The breakaway dunks, no-look passes and long-range 3-pointers were replaced by players taking charges, hustling on defense and attempting to win at all costs during a WNBA All-Star Game unlike any other.
A new format, which pitted the U.S. national women’s basketball team against a collection of WNBA All-Stars, produced an exhibition that didn’t feel like an exhibition on Wednesday night at the Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
And in the end, the underdog Team WNBA came out on top, 93-85, thanks to red-hot perimeter shooting from Arike Ogunbowale.
In her first WNBA All-Star Game appearance, the Dallas Wings guard scored a game-high 24 points, which included five 3-pointers and walked away with the MVP award.
Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds while Atlanta Dream guard Courtney Williams had 15 points for Team WNBA.
Team USA received 17 points from Phoenix Suns center Brittney Griner while Storm forward Breanna Stewart had 15 points and Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles scored 12.
“I never saw so much defense at an All-Star Game,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. “That was awesome.”
It was the lowest scoring WNBA All-Star Game since 2003, and featured 13 ties and 10 lead changes.
Neither team led by more than eight points after three quarters with the game tied at 66.
Team WNBA led 75-73 midway in the fourth and put the game away with a 16-7 spurt during a 2 1/2-minute span. Ogunbowale drilled two 3-pointers during the run, which was capped by a long-distance dagger from Jones for an 89-80 lead with 2:34 remaining.
Storm guards Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird, who set a record with 12 WNBA All-Star appearances and 10 starts, each finished with four points for Team USA.
The U.S. women’s basketball team, which is attempting to win its seventh straight gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, dropped its first game since falling, 93-86, to the Oregon Ducks in an exhibition in November 2019.
— Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley put on a show at halftime and won the 3-Point Contest over Connecticut’s Jones.
Quigley, who won the competition in 2017 and 2018, proved why she was the favorite while tallying 28 points in the first round and the finals. Jones scored 27 points in the first round and 24 in the finals.
Loyd and New York’s Sami Whitcomb were eliminated in the first round after tallying 18 and 26 points, respectively.
— Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi did not play for Team USA due to a hip injury. Meanwhile, Team WNBA was missing Las Vegas Aces center Liz Cambage who also sat out because of a hip injury.