Los Angeles (July 3, 2018) – On the night in which the Ogwumike sisters battled in the paint, Nneka and the Los Angeles Sparks came up just short, falling to the Connecticut Sun 73-72.
The Sparks were cold to start the night, allowing the Sun to jump out to an 8-2 lead before Chelsea Gray made LA’s first field goal at the 6:04 mark. After a pair of Nneka Ogwumike free throws, back-to-back buckets from Rachel Banham and Chiney Ogwumike gave the Sun a 12-6 lead with 4:43 to play in the first quarter. Gray got the Sparks back on the board with an ankle-breaking jumper, but C. Ogwuimke responded with a cutting layup to extend the Sun’s lead to 16-8 with 2:05 to play. A Morgan Tuck 8-footer sent gave the sun an 18-8 lead going into the second quarter. Banham and C. Ogwumike posted eight points each in the first. The Sparks made just two field goals in the frame.
Essence Carson scored the first five points of the second quarter, draining a jumper and 3-pointer to pull the Sparks to within five points. The Sun answered right back, going on a 7-0 run to give them their largest lead of the night at 28-13. The Sun continued to pour it on, as a three from Alex Bentley and transition layup from C. Ogwumike gave Connecticut the 35-17 lead with 4:09 to play in the half. The Sparks responded with some resilience, as N. Ogwumike, Alana Beard, and Odyssey Sims combined for six straight points to cut the deficit to 14. The Sun would go on to take a 41-25 lead into the locker room. C. Ogwumike led all scores at the break with 12 points, and Connecticut shot at a 54.5 percent (18-33) clip. The Sparks were held to 9-30 from the floor, shooting just 30 percent in the half.
Candace Parker opened the third quarter with a three-point play, and Gray continued the momentum with a long ball to pull the score to 41-31. Carson then drained her second three of the night with 6:38 remaining, cutting the Sparks’ deficit to six points (42-36). Jonquel Jones stopped the bleeding with a put-back layup, but Gray answered with a 3-ball at the 5:25 mark to make it 44-40. After a pair of Banham free throws pushed the Sun’s lead back to seven, Riquna Williams drove strong to the rim for an and-one layup with 1:49 left in the third quarter. Williams then found a cutting Sims for the basket to pull the Sparks to within two points. An exchange of baskets sent the game into the fourth with the Sun still leading 54-51. The Sparks outscored Connecticut in the frame 26-13.
With Connecticut leading 60-53 in the fourth quarter, N. Ogwumike converted a tough put-back three-point play to pull the Sparks to within four with 7:35 to play. The Sun quickly responded, as baskets from Jones and Bentley restored their eight-point advantage. With the Sparks down five, Parker found a cutting Beard to cut the score to 64-61. Parker cut the deficit to one at the free throw line, and N. Ogwumike gave the Sparks their first lead of the night with a layup with 4:48 to play. Jasmine Thomas made a clutch three-pointer with 40.5 seconds remaining to give the lead back to Connecticut, but the next possession saw N. Ogwumike power to the rim for the and-one to give the Sparks a one-point advantage with 27.9 seconds on the clock. The Sun would not go away, taking the lead right back with a C. Ogwumike bucket with 18.5 left (73-72). After a Sun turnover with 3.2 to play, N. Ogwumike just missed a game-winning three-pointer, solidifying the final score 73-72.
C. Ogwumike led all scores with 21 points and added seven rebounds, while N. Ogwumike posted 20 points of her own. The Sun finished the night shooting 29-59 from the field, while the Sparks were 27-64.