LAS VEGAS (AP) – Arike Ogunbowale scored 26 points to win MVP as the WNBA All-Star team beat the U.S. Olympic team 93-85 on Wednesday night in the league’s All-Star Game.
It wasn’t a typical All-Star Game, with the two teams playing hard on both ends of the court for the entire game. Usually there isn’t much defense played until late in the fourth quarter.
The WNBA team led 75-73 midway through the fourth quarter before Ogunbowale had a four-point play to extend the advantage to six. The Olympic squad closed within 83-78 before Ogunbowale, who earned MVP honors for the game, hit another 3-pointer and posed to the crowd, which included many current and former WNBA players and team owners.
The Olympic team cut its deficit to 91-85 and had a chance to get closer, but Courtney Williams blocked A’ja Wilson’s shot with 1:15 left and they could get no closer.
The Olympic team is a heavy favorite to win a seventh straight gold medal at the Tokyo Games. No team they will face has nearly as much talent as the WNBA All-Star team they faced. Still, like the U.S. men’s Olympic team, which lost consecutive exhibition games to Nigeria and Australia, an American loss is rare.
The U.S. squad has won 49 consecutive Olympic contests dating to 1992.
Brittney Griner scored 17 points and Breanna Stewart had 15 to lead the Olympic team, which had been 3-0 in previous games against WNBA select squads.
Both teams were missing a player. Diana Taurasi suffered a hip injury in practice a few weeks ago and missed the final three games before the Olympic break for the Mercury. She was warming up before the game, but didn’t play.
Liz Cambage also was in uniform but didn’t play. She is on Australia’s Olympic team and the Opals played Nigeria in an exhibition contest on Tuesday. They play the U.S. on Friday.
The U.S. Olympic team jumped out to an 11-4 lead and Team WNBA coaches Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson called a quick timeout – another rarity in an All-Star Game. After that early burst, neither team could build a lead of more than a few points in the first half. The WNBA All-Stars led 44-43 at the half.
Early in the second half, Candace Parker, who was left off the 2016 Olympic team after winning two gold medals with the U.S., stole the ball from Brittney Griner and scored an easy layup that gave the WNBA All-Stars a 53-48 lead – their biggest of the game.
The game was tied at 66 after three quarters.