A’ja Wilson totals 29 points, 15 rebounds to lead Aces to win over Caitlin Clark, Fever

LAS VEGAS — Rookie Caitlin Clark might be the WNBA’s future, but A’ja Wilson showed Saturday night why she is arguably the league’s best current player with 29 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Las Vegas Aces to a 99-80 win over the Indiana Fever.

Clark scored eight points on 2-of-8 shooting (2 of 5 from the 3-point line) and had seven assists and five rebounds to go with six turnovers. It was the fewest points for Clark, who entered the game averaging 16.7 points. She was not made available to the media.

Kelsey Mitchell led Indiana (1-6) with 16 points, Temi Fagbenle had 13 and Aliyah Boston and Lexie Hull each finished with 12.

Wilson, a two-time league MVP, made 12 of 18 shots and had her fourth consecutive 20-point, 10-rebound game to tie a WNBA record shared with three others.

“Last year, I was kind of going with the flow,” Wilson said. “This year, I feel like I’m trying to pick the defence apart and get to my spots. I sometimes settled a lot last year, which gave the defence time to get a stop. So this year I feel like I’m starting to dissect the game a little bit more.”

Also for the Aces (3-1), Jackie Young scored 22 points and Kelsey Plum 20. Rookie Kate Martin, Clark’s close friend and former Iowa teammate, scored a personal-high 12 points, making two 3-pointers, a three-point play and three free throws on one foul.

Clark and Martin skipped toward each and hugged pre-game.

“We’re both living out our dreams right now,” Martin said. “We both always wanted to get to this point, and we’re doing that right now. So we’re really grateful we’re in this position and we have this opportunity, so it’s pretty cool to experience that with your best friend.”

Another former Hawkeye, Megan Gustafson, plays for Las Vegas.

Those players’ former coach, Lisa Bluder, sat courtside. Bluder, who retired May 14 after 24 years overseeing the Hawkeyes, was joined by her replacement, Jan Jansen.

“It’s pretty cool they all get to be on the court at the time tonight,” Bluder said before the game. “Whenever you see somebody reach their dream, it’s so satisfying to think you might have some small part to do with it. It’s the best feeling in the world. It’s why we do this.”

Clark was one of five No. 1 draft picks in this game along with teammate Boston and Las Vegas’ Wilson, Plum and Young. Also, the top four scorers in NCAA history — Clark, Plum, Las Vegas’ Dyaisha Fair and Mitchell — played in this game.

The game was played before an announced sellout crowd of 10,399, but short of the Aces’ record at Michelob Ultra Arena. Las Vegas drew 10,419 for this season’s opener against the Phoenix Mercury when the Aces raised their second championship banner in a row. Sixteen of the Aces’ 20 home games have sold out this season, a league record.

The WNBA didn’t do Clark and the Fever any favours with the early schedule. This was Indiana’s seventh game in 12 days and third in four. It also was the Fever’s fifth road game as well as their fifth game overall against a team that competed in either of the past two WNBA Finals.

“Thank the Lord,” Boston said of this tough stretch ending.

“It’s hard being on the road like this and playing the teams that we have,” she added. “But in the end of it, in the middle of it even, we’re going to be prepared for what’s to come because we’ve had these tough games to start this season.”

Las Vegas, by contrast, was playing its fourth game of the season — all at home.

The Aces looked comfortable in their familiar surroundings, bouncing back from Tuesday night’s 98-88 loss to the Mercury for their most complete performance of the young season. They outscored the Fever 22-10 in the second quarter to take an eight-point lead at halftime, and took full control by ending the third quarter on an 11-3 run for a 72-56 lead.

“We actually played (defence),” Wilson said. “I feel like in the past games, we didn’t want it. It was just like we thought we could out-score (the opponents), and this league is too good to do that. So I think tonight we actually wanted to play defence, and I think that loss against Phoenix kind of woke us up, so it didn’t matter who we played this weekend.”

UP NEXT

Fever: Host the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday night.

Aces: Open a three-game road trip against the Minnesota Lynx on Wednesday.

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