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 Seattle Storm

"Big Shot Nneka" Leads Storm Past Sparks, 95-79

June 12, 2024 - Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA)
Seattle Storm News Release


SEATTLE - Big Shot Nneka? Or Buzzer Beater Nneka?

On Tuesday night, it was a bit of both for the Seattle Storm.

Facing her former team for the first time since coming to the Northwest in February, Ogwumike poured in 26 points on 11 of 15 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds, and Jewell Loyd added 21 as Seattle broke open a back-and-forth contest during the fourth quarter and pulled away to beat the Los Angeles Sparks inside Climate Pledge Arena, 95-79.

Ogwumike tallied 14 of her points during the second half after being limited to just 10 minutes of action in the first half after picking up three fouls. And of those 14, five couldn't have come at a better time - and just in time - for the Storm (8-4), as she beat the buzzer not once, but twice.

With the third quarter winding down, Jordan Horston came up with a steal in backcourt and took it down the right side. Ogwumike was downcourt even faster, took the feed from Horston and laid it in just before 00.0 on the clock for a 66-61 lead heading into the fourth.

Then with the Sparks (4-8) still very much in it, down just 76-70 inside three minutes to go, Skylar Diggins-Smith found Ogwumike in the farthest reach of the right corner with the shot clock about to expire. Ogwumike launched it, and the ball started on its downward arc as the horn sounded, swishing through to make it 79-70 with 2:40 to go.

"She always comes up with big plays, big shots, big blocks - it's just her presence," Loyd said; "I know she's capable of doing it. Her shots are so efficient. She makes it look easy, but it's all the preparation that goes into it. She puts a lot of work into her game.

"She's Big Shot Nneka," Loyd said, drawing a laugh from Ogwumike, who said, "That's not what they call me. First time I've heard that one."

"Big Shot Nneka - put it down," Loyd added.

For the past dozen years when she wore Los Angeles colors, Ogwumike put on this kind of performance dozens of times against Seattle.

On Tuesday night, in her first year wearing a Storm uniform, she put on that kind of performance against the Sparks.

"This game was impactful because of the last game (Sunday's 83-64 loss at Minnesota). It just so happened to be L.A.," Ogwumike said. "I'm just someone who shows up and plays the game. I respect the game. That's just kind of how I am. I want to play like that every night, and my teammates give me that confidence."

Added head coach Noelle Quinn, "It's great to have it on our side because you know she presents a mismatch in that she's very athletic, and you put a bigger forward on her, and she can blow by them. She has gotten better every single year. Now, her 3-ball is effective. Just game-planning and scouting her, it was pick-your-poison with her because she has always been consistent.

"Now, to have that consistency on our side, it just helps a ton."

The win lifted Seattle's record in the Commissioner's Cup standings to 3-1 with one qualifying game left. That will be Thursday at Dallas.

NEVER OUT OF REACH

As tight as Tuesday's game was - and the lead never grew to double-digits until just 2:04 remained - the Storm were ahead from start to finish after jumping in front, 6-0. Twice during the first half, Los Angeles got within one, the last time at 40-39. An 8-1 Seattle surge helped produce a 48-42 lead at the break.

The Storm built a 57-48 lead midway through the third. The Sparks answered with eight straight points, cutting it to 57-56. Seattle was up 64-61 with the final second ticking away and L.A. playing for the last shot and a chance to get within a point or even tie it.

That's when Horston came up with the steal and hit Ogwumike for the buzzer-beating lay-in and a 66-61 lead. Then, the Storm had the ball to start the fourth quarter, and Diggins-Smith drove for a scoop lay-in, making it 68-61.

Twice, Seattle expanded it to nine. Los Angeles kept climbing back in. When the Storm finally broke it open, it was Diggins-Smith who had a hand in all eight points that did it: the assist on Ogwumike's trey that beat the shot clock, then a 3-pointer of her own, and then a driving scoop lay-in to make it 84-70 with just 1:39 left.

BY THE NUMBERS

Ezi Magbegor had two blocked shots, setting a new Storm team record with two or more in 13 straight games. Lauren Jackson had a stretch of 12 straight.

Magbegor scored just eight points, but pulled down 13 rebounds, part of the Storm's 45-32 advantage on the boards.

Diggins-Smith's six assists factored into Seattle's total of 20. That's the fifth time in the last eight games with 20 or more.

Dearica Hamby had a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Sparks. It's her league-leading 10th double-double in 12 games.

UP NEXT

The Storm visit Dallas on Thursday in their final Commissioner's Cup qualifying game. Tip-off is set for 4:00 p.m. Pacific time (ESPN).


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