Geno Auriemma: College hoops needs to get used to more upsets
Auriemma spoke to the recent string of top upsets.
CHICAGO — From Candace Parker’s banked 4-pointer to, of course, Sylvia Fowles’ dunk, there were plenty of dazzling plays in the 2022 All-Star Game on Sunday.
Here are five things that stuck out from Team Wilson’s 134-112 victory over Team Stewart and the All-Star Weekend festivities as a whole.
After Allie Quigley won her fourth 3-point shooting contest on Saturday — becoming the first WNBA or NBA player to do so — Parker said the competition should be renamed the “Allie Quigley Invitational.” She was right.
All-Star weekend results should generally be taken with a grain of salt. The competitions are supposed to be fun, and players usually take it easy on defense so as not to risk injuries (although A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum did not adhere to that when doubling Aces teammate Jackie Young on Sunday), but the 3-point contest is different.
Fatigue plays a factor when going through five racks of five balls, plus two DEW ZONE balls, in just 70 seconds. Plus, the winner has to complete the feat twice. Even the best of shooters have off days, and the chances of that happening in a 3-point contest when the circumstances are unfamiliar is pretty high.
When faced with all of those factors, Quigley’s continued dominance shows just how elite her shooting skills are.
After saying she wouldn’t compete again after last season’s contest, Quigley insists she’s done for good this time. Winning one more in Chicago — where she plays for the Sky, and 35 miles from her suburban hometown of Joliet, Ill. — was the perfect way to cap her 3-point contest career.
“I’m 100 percent, 120 percent done,” she said with a smile. “This is it.”
The idea to pair Nike Nationals EYBL players with WNBA participants during Saturday’s All-Star events was genius. Not only does that level of exposure help promote the game to young athletes, but it also gives fans a glimpse of the future.
Sabrina Ionescu and NC State verbal commit Zoe Brooks put on a great show in the skills challenge, but they did so in McCormick Place, a convention center in downtown Chicago, as opposed to the Sky’s 10,387-seat home arena. So, why weren’t the contests open to the public?
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said Wintrust Arena was already booked when the league chose Chicago as the host city, and that security concerns were also a factor. Chance the Rapper’s free concert on Saturday was similarly closed to fans after the recent wave of mass shootings, including in Highland Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.
“Even having an outdoor festival at this very crazy time, as you see shootings and people driving into restaurants with outdoor diners and things like that,” Engelbert said.
The commissioner added that she thought Saturday’s events were a “great show,” and she understands the frustration expressed by fans.
“Last year, we didn’t have it. The year before, we didn’t even have an All-Star Game, so we’re kind of just trying to build what All-Star Weekend will look like,” she said.
However the league plans to build the event next season, it has to be accessible to fans. The product was great, and more people should have seen it.
Kelsey Plum deservedly won MVP, but Fowles easily had the play of the game. With 4:12 left in the second quarter, the 14-year veteran stole the ball from Jackie Young and ran it all the way down to the other end, where she threw down a one-handed dunk. She also dunked in her first All-Star Game in 2009, so doing it at 36 years old in her last was pure poetry.
When she got the steal, Fowles said the crowd’s energy gave her enough of a boost to complete the play.
“I think I just heard the momentum of the crowd,” she said. “I probably heard a couple of benches and seen a couple of faces on the other team and I was like, just go for it. It was just in the moment. I didn’t really think about it.”
Fowles, who is set to retire at the end of the season after a storied 15-year career, also scored the contest’s first points on a designed play for a 3-pointer. In her career, Fowles has only attempted one other shot from long range, which she also made.
“They had been hyping me the whole time because it was the first shot of the game,” Fowles said. “But I mean, getting out of your comfort zone a little bit, having fun, I think that’s what’s most important about this weekend.”
In her first All-Star Game, Las Vegas Aces guard Plum took home the MVP trophy after scoring 30 points, which tied Maya Moore’s 2015 record.
For fellow guard Sue Bird, Plum’s performance was unsurprising. She was on a plane when captains A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart drafted their teams for the All-Star Game, but said she thought Plum should have been the first pick.
“You just knew Plum was going to come in this game and be super hungry,” Bird said. “That’s just who she is. I think she’s in a great place physically, mentally and things are starting to click for her.
“I got to see this firsthand at the University of Washington. When she has her confidence, it’s really tough to stop her and that’s what you’re seeing right now — just a really confident player.”
It’s been 140 long days since Brittney Griner was detained in Russia, and the WNBA continues to push for her return home as she stands trial on drug charges.
Skylar Diggins-Smith dedicated her pregame outfit to Griner, wearing a sweatshirt with her friend and teammate’s face printed on the front. Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, was courtside, and the players all wore Griner’s name on their jerseys.
Griner, who was named an honorary All-Star, remained on everyone’s mind all weekend.
“We are all in this fight together to bring her home,” Stewart said. “And I think that when you have, like Sue (Bird) said earlier, those strength in numbers, it makes a bigger splash and we get attention and we are getting people’s attention and we need to continue to ask President Biden and the White House to bring her home.”
Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.
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