to dueling double-doubles once again from A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young. Wilson finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds to complement Young’s 19 points and 10 assists. If that wasn’t enough, Wilson also tallied four blocks in the outing. 

In addition, Wilson became the first player in WNBA history to record five straight 20 point-10 rebound game, according to Across The Timeline’s WNBA database.

It was yet another performance that solidified Wilson’s place at the top of the mountain, at a time when the WNBA has as much parity as it ever has.

“This target has been on our backs, my back since I stepped foot in the league,” Wilson said. “When it comes to being competitive, when it comes to wanting to be the best, yeah, that target gets bigger, but that’s when you shine the brightest.”

The win put the Aces back in the drivers seat in the western conference, a position they trailed the Lynx for entering the night. Nepheesa Collier predictably paced the Lynx with 18 points and 13 rebounds against the vaunted Aces’ core despite the tough loss.

It was another all-pro worthy performance for the veteran to start what has been a successful early run for Minnesota, despite the loss.

“It’s been crazy watching (Napheesa’s) game really kind of grow all the way back to college.  It’s been pretty cool just to see it grow and mature in the league. It’s always fun competing against her because she’s very unique. She has a unique style to her game. But yeah, it’s always a great dogfight.”

Cecelia Zandalasini was the surprise of the game, notching 12 points off the bench for the Lynx which led all reserves in the game. Zandalasini had only scored in two previous outings this season leading into Wednesday’s contest, with her previous high of six points being set in Saturday’s victory over the Liberty.

The Aces only brought nine healthy players with them on this road trip after cutting Dyaisha Fair on Sunday. All nine managed to get into the game, including recent free agent acquisition Emma Cannon.

“I think I have this reputation for not wanting to play bench players or young players,” Becky Hammon said. “And I’ll play you, but you got to give me a reason to play you.  I’m giving you three or four minutes, they got to be good, positive minutes. At the end of the day, I came off the bench many years at the beginning of my career, and guess what? My leash for mistakes was not as long as some of the other players. So you have to be locked in.”

Rookie Kate Martin continued to carve her role as the Aces’ sixth player, at least while Alysha Clark is inserted into the starting line up in Chelsea Gray’s absence.

Clark has taken Martin under her wing since the start of camp and Martin has been a quick learner, as evidenced by her 20-plus minute outings in three of the Aces five games this season. 

The Aces continue their road trip on Friday night in Atlanta. The defending back-to-back WNBA champions will meet Rhyne Howard and the Atlanta Dream in a nationally televised matchup on ION.